I READ a story the other day that made me cringe. A London man, Darrell Plews, 44, was charged after setting fire to his wife’s clothing. On finding out his estranged wife had secretly run away to Gambia to marry her lover while he was trying to win her back, Plews piled bags, shoes and designer clothes on the patio. He then torched the lot.
I cringed because it made me wonder about my own acts of vengeance against exes who have done me wrong. One ended up with his favourite jumper super- glued to his front door — which might sound brutal and maybe a wee bit psychotic, but in retrospect it was the least I could do. Nowadays I’d like to think my years in therapy and Buddhist leanings would make me behave in a more civilised and grown-up fashion were I to discover myself betrayed or deliberately hurt — although I doubt it.
But it got me thinking about how angry exes can make us. Whether separation involves divorce or not, it is usually a painful experience. Dreadful things are said and done. Hearts are broken again and again. Having divorced amicably myself a few years ago, I realised that not quickly making peace with the situation can lead to years of bitterness and loss of time, energy, money — and a process that can severely age us.
As my favourite quote says, ‘‘Resentment is like mixing poison for your partner and then drinking it your- self’’. An interesting article in Huffington Post by divorced blogger Pauline Gaines reinforces that there are ways out of the hole of anger and fury. Oddly, it is taking responsibility for our own misdeeds. She lists five things she would like to tell her ex if they were ever able to talk reasonably again. ‘‘I’m glad I can admit that his lousy behaviour didn’t excuse my own,’’ she writes, saying that self-awareness sets us free.
‘‘(1) I apologise for making you responsible for my happiness. (2) I apologise for trying to change you. (3) I apologise for criticising you. (4) I apologise for being passive-aggressive. (5) I apologise for perpetuating a power struggle.’’
It’s liberating to look at the list and realise that we all do these things. While still feeling wronged and badly done by when partners break our hearts, we can hold some responsibility in contributing to an environment that may have exacerbated behaviours. It cuts blame and anger in half, which is half as toxic, and half as ageing. My ex-husband and I remain friends. Given the clothes-burner in London is thousands of pounds poorer and has a jail sentence, it’s worth a try.