My girlfriend is divorced and bitter. She is always telling me the bad things her ex-husband did. When we go to social gatherings, I’m not allowed to greet or even acknowledge him. I’m from a Christian background and understand the need for forgiveness, but if I even bring up the subject, she goes ballistic. So why am I in this relationship? She has a ton of positives, cleans house, does the laundry, takes care of me, she’s my ballroom dance partner and she’s remodeling my house with her money! Of course, she wants it back when we sell the house and downsize. How do I get her to stop talking about her ex? Or, do I just offer a sympathetic ear?
No, a sympathetic ear would make you complicit in her spiritual crime. If you love her, you must challenge her compassionately to drop the guise of a victim. She can do this by investing herself in the present instead of the past. Every time she time travels, she surrenders a little more of her power to her beliefs about her ex-husband. Although she is actually choosing to engage in this process of victimizing herself, she blames him for it. It’s slow death for the soul.
Forgiveness is the right medicine. It’s courageous of you to insist on it. Perhaps you can invite her to consider it by responding to her rants with reason. When she launches into a litany of her ex-husband’s wrongs, try these responses: “I could not carry that much pain around with me every day. I don’t know how you do it. Or why you would want to. How can we unload that burden?” Or: “I’m glad that situation is all in your past now.” Or: “I understand your need to talk about this, and it’s hard for me to hear you putting yourself in so much pain all over again.”
She will resist the peace of mind that you are guiding her into because she has adopted the habit of being a victim. But sympathizing with her belief will cause it to root more deeply—so hold your ground. You must also resist her insistence that faithfulness in a relationship means loyalty against those she considers her enemies. The true enemy here is her fear of taking responsibility for not taking better care of herself during the marriage. If she had, she would not be dressing up like a victim now.
It will help if she understands that forgiveness is not acting like nothing happened. After all, if no wrong-doing occurred, forgiveness would be unnecessary. We forgive others because forgiveness is essential to our souls. Without engaging in forgiveness as a part of self-healing, we are incapable of loving ourselves and all others as fully as possible. But forgiveness is also a process, and it can be a lengthy one. In the New Testament, Jesus says that we must forgive “70 times seven.” This reminds us that even after we have forgiven someone, our mind can return to the wound and conjure sadness or anger all over again. Then, we must re-immerse ourselves in the process of forgiveness until we feel healed once more. Hopefully, your girlfriend will suddenly choose to free herself from the bondage of her beliefs by engaging in forgiveness. Until then, you can model the process by forgiving her for being so unkind to herself and her ex.
My girlfriend and I are in recovery but still struggle with codependency issues in our relationship. We’ve read books like Codependent No More but need more spiritual help. Any suggestions?
I always advocate the process available free at www.thework.com. You might also like the book, The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need, by Gerald G. May.