What to Divorce When You Are Divorcing: Bitterness

Naikan is a Japanese method of self-reflection.   I have found it to be very helpful in broadening my perspective and in enriching my relationship with people close to me.   It may be equally helpful in supporting your efforts to move on after your break-up.

It is based on three simple questions:

What have I received from ex/spouse?

What have I given my ex/spouse?

What troubles and difficulties have I caused my ex/spouse?

Let’s take a look at each of these questions in turn.  First, what have I received from my ex?  Lots of women walk away from marriages feeling as if it was a waste of time or as if they were totally innocent and their spouse was absolutely villainous.  It is this type of thinking that leaves women filled with bitterness.  Focusing on the things you received from your ex can neutralize these feelings.

Once you begin making this list you may be pleasantly surprised by what appears on the page.   Start small and remind yourself that little things do matter.   Here’s an example of what you might write:

He washed my car every Saturday.

He helped me care for my ailing mother.

He always said thank-you.

He stood by me during my illness.

He always made sure the bills were paid.

The second question is what have I given to my ex?   Answering this question will probably prove to be an easier task than coming up with responses to the first question.  Try to avoid generalizations and be as specific as possible.   For example, instead of wring “I was always nice to him,” write “I always told him how much I appreciated his support.”

Spend at least 10 minutes on this list as well as on the other lists in this exercise.  Remember, the goal is not to calculate who contributed more to the marriage.  The point of the exercise is to acknowledge both you and your spouse’s contribution.

The third question is what troubles and difficulties have I caused my ex?  is not for the feint at heart, because it is not always easy to look at the role we play in causing problems for others.  It is easy to recall every cross word spoken by our spouse but we have selective amnesia when it comes to the harsh words we uttered.

Again be as specific as possible and spend more time on this section than on the others.  Here are a few examples:

I complained about his weight constantly.

I criticized his parenting skills.

I unfairly accused him of flirting with his co-workers.

I tried to control his every move.

I worried more about meeting my emotional needs than I did about meeting his.

Why is there no fourth question that asks you to list the trouble or difficulty your spouse caused you?   The simple answer is that moving on after a break-up is not about blame or fault, it is about awareness and growth.   If you are interested in learning more about Naikan read Naikan:  Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Kreech.


This is an excerpt from What to Divorce When You Are Divorcing.  Download excerpt below:
What to Divorce When You are Divorcing


Photo Credit:  Visual Hunt




Posted in What to Divorce When You Are Divorcing.

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