Anger is a familiar emotion for many of us. Healthy anger tells us something is wrong – something
painful or threatening that we must deal with. “It helps us protect ourselves, and lets us know when
people are crossing our boundaries”, says Dr M. Chet Mirman (Ph.D.) as licensed clinical
But for couples going through separation or divorce, anger is often anything but healthy. Divorce
anger allows someone to punish her/his ex while maintaining an ongoing (bitter) relationship with
him/her. It’s a situation that leaves both people in the divorce in limbo or unable to move forward
with what is important. Divorce related anger can literally make you crazy – causing you to say and
do things you’d never dreamed of if you were thinking clearly. Even though it’s a normal part of the
healing process, anger can become a destructive force in your life.
Some people hold onto anger so much that their rage takes over their whole lives and they can’t
maintain relationships or hold down jobs or parent their children effectively. Every action they take
is to see how much emotional or physical harm they can inflict on their victims. They can’t think
rationally and it can be their demise in the long haul. Expressing anger to your ex through the
courts or lawyers invariably leads to prolonged proceedings that will ultimately cost you and your
family dearly, both financially and emotionally. And mostly you are cutting your nose of too spite
your face as the saying goes.
Find some constructive ways to cope with your anger during divorce, turn it into a positive tool, and
learn to have anger work for you not against you.
Here is some advice about coping with your own and ex’s anger:
If you are angry:
- Write it out. Keep a journal or write letters/emails but don’t send them
- Shout it out. Turn up the music or roll up your car windows and let it out
- Talk it out. Have a support network- coach, therapist, and good friends.
- Get some professional help. Anger management support group or a therapist who
specialises in anger management.
- Re-examine your core beliefs. Ask yourself if it’s true and if it’s still serving you well.
- Take responsibility for your part of the marriage break up.
- Do some personal growth work? We all need it at some point.
- Learn what pushes your buttons. Try to understand your anger and what triggers it, before
you express it
- Protect your children. Never make them part of your conflict with their other parent and
- Use… I… not…. YOU …when expressing anger. E.g. I feel disappointed when you…..
- Give yourself time to recover from the loss of your marriage. On average this can take
about 2 years.
- Forgive and let go and move on. If you continue to nurse the anger against your ex you will
never have a happy, fulfilled, post-divorce life. Own your responsibilities for the break up,
realise that you have the power to make the choice to forgive and move on or stay angry
and remain stuck. It doesn’t matter what your ex does, you can still choose forgiveness.
If you’re EX is angry:
- Listen and validate their comments. Allow them to feel heard
- Don’t be afraid to take time out. Walk away if discussions get heated. Say I think we need to
take a break and continue when we are both calm.
- Get some assertiveness training to boost your self-esteem.
- Diffuse the situation. Try agreeing or sympathising with them where ever possible. When
you agree of offer a genuine apology, it tends to quiet people down.
- Try not to take their comments too personally. Anger can be a projection of their inner
feelings, accept that they are angry because they are going through their own inner turmoil
- Stay Calm. It can help de-escalate the anger. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing
can be effective. A mantra can also be helpful too. Like… this is good for our relationship.
- Learn to recognize your own hot buttons. When someone pushes your buttons your
response is going to be heightened. Instead try thinking of your ex’s angry words as simple
information rather than an attack.
- Be honest with yourself. Recognise that when someone is angry with you, there may be
something in what they are saying. You can choose to think they are a jerk and start yelling
back or you can listen for something that’s really valuable and discard the rest.
- Value your safety above all else. If your ex’s anger is headed in a dangerous direction, put
some boundaries in place and communicate through a third party. Remove yourself from
the situation and refuse face to face contact if you sense any danger at all. Go to my
resources page for support groups such as woman’s refuge.
*Exerts taken from divorcemag.com