Divorce and anger go hand in hand.
Love and Marriage, Horse and Carriage … Divorce and Anger obviously go together, too. Right? Well … at the very end of the season finale of #DivorceonHBO we hear the main character Frances, who is divorcing her husband, leave this voicemail for her husband: “I imagine that, somehow, you didn’t bother to think through this imbecilic move – you simply wanted to fuck me at any cost. But you have made a terrible, awful, IRREPARABLE mistake. And you’ve LOST, Robert. You have lost EVERYTHING now!”
Uh, oh. There it is. It all just went sideways.
Oh, how easy it is to give into anger when you are in the middle of divorce, especially if it’s justified (though don’t get me wrong, it’s just as easy to get caught up in your anger because of things that you perceive to be happening, whether they really are or not.) In Frances’s case, she asked and was granted permission by her husband to swap weekends with him, to take the kids skiing. He changed his mind at the last minute though, because he was furious with her for getting their assets frozen (which actually her attorney did; Frances didn’t really understand what the attorney was doing) and therefore reported her to the police for kidnapping. Which, of course, completely freaked the kids out. Which, of course, completely ticked off Frances, so she lashed right back out at him, hence the voicemail. See the pattern here?
Listen, if you are getting divorced right now, I know you may be feeling really, really angry. And you probably have every right to be furious. Maybe he cheated and lied about it for years … or perhaps he was a workaholic and ignored you, never noticing how very lonely you were … or maybe he abandoned you emotionally and focused his attention on the kids … or perhaps he simply left you without warning and you never saw it coming. You need to make him pay for this right? Well, I’m telling you right now, letting anger drive the legal process is not going to result in you getting the revenge or justice you seek. It will only result in a longer drawn out ugly divorce.
Divorce and anger must be untangled
I’m not suggesting you cease feeling angry … you have every right to that feeling. What I’m suggesting is that you cannot afford to let feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness or even primal raw rage dictate how this divorce will unfold. These emotions must be separated, for your sake and for your kid’s sake as well.
Imagine Anger is a monster inside of you. If you feed it, it gets big and strong. If you allow it, that monster will take over your brain and start to think for you. But Anger has no perspective, no intelligence, no problem solving or rational thinking. Like most monsters, it’s just hungry, so it does things to get fed. It feeds on fear and outrage and hatred and will stop at nothing to stir up those feelings to get a meal. It will stir them up in you and it will not stop there – it will convince you to lash out at others too, so it spreads, and your spouse is the most obvious target.
Feeding this monster does two things: (1) It keeps you in a place where you cannot think clearly nor make smart decisions because the monster is in charge and (2) It forces your spouse into the same position. Now we have two adults, neither of who is capable of making responsible decisions, because both are blinded by Anger.
You must stop feeding Anger the Monster.
As said before, I’m not simply telling you to stop feeling this way. Anger isn’t just going to go because you wish him away. You must honor how you feel, while at the same time figure out ways to navigate the divorce and make good decisions for you and your family. I offer you three things to keep in mind, as a start:
3 ways to handle divorce and your anger, if things are getting ugly
- Trust yourself, if only a little. Listen to that little voice that tells you it can’t be what it seems. Investigate the situation before you let it ignite you. Did he really say that? Would he really do that? Maybe not. Try to give him the benefit of the doubt if you think there is the smallest chance you are overreacting.
- Find safe ways to vent and process the anger. Much like a teakettle that’s corked up, your anger will explode if you don’t find ways to vent the steam. Talking with someone you can trust explicitly or writing in your journal may be important ways for you to get out all that negativity in safe ways.
- Get perspective from someone objective. This means someone who is not close to the situation, preferably a professional. A therapist, divorce coach, social worker, or clergy member will have the expertise you need to help you see things through other perspectives and help you make rational decisions. If Anger threatens to take over, it’s imperative you find someone who is trained to deal with these strong feelings and can help you tame that monster.
Frances says to her dad at one point, “Well, neither one of us is being particularly good to the other, but ya know, apparently that’s how these things go, so….” No, Frances, that’s not right. Things don’t necessarily have to go that way, unless you let them. You can choose not to let your emotions take over in your divorce, and instead find ways to be civil and communicative with your spouse so you avoid those miscommunications and hurt feelings that Anger so thrives on. You must take active measures to starve the monster. The best way to do that is with a little help from others.
If you are experiencing feelings of rage and bitterness and just don’t know to reign it in, Liza and I can help. Reach out to us for a free 45-minute consultation and we’ll help you find ways to deal with your strong feelings while helping you make good decisions about your divorce. We look forward to speaking with you soon.