The struggle with hate is a very real issue among former targets (or current targets) of abuse. I include “current targets” due to the fact that so many of our mamas still often experience post-separation abuse from their ex abusers. It is all understandable. Every single one of these ladies feel like they gave the best part of their lives to a narcissist –their younger selves, their stronger selves. They gave up their dreams, their hopes, their bodies their sanity to hold together an abusive marriage that lasted way too long. And look at what he is doing to their children. And what he has done. These ladies are spending their energy reserve trying to care for children who, very often, have to see him every week or every other weekend. And he hurts them. I get it. I really do. Here is a direct quote from one of our mamas:
I hate what he is – he pretends to be a Christian but is the antithesis of a believer. He is a master deceiver and built our life on lies on top of lies on top of lies. I hate that he made me trust him when he cannot be trusted in the least. I hate that he manipulates and abuses the children. I hate that he made me look like the bad guy for filing and moving, when in reality it was his years and years of cheating and gas lighting and abuse that did it. I hate that he makes me out to be a gold digger when in fact I pay all the bills for the kids and he contributes almost nothing. I hate that he stole my youth, my innocence, my trust.
I used to hate my ex husband, I don’t mind saying it. It was an issue that was between Jesus and me and I have resolved it, with much help. My ex husband took my life and my body and used everything for his own gain. Without going into tremendous detail, it took years of therapy to undo what he did to me. I hated him for that. I hated him for ruining our marriage from the get-go. I hated how he treated our children. I hated him because he knew what hurt me most and always did what hurt me most. I hated him because he seemed incapable of love.
I recently posed the question, on the private mama’s page, of whether or not anyone else had this struggle. I was shocked when there were over ninety comments in just a few days. It wasn’t just me. Some of the women still hate (I don’t blame them), some have healed. And then everything in between. I learned so much from this discussion. Those who have found a way to reconcile hatred for the sinfulness of their ex husbands and yet have no bitterness are my heroes. And I think I have finally reached that point, myself, which has released me.
Do you struggle with hate? Its OK. It won’t be this way forever. But, here are my observations, with help from my friends. After the observations, I will tell you how I overcame and resolved my own struggles.. Remember, though, each of our situations are unique. The way that I overcame will be entirely different than how you overcome. All I can do is share what I have done, for better or for worse. I hope this helps:
1 The ladies who have been able to go completely no contact are able to overcome their hate much easier than those who are constantly being poked at by their exes. It was faster and easier for them because the thorn was removed. Going no contact, for me, brought me tremendous healing and clarity. I began to see that the rest of the world does not function like my abusive marriage functioned. Most people are normal people. But, the women who still have exes tormenting them, on a regular basis, have a great mountain in front of them to deal with. But, they are dealing with it . . . . here is one way that I thought was particularly insightful:
2 Hate can be used. Here lies an oxymoron for the Christian, right?! But, typically, abuse victims tend to be more empathic than most people, which is why they are often chosen as a target for abuse. One of our mamas said that, because she always wants to quickly forgive and forget, she had to use her hate in order to keep herself and her babies safe. Once she was in a safer place and had moved away from her ex abuser, she could let the hate go. It reminded me of the Israelites when they had left Egypt. They forgot. They wanted their leeks and onions. They forgot what slavery was like. They complained. They had to be reminded of their former wretched slavery in order to get to freedom — to the promised land. Here is another thought:
3 Holy hate is not a bad thing. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” ~Proverbs 6:16-19.
How many of us were taught that “hate” is a bad word? When I was growing up, we could get soap in our mouths for using that word! But, the truth is, hating the destruction that abusive men cause is not bad. God hates the violence that causes divorce (Mal. 2:16 ESV — and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, FRIENDS, READ IT IN THE ESV OR ANOTHER more literal TRANSLATION). We can join Him in hating this.
Says team member Ruth,
I detest my ex because he embodies everything in this verse. The difference is, I do not allow that emotion to rule me, but instead, allow that emotion to ground me to what is True and Righteous. I’ve spent enough time catering to him, I’m not about to give him any more of my energy. I don’t think about my ex every day but when I do, I pray. Hate isn’t a bad thing. We should feel repelled by such wicked characters.
