How to Forgive My Ex – What the “F” Word is REALLY About


Forgiveness is not what you think! It’s more about moving on, than actually forgiving the person. Letting go and managing your reactions so you lead a healthier life.


  • Manage expectations
  • People are not telepathic
  • Co-dependency creates a barrier to forgiveness



Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.

Jessica: Today, we’re really excited to have back with us Barry Selby, a relationship attraction expert, speaker, coach, and best-selling author of the book, 50 Ways to Love Your Lover. He’s also known as the love doctor, and today we’re going to be talking about the F word, forgiveness. Thank you for being with us again today, Barry.

Barry: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jessica: We decided to do this topic, because our previous conversation ended with talking about being able to manage your emotions with regards to if somebody else says something or does something to hurt your feelings, so to speak. That conversation is one that I think comes up a lot. If someone does something, you’re deciding whether or not you’re going to let it affect you and get angry. And I get it, but I have this other side of the view, which sometimes people need to be taking accountability for the things that they say. It can’t always be that it’s my fault that I’m angry at some obnoxious thing or dicky thing that someone did.

We want to kind of start there with explaining the concept of you managing how you’re feeling for things, and then how to really actually do that.

Barry: Okay, so let me preface it by saying this. In some instances, being upset is justifiable. It doesn’t always mean it is advisory, though. So the recognition of it is basically if you are in a place where you are getting upset about what somebody else does, and afterward, you feel like crap, that’s a clue that maybe you want to change your behavior. If you don’t feel like crap, maybe you’ll keep doing it. Because sometimes, especially if you’re going through a period of time where you’re going through a really maybe messy divorce, and you’ve got to be very strong to defend your children, whatever that might be. I’m not saying you should be flat-lined and be forgiving everything, and it’s all going to be fine because that’s also disowning responsibility.

I’m speaking about forgiveness, particularly we call it the F word, and people go, “What’s the F word?” It’s that forgiveness is a tool to let yourself off the hook.

The biggest thing we do is we carry this basically this steamer trunk full of emotional baggage for things that we made mistakes about, or we were judged on or blamed, or we blame somebody else, or they didn’t take responsibility, or we think they should have done something else. We have a laundry list of all these things we do, and unfortunately for most people, all that gets done is it’s stuck at the back of our minds. It doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t get released, and it stays there forever. That is literally baggage. It’s weighing you down emotionally, and it also limits your ability to be free. So forgiveness for me is a tool that I use with my clients that is one of the most powerful things. Because as much as people go, “Well, you don’t have to forgive, because you’d sooner forget things.” No, forgiving lets you forget the pain of what you’re dealing with, it never lets you forget the event because what forgiveness is doing is taking the weight off of it. It’s taking the weight off of yourself, frankly. Because if somebody else, your ex-husband, let’s put it this way. Let’s do an example. Your ex-husband screwed you over and was cheating on your and went with somebody else, and now you’re feeling left out, and you’re feeling upset and emotional.

Jessica: That’s exactly what happened. How did you know?

Barry: Oh. We didn’t talk, I’m just guessing.

Jessica: And I forgive it.

T.H.: You’re like 40% of all women.

Jessica: I’ve never forgotten, but I forgive him. 

Barry: I figured that’s a pretty common one. Forgiving them seems like the most ridiculous thing to do, because you’re like, “But they did those things wrong. Why would I want to forgive them?” It’s like, no, you’re not forgiving them.

This is the key. See, forgiveness is a self-practice, and let’s talk about self-relationship.

What you’re forgiving is all your own internal baggage you’re carrying, the judgments you’re carrying against them. Forgiving what they did, that’s the thing they did, period. And frankly, what they did may need to be documented for the divorce and everything else you need to complete. But you don’t need to carry the emotional burden about it still, because you’re then, like the last time we talked about resentment, you’re basically towards being toxic about yourself. You’re poisoning yourself, because of what somebody else did. What forgiveness does is it disconnects that.

Jessica: Totally get it, because I actually am literally in the situation that you’re describing right now, and I feel like I did a great job of letting it go. We are very good friends now, we totally get along. We can laugh together, and we can share old memories. We do stuff together with the kids, I know it’s not the norm, but it is fine.

T.H.: It takes two to tango.

Jessica: That’s right. That is true. That is true, because if you’re the one who is not willing to do that, with you, you could be willing to let it go, and they are still driving things home. But my question is–I don’t even know if it’s like the cheating example, though, because I was in that and I have moved through to the other side.

But I feel just the whole concept of someone doing something to you, I feel like I need you to repeat what you said in the beginning in terms of how do you decide that it’s yours to control versus something that that person did to you?

Barry: Well, I’d back it up to a different question, which is, how much longer do you have to carry the pain? Because that’s what it is. The thing about it is that situations are events that have happened. They don’t change. The emotional weight you put on top of them that can change.

T.H.: I had a situation the other day, so this is all related to divorce, but just so you know, this is applicable to any life situation. I have people who are very close to me, who I feel continually disappoint me, but they are not people that do what I want them to do in that situation. I’ve been carrying around this anger and they should frickin’ know. How don’t they know? That’s their role, and in my life, they should know better. Why do I have to tell them? I actually had a call with my therapist today, and she said because that’s never going to change, and the only person you’re hurting is yourself by being angry because they’re not meeting your expectations.

