I Couldn't Stop Hating My Ex — Until I Finally Accepted He'd Never Change

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I Hate My Ex — How I Finally Accepted He'd Never Change
Heartbreak

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person will die.” I didn’t say that. It was Buddha or Bob Marley or someone like that. But that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that in the months after my 16-year marriage fell apart, I repeated this phrase over and over in my head, hoping to lessen the pain I felt in every inch of my body.

Every emotion I had — from fear to resentment to disappointment to confusion, and even hopelessness — manifested as deep, persistent rage inside me, all brought on because I hate my ex.

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It was like every other emotion was stunted, too weak to overcome my anger. Happiness, optimism, and excitement were all dulled beyond recognition.

Anyone who has gone through a tough breakup knows what I’m talking about. And most of us know that the only things that heal a broken heart are time and distance.

Two and a half years since my cheating husband walked out of the door, the “time” part has done its job.

But the fact that we have two kids together has made the “distance” part of this healing process impossible. Your ex won't suddenly become tolerable.

The funny thing about co-parenting after a divorce is this: Your ex is the same jerk he was before. No pricey lawyer or court document will change that. (Seriously. Consider this before spending thousands of dollars thinking it will.)

That guy who didn’t pay his bills on time, he’s still not going to get you the payment for the joint credit card to you on time.

The guy who didn’t spend time with his kids before the divorce isn’t suddenly going to start being overly interested in them. In fact, he’ll probably be even more of a jerk. (It’s not like he’s worried about hurting your feelings.)

I held onto this notion that I could get him to respond the way I wanted by expressing my anger, that my indigence at being “a woman scorned” should get me exactly what I want from him.

For at least two years, I swung my anger toward him like a weapon (while in private, I clutched onto it like a security blanket). I clung to my anger and the far-fetched notion of my ex actually doing the right thing until I became emotionally frozen.

For two years I sat in it. Stuck in it. Trapped in it. Something had to change.

I kept coming back to this quote: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person will die.”

I understood it completely. But understanding the effects of anger wasn’t much of a help to someone like me, set off daily by texts, oversights, and sleights (perceived or otherwise).

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The question I needed answered was: How do I stop my ex from making me so angry? I knew I was never going to change him, but how do I change myself? How could I change the way I react to him and finally find some peace in my life?

That’s when the idea of “radical acceptance” was presented to me.

My friend and colleague Andrea Miller, author of Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love, challenged those close to her to practice the tenets of her new book for 60 days. Some people picked their spouses, their mothers, their bodies.

I picked my ex-husband, and I was skeptical.

“Radical acceptance” comes from a place of love, and love is really the last thing I feel for my ex. So I was curious how this would work.

Here’s what I did: I made a list of all the things I knew irritated me about my ex (lack of planning, poor communication, failure to pay bills on time, rescheduling at the last minute, and so on.)

Every time I was presented with a known bad behavior, I turned to the advice from Andrea Miller’s book.

When he was late on our joint bills: "Love and abundance beget further love and abundance."

When he changed the schedule at the last minute: "You are no longer suppressing. You are accepting. I cannot adequately describe what a beautiful feeling that is."

When his last-minute schedule change screwed up my plans: "It is the opposite of selfish to love yourself, to know your worth, and to claim your beauty."

And so forth and so on.

Instead of focusing on his actions, I focused on adjusting my reaction to them.

Slowly, as the days passed, I started to notice a lightness in our interactions. I was no longer feeling that burning rage in my belly after his texts. Our calls became conversational instead of confrontational.

Honestly, I began to stop thinking of him at all. And when I did, it wasn’t hate-filled thoughts. I began thinking of the future, a happier future, maybe even a happier future with someone else lucky enough to win my affection.

In trying to “radically accept” the man I used to love, the father of my children, I ended up changing myself to the core. I may not have found everlasting love with my ex, but I am managing to build a future of peace.

In “radically accepting” their father despite his flaws, I’m teaching my own kids how to love the best way possible. And that’s something we all deserve.

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Sloane Bradshaw is a writer and former contributor for YourTango.

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