Inner healing work,  Love Wins,  Relationships

Learning to love my ex

my exIf you knew me 10 years ago when we divorced, you wouldn’t think me and my ex would ever be caught dead in the same room.

And if we were, it would be tense and extremely uncomfortable. You probably would have felt the need to pick sides (or find the nearest exit as fast as humanly possible)

Our divorce was complex and had many layers.

Ones that included multiple attorneys, grilling depositions and years of court hearings.

If you knew me then, you would be surprised that just last week the two of us had coffee. That I smiled when I greeted him. That we talked about our daughter, while respecting and hearing the other’s point of view.

You would be shocked that we text nicely. YES NICELY. With friendly emojis and all that.

And you might totally fall over to hear that I actually consider him my friend.

WHY would this be so shocking?

Here’s some background…

When we divorced, I was determined it was ALL HIS FAULT. He was convinced it was my fault. 

I aired all his dirty laundry.

Like ALL of it.

I gossiped.


I told anyone who would listen how I believed he had wronged me. I wrote letters. I composed emails (you all know how I am with words. Yikes) Good Lord, I practically waved a flag with his face on it promoting my perceived injustice.

It was ugly.

But, I believed I was justified. I believed the hurt validated the response. Maybe in some ways it did. But, as I later learned, it only drove my anger deeper.

(Which did me no favors in the whole healing process, I might add)

When every hurt that has happened to you becomes a constant thread in your conversation, thoughts and decision making  – it is no longer a part of your story – it has become your ENTIRE STORY.

And, that’s not a pretty book.

Nor is it the gospel.

I was engaged to Zac (current husband) when I realized just how ugly my book had become. And it wrecked me.

In the very best way.

I was broken into a million pieces.

I was desperate.

I wanted to be the me I was created to be.

I knew that girl was still in there.


She just needed to be let out.

She needed to be set free.

So, on my floor in a very small apartment all by myself I sat with my Bible and a journal. I cried. I CRIED.

God met me there.

I finally saw the simplicity of the gospel:

God wants to heal me.

God wants to set me free.

Now, I know that sounds super neat and packaged. And as we all know, rarely is anything in life that easy.

Well, it wasn’t easy.

It took time.


But, most of that time included these two things: blind faith and stupid obedience.

Reading, praying and tuning into that still small voice.

Having faith to believe it.

And stupid obedience to do what it said.

That was my rhythm.

Over and over again.

I read verses on forgiveness (that were stinking hard). I chose to believe them. I chose to obey them.

I read verses on loving those who hurt me (that were EVEN FREAKING HARDER). But, I chose to believe them. I chose to obey them.

That simple pattern is what set me free.

Seriously Anna? You can’t love your ex! That’s just weird.

Well, yeah. It is weird. But, if it wasn’t a little strange and out there, it probably wouldn’t be God 🙂

My steps to loving him started in prayer. I devoted every morning to praying for him and his new wife. EVERY MORNING.

Mind you, this was during some of the most tense, painful years of our history. IT WAS HARD.

But, that’s what that small voice inside told me to do. So, I blindly did it. And eventually it became easier.

I don’t know if any of my prayers made an impact on them. I like to think that they did. But, more so than that, they made a dramatic impact on me.

On my heart.

On my perspective.

With each prayer, my heart softened. With each word, I began to see them the way God did.


Gradually, as my heart began to heal during these prayers, I saw the part I had played in our divorce. And it broke me.

This led to me apologizing to him for my part in our divorce.

This led to me choosing to smile and be kind when I saw them.

This led to me to the decision that I would choose to love them and pray for them,

no matter how they treated me.

It was humbling. But, oh so freeing.

And it all started from one tiny baby step of faith.

I don’t know what God has done on my ex’s end. I can’t speak to that.

But, what I can speak to is what God has done on my end. And I know for certain, that had I not chosen to walk in love (even when it was painful) that we would not be here today.

Does it take two?

Absolutely. But, I am one of those two.

I can’t make any person be nice to me. Or hear me. Or believe me.

But, I can control my responses to them.

I can take ownership of the temperature of my heart.

Only I can guard my heart and keep it from becoming bitter (which can happen any day of the week, people. It’s is a constant job!)

When we fully surrender to a higher standard of love, we make room for the Divine to work wonders.



Author. Blogger. Speaker. Momma to 4.


  • jennifer

    this is SO good and was SO needed! Trying to heal and coparent is hard, especially when an outsider sees it as weird to try to love your ex. Thank you SO much for this xoxoxo

  • Almost Ready

    I am the mother of an addict. In the months prior to his leaving our home and entering rehab, he asked some of my favorite friends to have sex with him at various times (they all declined and began to refuse invites to my home if they knew he was present). One of them is happily married with daughters older than him. This is after asking girls at our church to enter into a “friends with bennies” relationship.

    I am struggling to forgive. I’m so embarrassed by his behavior (and no, it wasn’t the drugs – we adopted him as a teen and he had a long history of trauma, but that’s still not an excuse). Some people at my church avoided me and I had no idea why…and I didn’t find out until after we sent him to rehab. In fact, I didn’t know about his inappropriate behavior with women until after we moved him out.

    I’m not yet ready to hit my knees and turn to God, but in all honesty I feel him next to me and I hear him whisper “when you’re ready, hear I am”. Some of my friends tell me that the whisper is real and I know He’s not disappointed in me that I’ve not reached out. I know I need to forgive him for his terrible behavior, I need to forgive my friends for not clueing me in, I need to forgive my church sisters for their (understandably now) awkwardness around me, and I need to forgive for not knowing and stopping him in his tracks.

    I’m almost ready: today I told a stranger (well, several hundred or so strangers).

