4 Ways to Get Rid of Post-Divorce Bitterness
Written by: Kaighla Um Dayo “Haraam, ukhti. How can you do this to your family? […]
Written by: Kaighla Um Dayo
“Haraam, ukhti. How can you do this to your family? Think of your children! Wallah, sister. Patience is better. He is a sheikh, he must be a good husband. Forgive him and give him another chance,” they all told me, in various ways, countless times.
When I divorced my husband, I heard the above mantra several times every day for months.
Hadn’t they considered that I was a grown woman with four children to think about and would not take a decision of divorce lightly? Hadn’t they noticed I was adamant? I had given him 1,000 chances, and 1,000 more. Nothing was ever going to change.
My ex-husband tricked me into marriage, saying he was already divorced even though he was still married. He emotionally abused me by gaslighting me, stonewalling me, and telling me my feelings didn’t matter. He broke all his promises and lied to me daily. He was unreliable in every way. He neglected me and my children to please his other wife and her kids. He forced us to live a life in a developing village in Egypt, a life that even most Egyptian women would never accept. He was unfair in his time and his money.
After our divorce, I spent months in Egypt alone as a single mom. Then, I went back home to the states. Eventually, I met and married a terrific man and settled into a comfortable life in a nice town in Tennessee, and even got my sons back with me. My career took off and I even began painting again.
But there was just one problem.
My hatred and bitterness over my ex-husband overtook my life.
I found myself brooding and planning and scheming to find ways to take him down. He didn’t deserve to stand on the minbar preaching at people to live a life he was not living. He was abusing his new wife (#2 since our divorce only 6 months previously). He was trying to blackmail me to get custody of our son. I thought of nothing but finding a way to stop him from hurting other people, to stop people from trusting him the way his charismatic personality beckoned them to.
Many of my conversations with my new husband ultimately ended up revolving around my ex and what he had done to me and how the pain he caused me in those years forced me to close my heart. It became an obsession, and it ultimately caused deep pain to my new, loving husband and created a rift in our marriage.
I had come to a crossroads: hold onto the pain of the past and brood over ways to have my revenge (disguised as a genuine concern to protect others from his terror) or move forward into a bright future with my new marriage and my sons?
See, I believed that by remaining silent about what my husband had done to me, I was being further oppressed by him, and allowing him to continue to poison others. I thought it was my responsibility to ruin his reputation, to bring down the belief people had in his goodness so they would stop trusting him as I used to.
But, was my effort producing results? No. He was excelling in his career as a sheikh in the masjid. He was well-loved in his new community. Was my anger and hatred serving to protect anyone else from him? No. He had no problem finding new, naive converts willing to marry him.
My resentment and bitterness were neither effective nor helpful to me personally. In fact, they were hurting me a great deal and not affecting him in the least.
You know that famous Japanese book about tossing the stuff from your life that doesn’t “spark joy”? Yeah. I had to toss out my contempt because it was doing the exact opposite of sparking joy. It was sucking the energy from my life which I should have been using to benefit myself and my family.
If you find yourself struggling with post-divorce bitterness, remember these things:
1. Vengeance is His
It was one question my husband posed to me that made me wake up: “Kaighla, don’t you believe that God will have his vengeance on him? You are powerless to hurt him like he hurt you, but God will not allow him to escape his fate and punishment for hurting you like that. Leave it in Allah’s hands and move on,” he said.
And that was it. Right there, he hit the nail on the head. I did not trust God to have his vengeance on my ex-husband. I did not trust that the Most Just would refuse to allow injustice to go unpunished. I did not take seriously the various places in the Qur’an that Allah talks about his wrath against oppressors, such as this one: “Consider not that Allâh is unaware of that which the Zâlimûn (polytheists, wrong-doers) do, but He gives them respite up to a Day when the eyes will stare in horror.” [Surat Ibrahim: 42].
Allah will not allow any injustice to go unpunished. He is the best of planners, and He has said He is on the side of the oppressed one. No du’a offered up by one suffering from oppression is rejected by Allah.
2. His Plan is Perfect
You cannot imagine the beautiful life Allah has planned for you, or the many ways in which the suffering this person gave you will ultimately benefit your life. Know that every tear of yours is noticed, and that the bends and curves in your life are ultimately for your own benefit and that Allah only wants goodness for you.
3. You Are Not a Victim
You are a survivor. You have, literally, a 100% survival rate up until this moment. That thing you thought would kill you? It failed. You succeeded in living. You have a choice to see yourself as a hapless victim and allow that mentality to cripple you, or to see yourself as a survivor of something meant to destroy you, and to refuse to allow that something to succeed.
4. Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean It’s Ok
Refusing to allow hatred and vengeance to destroy your good heart is not letting your ex off the hook. No, on the contrary, it’s you allowing yourself the space and energy to build a new life, free from the tyranny of that person. Forgiving someone does not excuse what they have done to you; forgiveness allows you to drop the baggage and bitterness of the past so you can run faster to your new dawn.
As Shannon L. Adler put it, “If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.”
Kaighla Um Dayo is a writer, blogger, and podcaster. She is the Content Manager & Editor here at my-iddah.com/divorce. She is the creator of Lemonade for Bitter Souls, a website dedicated to helping embittered souls find joy in their hardships. With her friend Theresa Corbin, she ruminates on life as a Muslim American at islamwich.com. She is a regular contributor on AboutIslam, writing about spirituality. Her favorite things are meditation, painting, drinking tea, and being outside in nature.