Letting Go of Ex-Spouse Grudges

  • Holding onto grudges against an ex-spouse has physical consequences.
  • Holding onto grudges limits growth within personal relationships.
  • Forgiveness can cause physical benefits and a sense of peace.

"Only you get to decide how you feel about them."

When going through a divorce, many sentiments of anger and bitterness rise to the surface, creating a negative atmosphere that can be difficult to overcome. It can seem easy and comfortable to hold a grudge against an ex-spouse, and for many, they are entirely justified in doing so.

Everyone has their own individual reasons for seeking a divorce, and no one is entitled to judge another’s reasons. However, the overall physical, mental, and emotional health of an individual can be weighed down by the weight of a grudge, and sometimes, an ex-spouse will look to let go of all of the negative emotions attached to it.

No one is suggesting forgiving another. Complete forgiveness is not always possible. Sometimes, it’s the last thing one would want to do. Sadly, the weight of a grudge can often lead to far heavier consequences for one’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Your mind affects your body

Physical consequences have been proven through psychosomatic research for those holding grudges. Bearing grudges is associated with a history of pain disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and stomach ulcers, according to Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Additional research from Emory University, published in Men’s Health, concluded that angry, bitter people have higher blood pressure and heart rate, as well as confirming the data regarding the likelihood of dying from heart disease.

Healthy people who are prone to anger, hostility, and mild to moderate depressive symptoms produce higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to research at Duke University Medical Center. It puts the body in a constant state of “fight,” which increases blood pressure.

According to research at Concordia University, the bitterness associated with holding a grudge is associated with the slowing of one’s metabolism, immune response, and organ function. The term, post-traumatic resentment embitterment disorder (PTED), has been created to describe the feeling of injustice and thoughts that can result in anxiety, depression, and rage, associated with holding a grudge.

Mayo Clinic has a variety of effects of grudge-holding that one should consider moving forward, including:

  • Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
  • Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
  • Become depressed or anxious
  • Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
  • Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others

Stunting the growth of relationships

Holding a grudge against an ex-spouse can create a need to hold a grudge elsewhere. The floodgates regarding perceived wrongs are opened, and it prevents personal relationships with family, friends, and new significant others from growing. These relationships are stifled and lower your quality of life.

Additionally, the amount disputed and divided during the divorce experience is already a substantial physical, mental, emotional, and financial hurdle. Why allow an ex-spouse to control what can and cannot be forgiven?

Road to forgiveness

For those interested in the possibility of forgiveness, know that you can only forgive when you actively feel ready to do so. According to Biological Psychology Journal, forgiveness reduces cortisol response, a bodily action in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. It also increases the hormone, oxytocin, which has a large role in forming relationship bonds with one another, according to Psychology Today.

Forgiveness also allows one to separate themselves from the role of a victim and release the mental and emotional power and control an ex-spouse has had in your life. That level of reflection also will create a level of peace that you had not previously felt and allow you to experience a powerful and affirmative facet of your humanity.

Even after the confrontational moments during the divorce experience, it’s important to understand this particular sentiment: what has affected your mental health and stability in the past and present should not affect your mental health and stability in the future.  Do not let an ex-spouse control your feelings. Only you get to decide how you feel about them.

Grudges can diminish one’s opportunity for self-growth. In holding onto an ex-spouse and all of their issues and baggage, you are holding onto a past version of yourself. With another year coming to a close shortly, finding a new method to sort your feelings, regarding an ex-spouse might give you the peace you need heading into a new year.

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