4 Many women feel indifference and wonder if they are sinning . . . they wonder if indifference is the same as hate. To that, I would say “no” — not in this case. Indifference can be one of two things. First, it may be a survival tactic in the midst of trauma. It is clear to those who have studied PTSD that dissociation is often the best way a person can survive a constant barrage of abuse. Ignoring, distancing one’s emotions, pretending to be somewhere else . . . these are all methods our subconscious minds use to simply make it through. It is necessary. Second, being indifferent could also be an indicator of having healed. For most of the women we serve, their marriage disintegrated years and years before they bravely take the step to leave. They have already worked through the hate and have moved on. The divorce was simply the last step in a lengthy process to get healthy.
5 Hate is a normal response to abnormal behavior. This is craziness we’re dealing with, friends. When someone snaps at me, out of exhaustion, I don’t struggle with hate toward that person. I say to myself, “Oh, man. She is so tired and stressed out.” Done. But, consistent abuse is abnormal, psychopathological and evil. Hate naturally follows. We have to accept that we are responding normally, while understanding that we cannot live in that place forever. We all know that bitterness will eat us up from the inside out. But, give yourself mercy and time. There are stages of healing. As the wise mama above said, use the hate. Let it be the first step — the one that sets you and your babies free. Then, move to the next step.
For me, the next step, once we became financially stable (big shout out to my awesome husband, David!), I was finally able to get trauma therapy, including EMDR. A few years ago, as I described the things from which I suffered at the hands of my ex husband and others, I heard my wise, older-lady counselor says these words, “That. is. brutal.” I wept. She saw it and affirmed it. Through her wisdom, I began to understand that my ex husband did what he knew. He does what he knows. He decided, at one point in his life (AND despite all of the godly counsel he was given), that his way of entitlement and ownership was best. Contrary to the Gospel, he decided that he would always see me as his slave, as well as his children . . . just there to fill his cup and build him up or else . . .
I saw it. I remember the day where I saw that he is simply not capable of true, genuine, selfless love. He lived in his version of “the law” that had been passed down for generations. He did not want to be free. And, if he could not be free, neither could we. This is what helped me: He is simply not capable of anything except mental, emotional and (a few times) physical abuse. That’s sad. Truly, deeply sad. He won’t ever get to experience the truly beautiful act of sacrificing something to see one of his children (from his first marriage) succeed. He will never get to understand that incredible rush of running around to make sure all kids’ events are attended, well-cheered on and supported. He will never understand how it is to give to someone freely, knowing that that person gives himself/herself freely, as well. He will never get to see them grow into the amazing people they are becoming. He will always be in charge, which means that he will never have the possibility of saying to his wife, “I’m going to support you for this season of our lives”, like my David is doing for me. He will never be anyone’s “safe” person. He will never get to see anyone freely choose to love them back and serve and bless them because she is loved so well. He will never have the good kind of pride, that my now-husband has, of being able to say, “I always give my wife just a little bit more than she gives me.” That was David’s goal when we married. And he is over the top. My ex will not be adored because of that. He will have things his way . . . and we all know how that feels, right? When we were children and we wanted our way, that just didn’t feel great. I just imagine being a grown up and struggling with wanting to control everything and everyone. That is a never-ending leaky bucket that cannot be filled. One can never have enough — always afraid of losing control. That is miserable.
In all of this, understanding his dysfunction will never and would never justify our staying with him. I can understand without subjecting us to abuse.
That is where I finally found this strange, unique compassion for this man who had stolen so much for me. He’s missing it — and choosing to! I cannot even comprehend what would have to happen to my heart to keep me from wanting to inquire about my own children or check on their well-being. I am sorry for him.
And, therein, I find my peace. And the bitterness is gone and the hate is gone and I just feel . . . nothing. To me, my ex husband is just another person who had an unfortunate upbringing and chose to live in that lack of fortune. And for me, finally — healing.
Regardless of your story, I believe that Jesus can always bring healing, even if it takes years. And, even if it takes years, there is still progress within those years, even if it is baby steps. And that is OK. Celebrate those baby steps as you and Jesus figure out how to overcome, eventually, as needed. And ask Him. I know He will tell you.
Megan is a Pastoral Counselor and also President of Give Her Wings, Inc. She carries a Masters of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in crisis counseling with the AACC.