Post Divorce Life: The choice of Bitter or Better

I’ve come to the conclusion that a Divorce will either make you bitter or it will make you better and it’s a choice one always has to make.

After eleven years of marriage to my first wife, our divorce was final seven years ago in 2008 and shortly after that I became involved in a program I highly recommend called “DivorceCare.” For more information, or to find one near you, visit: http://www.divorcecare.org

I started as a student, and later became a Small Group Leader at my church, where I have helped people cope and deal with the immense emotional pain, anger, guilt, shame, grief and loneliness. We also discuss the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as financial survival, new relationships, co-parenting/kid care, and the challenges of being single again.

I have witnessed that some people heal rather quickly while others continue to stumble and eventually get hurt all over again.  The ones who are most successful apply what we teach in class; stop looking back at the offenses that have occurred, stop blaming the people of their past and start taking ownership of their own lives, choices and actions.  This life changing event is an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and I hope convince you to leave all of the bitterness, anger and resentment behind. 

It takes a great deal of time to heal from this very emotionally damaging, painful and traumatic experience; more than most people realize. The program recommends to pursue a year of healing for every four years of marriage and I think that’s a very good measurement. Some go chasing for a quick “Love Fix” and instead of healing bring their previous issues (or baggage) and a wounded heart into a new relationship. These often fail which leads to more bitterness and hardens their heart even more, and adversely affects their children and everyone around them. Take time to get to know your strengths and weaknesses again, also your motivations and intent, so you know why you want a new relationship. Everything we need to learn is reflected in our relationships.

You must grieve your losses and know you are healed and whole before you consider a new relationship. If you decide to get on with your life without dealing with the issues at hand, these issues will always rise up again at a later time. When they do, the hurt and the pain will be even stronger.  From my experience, you are only ready to start dating again when you don’t feel like you have to have someone else in order to be happy. That’s a great place to start. 

Bitter people are angry, depressed, and resentful and thrive on self pity. Their mind keeps dwelling on the ways they’ve been wronged in the past. Deep down they are hurt, so in turn they hurt others. But some just bury the bitterness and let it eat away at them, which is like a slow death. It may come out in little ways from time to time, but for the most part, they hide or deny it from others, and even themselves. Failure isn’t fatal. It’s failing to learn and change.

Ultimately It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond. Bitter people react to life, but better people respond to it.  Bitter means “with strong feelings of hatred or dislike; full of sorrow, pain and discomfort.” Better means “above another, as in worth or ability; more excellent, more fit, more desirable.” Don’t let bitterness ruin your life and the lives of those around you.  Bitter is forever holding a grudge, while better offers forgiveness to ourselves and others.

One study I recently saw that half of all women and a third of the men who divorce remain angry at their former spouse up to ten years later.  Middle aged women have an especially hard time, and less than 28% of them will marry again. If you feel you may be bitter, there is hope. Ask yourself, is my attitude really helping to become a better person? Or is it holding me back from enjoying life in all its fullness? What can I do today to resolve my bitterness and restore my life and to the relationships I have with other people? Because all that really matters in life is who we love and who loves us.

The bottom line is we are all imperfect people, living in a fallen world, and who all have sinned against God and one another. To get rid of all the junk in my own mind and heart after being betrayed I had to admit that I was very angry and bitter (which resulted in severe depression) during my divorce in 2007. I confessed it all to God and have since taken a hard, inward look at myself for the part I played in our marriage falling apart. I realize now and take responsibility for when and where I failed as a husband, and what my role was in the failure of that marriage.

I can’t change the past, so I chose to get better by learning from that experience in order to make myself a better person now. At some point in our lives, we need to make is peace with our past and let go of our past mistakes and hurts by giving them to God.  No one can truly heal a broken heart but the Creator Himself, who made it. He creates beauty from ashes, by giving us the opportunity to live in the present, become stable and secure, and bring hope to our future.

I honestly don’t know how someone can completely and truly heals without accepting Christ and his power in their life.  Jesus not only redeems, reconciles, and delivers us from our sins; our Savior and Lord takes away our fears and heals us from the inside out. He opens our eyes, softens our hearts to show us what true love and compassion really is and means. When this unconditional love flows in us and through us to others, it shines a great light in this dark world. We are then blessed to bless others.  God provides the opportunity of living a life filled with inner joy and a peace that truly does defy all understanding. I know now that God is love and the provider of every good and perfect blessing and gift in my life.  He has taught me how to completely forgive my ex-wife and I have even reached the point where I pray for her.

He has and continues to abundantly supply my needs. I have been blessed with many wonderful things since the aftermath of the divorce including a new home, a great job, and also an amazing new wife who has shown me great patience, understanding and makes me very happy.   My kids are doing very well and I trust that He looks after them when I can’t be there (My ex-wife and I have shared custody).

But getting to this point wasn’t easy, and besides my faith, I couldn’t have done it without my incredible family, friends and mentors along the way. I am eternally grateful for all of you.

It is the hard times that really develops the greatest character within us. I am convinced that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it, and then gives us the wisdom as to where we need to improve. The tragedies of life make us realize much more aware of how short life is, and they can cause us to “correct course” so we can use our lives to serve God and help others more.

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

God hates divorce …. not because He hates divorced people, but because divorce is painful for people He loves.

There really is a treasure in each of our trials (if we look hard enough), and our tests can become another testimony of His goodness. Humility teaches us not to think less of ourselves, but of ourselves less.  Betrayals should cause us to put our faith more in the One who will never forsake us. God has given us the strength and power through Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and His Word to face and overcome every situation.

So go from bitter to better, but never let it rest until your good gets better, and your better gets best.

 

One comment on “Post Divorce Life: The choice of Bitter or Better

  1. I take solace in your article as I am 1 year and a few months from divorce date after 20 years with my former wife. I have completed DivorceCare and currently meet with a good but challenging Christian counselor who is making me take a hard look at myself. It adds quite a layer of vulnerability but am looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel as though I could write a book just in this short comment space. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

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