I don’t know how many times I’ve had conversations with individuals who wrestle with the treatment they received at the hands of their ex, sometimes during the marriage itself, sometimes during and after the divorce.
In those conversations, sometimes the individual will describe how their ex plotted to try to make their life miserable after the divorce. Other times, they describe how their ex predicted they would never make it without them. Then there are those who wrestle with the ill treatment, and wish there was someway that their ex could suffer as they have, some way to “get even” or even get revenge. These feelings seem to be their worst when in the throes of the divorce, and when things are at in limbo and tempers flare. But the hurts can leave scarred memories for a long time.
It can be very tempting to try to get revenge, especially when you have been grievously wronged. Some people seem to do that by means of neverending trips to court battling over one thing after another. And there certainly are times when one needs to take a stand and set boundaries, which is very different from taking revenge…as it is not done out of emotional responses, but a reasoned decision based on facts and legal rights. Revenge, on the other hand, is a response based on anger and hurt, and more often than not, results in an ongoing spiral of angry responses back and forth, thus only feeding the fire of the conflict.
I once heard a friend give some advice that I think is pretty worthwhile in this context. The advice was simple: the best revenge is to live the rest of your life well, to find ways to enjoy life after divorce.
The idea is that when the ex is the kind of person who is hoping you will suffer or actively doing you harm so that your life will be harder, living your life above that fray and choosing to move beyond them is what will undermine their designs the most.
Oh, it isn’t that you have to viciously plan “to show them.” It’s just that choosing to not get caught up in the game, and instead assert your sense of self by moving on in life and finding joy in creating the next chapters simply demonstrates that the person no longer has power over you. In the case of some of the marriages I have been told about, it may be the first time that ex is NOT in control, or able to continue abuse effectively.
This idea may sound dumb, or it may sound like it isn’t a big deal, but for many, it really IS significant. Being able to live life and enjoy life without your ex accomplishes several things. First, it empowers you to live beyond victimization, to live your life in spite of external circumstances. Secondly, it serves the purpose of disempowering your ex, as it reduces the impact your ex has over your emotional well-being. Over time, your ex may realize their foolishness isn’t accomplishing what they desired, and eventually give up the behaviors. Finally, it is much more healthy for you, because instead of focusing on the problems your ex creates and being entangled in the past, you become more positively focused on your own life and your own future.
I supposed, there is a degree to which even this serves as a degree of revenge for those of you whose ex thinks that you won’t be able to live without them. But best of all, it gets you out of the business of revenge, which really doesn’t belong to you, anyway, and gets you into obedience to God.
Romans 12:19 says it best:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (ESV)
And, if your ex really has done things that deserve to be punished in some way, you have stepped out of the way and left that job to God, who knows better than any of us what the appropriate response is. And God will hold each of us accountable, so choosing the high road for yourself means your accountability will result in a good response from God. How God handles your ex, ultimately, is between God and and your ex, so leave it there.