Jessica: So that’s a great example.

T.H.: But that’s for marriage too.

Jessica: Right. I think it’s a great example because it does apply to so many circumstances in life. Depending on who those people are, sometimes you can not have them in your life anymore, and sometimes they’re part of your life, and there’s nothing you can do and you have to really come to acceptance. But if it’s someone who isn’t a member of your family, specifically, if you have an ex as the father or the mother of your kids, that’s not someone you can easily cut out of your life and be like, I’m never going to have to have any interaction with them. But if it’s not, when those kinds of things are happening, is your recommendation that you really need to reassess that relationship and decide whether or not they should be a part of your life anymore?

Barry: Well, first of all, because one thing T.H. said about the people you know, you said they should know differently, they should know better, they should do this.

One of the things we have a problem with is we think we’re telepathic.

So one thing oftentimes you need to do is actually have a conversation because first of all, it might be the fact that they’re ignorant of what you need because you never told them perhaps. Now if you’ve told them seven times, and they’re not doing it, it’s a different story. But if that person is doing something and you’re getting upset with them, and you’ve never even asked them to change to fit what you need, then it’s on you to simply say, “Look, we have a conversation? I’m noticing that when you do this, I’m not feeling okay with what’s happening. This isn’t responsibility by the way. I’m not saying you did this wrong, I’m saying I feel upset when this happens. So are you willing to shift and maybe do it this way instead?” If they say yes then great. If they say no, then the work’s on you to do the forgiveness because their choice is their choice, and you can’t control that.

Jessica: It’s so interesting, though, because I think that there are so many times in our lives where we’re in T.H.’s spot. It should go without saying.

Jessica: It goes without saying. I should not have to ask you to make an extra portion of food so that when I come home from work, there’s dinner for me too. I shouldn’t have to do that.

T.H.: Right. Or that you show up to the birthday party for your kid on time. It’s just like a common courtesy that you think, and there are so many examples, but I just want to say we’re talking about divorce, but the truth is, the last several years of my marriage, I was in a weird situation because he was not around, and then when he was, I literally didn’t hear a word he said. I had trained myself to not get hurt by the words and the actions, and so I completely ignored them. But meanwhile, subconsciously, they were brewing. They were in there, I did hear them subconsciously, but I remember someone came up to me and said, “You’re going to let him talk to you like that?” She didn’t even know me that well, so it had to be bad. I literally did not hear a word he said, so for me with my relationship with myself, and you’re talking about forgiveness and stuff, I want to hear it so that I don’t get hurt. I was a little embarrassed, but I was so far gone in my marriage, I just whatever.

Barry: You tuned him out, yeah.

T.H.: Tuned him out. So it is his responsibility to not say stuff like that, but if I don’t call him out on it, then I’m allowing it to happen.

Barry: That’s the thing, you are contributing, exactly.

T.H.: That’s right I’m enabling the bad behavior. But what Jessica was saying, you’ve got to call him out. But if you don’t ever call him out, and you’re a silent partner in your marriage, then why wouldn’t that person think it’s okay.

Barry: This gets back to the codependency conversation we had before as well. It’s the fact is that you’re basically not standing up for yourself. I mean, I hate to use this context, but the quote I always use from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me,” is the epitome of codependency. And in relationships, especially going through divorces, what’s happening for other people is they suddenly realize that the completion, which was the marriage that was together, is falling apart, and so they feel incomplete. That feeling of missing something is one of the biggest things that people forget is they’re not missing something. They feel like they are, but the truth is they actually need to find themselves back again because they’ve disowned parts themselves or they’ve actually tuned things out like you were saying.

T.H.: Right. And then with kids, I think it’s a little more complicated because I really was not worried about my relationship with him. I just didn’t want my family to fall apart, our little unit. He traveled all the time, so I was like a single happy kumbaya mom, but then when he came home, it was not good. And so I think that my biggest fear and of course, hindsight is 2020, anybody going through this right now, you’re not going to see it right now until you’ve moved past and then you can look back and look at things a little bit differently. It’s hard to see yourself when you have kids because it’s so easy to be like, I got three kids under eight. Oh my god. You’re already gone. You’re already gone when you show up with three kids. When you show up with one kid, you’re already you’re no–you have to make yourself somebody in your life. I definitely did not do that in my marriage. I allowed my ex to make me a nobody. I was a nobody until I made sure I was somebody.

Barry: Yes.

Jessica: So for that for anyone listening and everyone who’s been in that situation and who was able to get out on their own terms, however that worked out, and now they’re in a relationship and in a contentious relationship with their ex now, and are finding it hard to navigate the waters of getting to a place, they want it to be amicable for themselves, for the kids, and they’re finding it hard to navigate that. Barry, what would you say for the person who feels like they have spoken up? They’ve said to their ex, “Look, let’s try to get along. When you do this, it really upsets me. Can we not do this and things will be better.” They feel like they are saying the things, and the other person is just being an asshole. They keep fucking doing it over and over again. It may be intentional, it may not be intentional, they’re just maybe like, “Too fucking bad. This is just how I deal with it.”

