How to deal with anger during divorce
Divorce is an emotional roller coaster and one of the emotions that many experience is anger.
Anger during divorce or separation might occur for several reasons. It can happen because:
- you are resentful towards your ex-partner
- they are treating/treated you badly
- you have less or even no access to your children
- they broke their marriage vows or betrayed you in some way
- It could also be present as one of the stages of grief as you experience bereavement over the end of your marriage
When does divorce anger go from normal to destructive?
Many people consider anger to be a bad emotion, but it does have its uses. It can really push us to act, and it can stop us being treated unfairly. In the context of divorce, it can also help us get over our spouse as we focus on their bad points. However, this can also lead to people becoming so angry that it interferes with the process of financial and child arrangements.
Research has found that anger during divorce leads to a more acrimonious separation, a worse post-divorce adjustment, and it can negatively affect children (Emery, 2008).
Going through a divorce in anger can have long-term financial implications on you and your family, as money is spent unnecessarily on court fees and lawyers.
How to get over divorce anger
Breathe . We know that anger makes us tense, which makes us angrier until we snap. Relaxation is proven to help reduce tension and therefore anger. As obvious as it sounds, take slow, deep breaths, making sure that your breath fills your lungs. Also, check for tension in your body, and try to let go of it. There are lots of great relaxation videos online and on YouTube. Look out for progressive muscle relaxation which works on your breathing and body tension. Perhaps do a relaxation exercise before and after any discussion.
You can also listen to this episode of The Divorce Podcast wherein Kate Daly is joined by Marcie Shaoul as they discuss managing strong emotions including anger during divorce:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (or “CBT”) has also been proven to have positive results for anger reduction. This can be provided free on the NHS if you ask to be referred by your GP. It can be a useful tool in learning how to get over divorce anger.
Behavioural therapy encourages you to challenge your thinking. For example, can you take a compassionate view as to why your spouse might be acting as they are? Can you see things from their perspective?
CBT would also encourage you to look at how the anger gets you to behave and encourages you to replace your current reaction to anger to something healthier. For example, if you are venting to others constantly about your ex, this has been shown to make things worse.
Likewise, if you are spending lots of time looking at what they are doing with their new partner, this will likewise increase your anger.
Five tips for communicating through your anger during divorce
1. Try to wait to be calmer before you respond in anger
Be upfront about your feelings and ask to sleep on any important decisions when you feel angry. Likewise, before sending an angry email or text, sleep and re-read it in the morning, or take the time to mull over it on a walk.
2. Keep to one issue at a time
The tendency is to try to resolve all anger at once by raising lots of issues with your ex. Instead, insist on resolving one issue before addressing others.
3. Prepare what you are going to say in advance, so that you can word it calmly and sensitively
Thinking before you speak is a particularly useful mantra when communicating with your ex-partner during a divorce. Divorce anger can often arise from feeling unheard and powerless. So, choosing your words carefully and making sure that your ex will hear and consider them is essential.
4. It might sound cliché, but it remains important to use "I feel" statements
This helps others to see your perspective, and you cannot be argued with on this aspect, as no one else knows how you feel. Finally, by focusing on “I,” you will not be accusing them, which can worsen divorce anger
5. Finally, accept that anger is a part of divorce
Give it time to pass, and regularly just check it is not influencing you to act in unhelpful ways. Instead, focus on how you want your post-divorce life to look like, and don’t focus too much on what your soon-to-be-ex is saying about you or doing. Their happiness no longer has anything to do with yours, and now you have so much more freedom to feel happy again!
- 16 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 346 (2008-2009) Anger is Not Anger is Not Anger: Different Motivations Behind Anger and Why They Matter for Family Law
I feel as though my ex has filed for a divorce in anger, what should I do?
The reality is, when one person says its over, its over. However, if you really feel as though your partner is acting rashly and that they haven’t given it proper thought, or that they haven’t attempted to resolve your relationship issues, you can try suggesting a relationship therapist or seeking other professional help.
What is the best way for dealing with divorce anger?
The best way for dealing with anger during divorce is to communicate how you feel to your ex-partner and discuss why you are feeling that way. You can also try solo or couples counselling, which can help by simply talking about why you are experiencing divorce anger.
Can amicable help with anger during divorce?
amicable specialises in helping couples separate in a kinder way, without expensive legal battles or damaging parents' relationships with each other. Our specialists will help you understand if anger or another emotion is an obstacle to reaching a fair agreement over dividing money and property or making child arrangements.
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