Yeah, I’ve been both.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be either. It’s not like it was a goal of mine or something on my to-do list to become this otherworldly reactionary woman who shape-shifted based off the actions of her boyfriend or husband, but I did.
And I’m wondering, have you? Or more accurately, are you?
Are you, sweet girl deep down inside, currently a crazy ex-girlfriend?
Are you, dear woman whose heart is breaking, currently a bitter ex-wife?
Listen, you know I’m on your side. I will always be on your side. And I know that more than likely your boyfriend or your husband hurt you. And I know that more than likely, he might still be hurting you even if you’re not together anymore, or perhaps simply because you’re not together anymore. And you’re reacting to that hurt. I know.
I know that there is no pain like the pain of a love relationship ending. I’ve had it happen five times, three with the same man. Nothing has torn my heart apart more than when the man I loved and I walked away from each other (or attempted to).
And in my pain, I have done some things I’m not proud of. I’ve eaten more chocolate than one little thing should eat. I’ve put my engagement ring back in a box, walked into a house, slammed it on a kitchen table and said, “I don’t want this damn thing back until you know what the hell you’re doing with me.” (Not my finest hour.) I’ve gotten in a car and driven towards Iowa, for no reason other than I didn’t want to be in the same state for one more second. I’ve cried rivers of tears. I’ve written letters and emails that I never should’ve sent. You get the picture. I’ve been the crazy ex-girlfriend.
And I’ve been the sad ex-wife. The victim-y ex-wife. The pity-me ex-wife. The high-and-mighty ex-wife. The yelling ex-wife. The angry ex-wife. And I swung briefly for a time into bitter ex-wife. But, thank God, I didn’t stay there.
Because here’s what bitter-ex-wife-land consists of:
Rereading emails. And then rereading them some more.
Telling everyone within earshot of the most recent horrific thing your ex-husband did.
Being mean to your ex-husband in your head.
Being mean to your ex-husband in emails and texts.
Being mean to your ex-husband over the phone and in person.
Being mean to your ex-husband in front of or to your children (his children).
Becoming obsessed with what he’s doing and not doing and what he’s saying and not saying.
Possibly finding ways to numb your pain, that you will regret if you don’t already.
Missing out on your life.
Again, oh my gosh, don’t get me wrong. Your ex-husband hurt you and might still be hurting you. And your ex-husband may have hurt your children and might still be hurting your children. And you need to physically and emotionally protect yourself, and you need to physically and emotionally protect your children. You know that I get this. (Y’all have no idea how much I get this.) If your ex-husband is doing drugs or drinking and driving or is beating your children or you or breaking into your home or going against court orders, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Protect yourself.
But if it looks different than that..… Say, if he’s moved in with the woman he left you for and that stings more than you can put into words. Or, say, he is behind on child support but it’s because he’s in between jobs and not because he’s living this extravagant life and just trying to screw you over. Or, say, simply, he’s moved on, and you haven’t, and you can’t stand the thought of how easily he seems to have forgotten you, how quickly he seemed to throw away your love. If it’s that kind of thing, I want you to do me two favors. And I need you to trust me.
First, get a journal and at least fifteen minutes alone. And ask yourself this question: What are the three main things that I am angry with my ex-husband about? (Yes, just three.)
Be honest, but think this through. Look beyond the little details to the bigger picture.
If your knee-jerk reaction to this question is, “That bum hasn’t paid child support in three months,” I want you to look deeper. Because what you might be really upset about, deep down, is the sadness because you can’t help but wonder if the man you once loved who you would’ve considered a good father doesn’t seem to love his kids since he’s not providing for them, despite the actually logical reasons behind it if you could remove yourself just a bit from the situation. Or maybe it’s the fear that brings into your life. Do I have what it takes to make it on my own, to take care of my kids, if he doesn’t come through?
Okay, so, once you’ve jotted down your top three issues and then looked inward for the deeper, more real, issue, I want you to ask Jesus to heal those concerns and those sadnesses and those fears and to bring you peace.
Now, I want you to set aside another small chunk of time. This one is going to be more difficult. And you may not like me for it. But that’s okay. It’s a chance I’m willing to take because your heart is at stake.
I want you to take some more deep breaths. And I want you to close your eyes for a moment yet again. And I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and to help you see your situation clearly.
Then I want you to ask yourself this: How are my words and my attitudes toward and about my ex-husband affecting my heart and my life? And how are my words and my attitudes toward and about my ex-husband affecting my children?
I know, you want to smack me. I kinda want to smack me too right now. Just do it. Just please ask yourself these things. All grace here, girls. I don’t have time or space for judgment. This is between you and God.
Then I want you to take a couple more deep breaths and sit quietly. And I want you to pray these words: Holy Spirit, help me see my ex-husband the way you do. Soften my heart toward him. Give me compassion for him. Help me help, and not hinder, his relationship with our children. Please protect my heart with him, but help me be kind. And if you are nowhere near being ready to pray this prayer and mean it, ask the Spirit to help you get ready to one day pray this prayer and mean it.
Life is full of pain. Hard marriages are full of pain. Divorce is full of pain. Men can hurt us. But girls, we can hurt our men right back….dangerously so. Hell hath no fury and all, right? We know how to dole out vengeance. We know how to make men pay. We know how to use words and looks and our children as weapons.
And yet. Christ calls us to something so much deeper and higher and better.
Though our bitterness can absolutely cause pain to our ex-husbands (if we keep our kids from him, for instance, when it really isn’t a matter of any kind of emotional or physical safety at all), you know who our bitterness hurts the most? I know you already know the answer to this.
It truly hurts our children. And it deeply hurts ourselves.
I want you free. Jesus wants you free. Ask him to take over your heart, to bring you deep healing and restoration, and to help you live a bitter-free life..…for your kids, for yourself, and for him.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. -Hebrews 12:14-15-
If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here.