How do you help that person who is like I’m doing the things, I’ve spoken enough, and it’s still happening?

Barry: Well, first of all, if you have a conversation with them, and they say no, I would say don’t take it personally. But truth is, it’s hard not to. What I’m saying is if that’s the case, then the only thing you can do is with what you do with yourself. The thing about it is, I’m talking about forgiveness earlier about things I’m talking about here. When you forgive yourself, what you’re not doing is giving them permission. What you are doing is saying no to that. In fact, what you’re doing by giving forgiveness, what you’re intentionally doing, is almost removing the judgment spikes they’ve stuck in you, in some ways. We use that as a metaphor. You’re taking out those spikes, those spears that have been thrown at you, so you can actually be whole again. So when they do that behavior, you can stand strong in yourself and maybe you simply walk away, or you do something different to force them to stop doing it, it depends on what the situation is. But the reality of what you’re doing is you’re not going to playing the game. Because a lot of times what happens in divorce and in other breakups is the game is being played by the other person, because they want to control you and make you upset, so they feel better.

Jessica: So what about when they say yes to you? You make the request, “Can you not say this when we’re with the kids” or whatever it is. “This is one of my triggers, and you say it in as nice a way as you can.” They say, “Yes, I will stop doing that” and they don’t. What’s your advice?

Barry: Well, first of all, it proves to you they don’t keep agreements. Secondly, again, I talk about trust in interesting ways and I have a whole conversation about how trust gets built and about keeping agreements, but the truth is you can trust somebody to do what they will do, including things that don’t work. Then it’s like, you look at somebody who does that bad behavior, you can be trusting that. It’s like, yeah, they’re going to do that. In which case, you go you know what, I don’t have to get upset about it anymore. That’s the way they are, and that’s what they do. I need to do something different.

Jessica: So it’s really setting up your own expectations to just be like, I know who this person is, and they’re just going to continue to disappoint me, and I have to find a way to be okay with that, but I can’t.

Jessica: Well, the thing is you’ve framed it the wrong way, which is you said they will continue to disappoint me. No, they will continue to be disappointing, I don’t need to take it personally though.

T.H.: If you remove the power that they have, [exactly] it changes everything. I’ll give a very quick example. I’m not a snacker, I’m a super healthy eater all the time, all the time, all the time. I had an altercation with my ex soon after we separated. I literally, it’s like I was standing behind myself, standing at the pantry door. By the way, there’s nothing unhealthy in that pantry door either. But I’m like, what can I eat? And I was like, what the hell is happening? This is him. That was like my aha moment that he cannot control my reactions anymore. I close the frickin’ door and whatever I did. But I literally was standing there and I was looking at myself like what the hell are you letting this guy do? Letting him do to you. My therapist said also said, TH you’re Teflon. You’re Teflon, nothing sticks to you. It’s a really hard thing to get rid of the noise and the annoyance and the stupid shit they do, even though you ask them not to. They don’t give a shit, so they’re going to do it. Now you have to control the way you react. You know what? He doesn’t get a rise out of me anymore. Maybe that’s what’s going to stop him from doing it.

Barry: And that’s the thing, none of this is easy by the way. I’m not saying it’s like, one step one, step two, step three, you’re done. But the reality is that’s what’s going on, that nine times out of ten that behavior they’re doing to cross you is intentionally so that you get a rise out of them.

When you no longer do have that reaction, their power goes away. And that’s the value it adds.

It’s like saying, you know what, I’m not going to be like I’m going to hold it together and not do anything. No, you’re saying, I’m not going to let this affect me anymore. He doesn’t deserve, or they don’t deserve, my energy being focused on them. I need to focus on myself.

Jessica: I love it.

Jessica: It’s hard. It’s really hard work, but [it takes practice] it is such a relief like you shed skin every time you get rid of that stuff.

Barry: And you get free.

T.H.: I like the F word, free.

Jessica: I like it.

T.H.: I have a hard time with forgiveness, but I like the goal of freedom.

Barry: Here’s the thing, forgiveness is not the destination. It’s just the tool to get you to be free.

T.H.: Right.

Barry: So it’s worth it.

T.H.: It is worth it.

Jessica: It’s a cool sound bite.

T.H.: It is. It’s worth it. Look at us now.

Barry: Yeah.

Jessica: Alright, so we’ll end on that positive note. That’s honestly like really deep helpful information and I hope that everyone listening felt the same way. For anyone who has any questions or wants to know more about Barry, you can go to our website We have all the information on him and how to find him and where to find him. You can reach out directly. Barry, thank you so much again for taking the time.

Barry: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

T.H.: Thank you so much.

Goodbye: For everyone out there listening, if you know anyone at all who would benefit from what we talked about today please share this episode and everything exExperts.  Be sure and click to subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and please follow us on social media @exEXPERTS Divorce etc… on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube and our website at  Thanks for listening!


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