    • Miffy

      Hey AR,
      I so feel for you, with so much on your plate. I too am an adoptive mom, and this adds a whole layer of complexity to life. I will tell you that learning to forgive is key to keeping your sanity. Your relationship to the Lord is the foundation, but the forgiveness thing is a big deal, so don’t give up. I would also encourage you to look up The Connected Child resources – your son is indeed a ‘stuck kid’ – his past trauma is a very real reason for his behavior – drugs & the other.
      When we were called to adopt, we didn’t realize just how hard it would be. I mean, we knew it would be hard, but we didn’t know it would be so brutal, isolating, that we would be so misunderstood. Looking at us, our life can really suck. But at the same time, our marriage has never been better, our love for God grows daily, and we wouldn’t change our life for anything. This is a calling, no mistake. We are blessed. Hang in there – God is with you through it all – He never fails.

  • Gay Ingram

    Isn’t it miraculous how faith ib the promises of God that He is faithful to perform what He has promised can overule our natural feelings?
    I too chose to forgive and pray for a daughter-in-law who psychologically & emotionally almost destroyed my son. Her rebellious choices cost the family the loss of a daughter and granddaughter when the legal system took her away from us.
    But God is faithful…my daughter-in-law has returned to God’s way and changed her lifestyle. The greatest blessing came recently when our granddaughter was allowed to reconnect with her biological family after eight years of that being denied. Praise to a loving Father.

  • Dee Dee

    Wow! You just wrote my own testimony! I was divorced ten years ago after 32 years of marriage so I am much older than you. My husband and I also sat and had lunch together alone at the hospital while waiting for my daughter’s second child to be born. We even discussed how God had blessed us with an awesome family. We have no animosity toward each other. But like you, anyone that knew us ten years ago and the situation would never believe this could happen in a million years! I too get the same responce when I share my forgiveness story. People look at me like I have “purple horns”. They don’t understand the peace and freedom that true forgiveness can bring in your life. Sadly the process is too hard for them. It is a choice and a journey. You must decide to forgive, keep your nose in the word of God and find out what God says about it, pray and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and obey. Then something miraculous takes place and you begin to pray for your ex with the same heart of Jesus. I always tell people, “It’s steps, not an elevator.” Thank you for sharing. I love your transparency and I connect so easily to all of your posts. I know there are so many others that feel the same.

  • Derin

    I relate with pain. Maybe not yours, but pain howbeit, and how sometimes it can feel so heartbreaking, and hopeless! But sometimes, taking a deep breath…purposely fixing my attention on God, I realize He’s speaking…and He’s saying to me; ‘I am here….and you will be fine.
    However, I realize, that it’s much harder to take a deep breath , and fix your attention, if one doesn’t remember He’s there. Time spent with him helps one remember…
    #blindfaith #stupidobedience

  • Keith

    Time does heal all wounds if we let it. You found what you like about him in the first place. Hate is so debilitating, so acceptance is much more freeing. Not saying he did not wrong you, but it is good that you have found better footing.

  • Jackie

    I’m not sure I’ve ever needed to read something more. And it didn’t hit me until I was about half-way through your entry. I’m struggling more, I think, with the fact that the person who causes me pain, continues to do so without being aware. The behavior hasn’t stopped so I can forgive and move on, it always continues. Mostly it doesn’t get to me like it probably used to, but just recently the pain and anger have been rearing their ugly heads and I need to constantly remind myself that the only way to move forward is to love and pray and try to respond in a positive way. And if this person continues to not be a part of my life like time and time before, then that’s fine, I don’t need that anyways. I am surrounded by so much love and grace, much more than I deserve.

    Thank you for the reminder. Spending more time in the word is certainly needed in these moments.

  • Tracey

    Today on my drive home from work I was thinking about this subject so this post is very timely! My ex and I dated 5 yrs, were married 13 yrs & have been divorced 12 yrs. We had a good co-parenting relationship until out of the blue a few months ago he decided he wants our marriage annulled.

    The lies he wrote on the paperwork are almost unforgivable (he told the church I had an affair & he was “coerced” into marrying me). The anger/hate I have towards him are at a level I did not even know was possible. I really did not know I was capable of hating someone as much as I hate him. I will read your blog again and pray for my heart to soften, but I’m not expecting that to happen any time soon. My family and friends voice their shock and disapproval regarding his behavior on almost a daily basis. That daily confirmation of just how reprehensible his actions are only seems to solidify my hate. I’ll keep reading your blog. Any Bible verses you can provide (other than the vengeance ones because I have those down pretty good) would be appreciated 🙂

    • Anna McCarthy

      Hi Tracey!
      I was scrolling through Bible verses and realized that most of them (and just about all the other advice I would give) is all in my book, Forgiveness Is Not an Option. I wrote it through that season with my ex as it applied to what I was going through then and also applied to many other hurts that seemed to be making a lovely reappearance that same year.
      I would encourage you to get a copy. (I’m happy to send you a copy at no cost if you need me to. Just send me a message) 🙂
      In the meantime, some of my fave verses are: Psalm 34:18, Matt 5:44, Proverbs 12:16, Joel 2:24-26, Psalm 55:16-17

  • Kaitlyn

    I’m getting married to the most wonderful, most perfect man for me in 39 days. And here this blog post lands in my email. I know I have forgiveness still to tap into regarding my own ex. I don’t really know how. I guess this post will lead me to start by praying for him. Hopefully grumble-grumble-bitter-grumble prayers will turn into ones that do change my heart. I do wish that we could end up on a cordial note instead of avoiding each other at all costs, and at church, too, the only place we ever see each other. I want to make up and be on a better page, no hard feelings.

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