It’s hard to understand how a person who used to be your husband (or wife) can switch gears so abruptly. What I mean by that is, once loving, kind and caring towards you in your marriage, now your ex is angry and hateful towards you. It’s not only strange and shocking almost, but it’s sad and hurtful.
When someone says “I want a divorce” and then the couple gets separated—I mean when they both know the divorce is really happening, they turn that corner and on come the gloves.
The person you slept in a bed with and made babies with is now like a stranger—a really mean stranger. He or she won’t speak to you, won’t say hello, goes out of his or her way to make you feel bad and uncomfortable, and at times, screams insults and obscenities in your face. You are now at war with the person you ironically stood in front of an audience and God and promised to love and cherish forever, while gazing longingly into each other’s eyes. It’s almost hard to grasp the change when it happens.
An ex’s anger and hate can go on for months, years, and even a lifetime. I remember a friend told me her 90 year old mom was dying, and told her children that their father (who was her ex-husband) was not to attend her funeral. I couldn’t believe it.
But understanding why your ex is angry and hateful can help you accept it for now, tolerate it, and not play into his or hands by fighting back and being mean and angry and hateful back.
Here are 8 reasons your ex might be angry and hateful towards you:
1. Stress and Fear. Separation, the divorce process, and the huge life change of divorce might be one of the most stressful situations a person will endure. It also causes tremendous fear. Fear of finances, fear of “will the kids be OK?”, fear of being alone, etc. And, when people have anxiety and fear, they get angry and mean. Who better to take out their anger and hate to? You, the person who caused all of this! (Not that that’s really the case, but in his or her mind, you are the cause, you did this, you are causing him or her all this stress and fear.)
2. Guilt. Here is a typical scenario. A guy leaves his wife for another woman. At first, he is really nice about it, feels terrible, etc. Then, the wife hires a divorce attorney and starts defending herself in litigation. The husband decides he hates her, and becomes really angry with her. In other words, he channels his guilt into hate for his ex because it’s easier to blame her. By the way, women do this too, it’s not just men.
3. Self-hate. I personally find that people are most hateful to others when they hate themselves. For someone who lacks self-awareness, it’s easy to transfer the hate they have for themselves to their ex. How many times has your ex come to pick up the kids and is really really mean to you that day, for reasons you have no idea? You’re thinking, ‘OK….what did I do now?” My answer to you is nothing! Something happened to your ex and he hates himself or herself for it, and so he or she decided to hate you instead. It’s easier that way. (To an unhealthy person with no self-awareness, that is.)
4. His new girlfriend/wife. Let’s say a guy is with a woman who has a horrible relationship with her ex. They treat each other with hate and anger. So, for her, that is the only way she knows for divorced parents. So, when her new husband is trying to co-parent with his ex wife, she can’t understand the friendship. In her mind, he is supposed to hate his ex, just like she hates hers. So, she might be putting pressure on him, fueling the fire, and almost convincing him that you are this horrible person who did this, this and this in the past, and that he shouldn’t forget it or ever be your friend. And, because she is now the woman in his life, he listens because he doesn’t want to create tension in his new relationship.
5. Addiction issues or mental illness. These are areas that you have absolutely no control over. Say this to yourself: I am not a doctor, I am not an addiction counselor, I am not a psychiatrist. Your ex needs to get help from a professional, and you need to take a step back. A big step back. Addicts blame everyone else for their problems. That’s addiction 101.
6. Hurt and pain. People cover up intense pain and hurt with anger and hate. Anger and hate are the protective shields over the wounds that aren’t healing. I could cry when I think of how sad this is, and how common. If they could acknowledge that their ex hurt them like hell, and that the pain they caused is still very much there, they might find alternative ways to channel the pain. I’m not saying the person should forgive an ex immediately for what he or she did, but being mean and angry for years is unproductive and very very bad for them, the ex and the kids.
7. Unhappiness. If someone is unhappy, they don’t want anyone else to be happy, especially the ex. So, if he or she senses you are happy, they want war. They are pissed. In their eyes, you don’t deserve happiness! You ruined their life! On the flip side, if you are miserable, you will find that your ex will be nicer.
8. It’s expected. Being amicable seems foreign to most people getting divorced, since most divorce stories are ugly. So, they automatically feel like it’s not right to be kind and courteous to an ex.
The good news is, countless couples are able to let go of the anger and hate after a divorce, which fosters acceptance, peace and a happier, better future for both partners. Letting go of anger and hate also benefits the kids. Not only can parents who are friends co-parent so much more effectively, but kids thrive when their parents get along. It takes so much pressure off of a kid, and makes the kids feel more like a family. If you think about it, whether a couple is married or divorced, the kids cringe when their parents fight. It makes them uncomfortable, sad, insecure, and filled with anxiety. I know that when I get along with my ex, my kids beam with happiness.
Here’s the thing about divorce anger and hate. During a divorce and after, it’s so easy to conjure up memories that sustain resentment. It’s easier to blame the ex than to look in the mirror and say, “Maybe I played a role in this divorce, too.” It’s also easy to hate if you know you can’t have your ex back, and it’s easy to hate someone who moved on before you, i.e. has a girlfriend two minutes after the separation (which so many people do.) It’s also easy to say, “He took the best years of my life” and resent him or her for that.
The key in letting go of anger and hate is to remember two things:
1. You have zero control over your ex’s journey, and his or her anger and hate towards you. Yes, you can try talking to him or her, writing a letter, apologizing for your role in the divorce, but that’s pretty much all you can do. He or she is the one who has to decide to let it go.
2. You have all the control over letting your anger go. I remember a woman once said to me, “I want to let go of my anger, but I don’t know how.” My answer is, stop looking back. If you focus on your children and your own life, the road ahead, the life you want moving forward, and you do what you can to get what you want from this point forward, your anger and hate will go away. The wound will turn into a scab and eventually fall off. Will you have a small scar? For sure. But it won’t be noticeable.
Like this post? Check out, “Dating Over 50: Are We In No-Man’s Land?”