Every divorce situation is unique. From growing apart to cheating to addiction to finances to falling in love with someone else to when a spouse leaves, there are countless reasons couples split up. What is usually the same in every divorce, however, is anger, bitterness, resentment and other negative feelings on one or both partner’s end, especially at the beginning.
These feelings are understandable, and stem from:
But I have a question that I truly have never been able to fully understand. It’s baffling to me:
Why is it that sometimes the person who left is angry, bitter and mean to their spouse?
I hear stories so often about someone whose spouse meets someone else, decides to leave, and then turns into an angry, mean jerk, who wants to battle it out in court and hold an angry grudge forever. The person turns it around on the spouse they just left, and makes their entire affair the person they are leaving’s fault. It is truly amazing to me how people can do this.
Here is the email I received that spawned this article:
I’m 32 and my mother (age 50) has been recently separated from my father. He left her, and he is definitely not making this easy on her AT ALL, as a matter of fact he’s being a real douche to her/ I truly mean this. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my father, but all of this has made me legitimately not like this man. I’m about 85% sure this is going to lead to divorce. She’s taking this very hard, which she has every right to, but I want to help her, AND I have realized I’m not taking this well/easy either. Do you have some advice?
I find this so interesting…the dad was the one who decided to leave and now he’s being a jerk to the mom. To me, the dad sounds very confused and is probably angry at himself so he is putting his anger onto the mom. He might also feel some resentment that has been festering for many years. I’m not saying the mom did anything terrible, it’s just that every couple harbors resentment–even happy couples.
My advice to this mom and daughter is that they both need to separate themselves from the dad’s hopefully temporary toxicity. They should try to accept that they can’t control his behavior, his words, or his actions, but that they can control their own. Both the mom and the daughter need to live their lives and do things that make them happy–with family and friends and hobbies they enjoy. The moms need to remove herself from the dad until he figures out his shit (for lack of a better word.)
Here is the reason I think that some people who leave decide to turn things around and become angry and mean to the spouse they are leaving. I think two things are going on:
Guilt and resentment
Let’s start with guilt. I think the person feels guilty for leaving and/or cheating or falling in love with someone, and so to self-protect, they convince themselves (and others) that it is the spouse’s fault that they cheated in the first place. They didn’t feel loved, they weren’t respected, they weren’t treated well, etc. etc. They justify the cheating to make themselves feel better. Now, it is possible they weren’t treated well by the spouse? Of course! But that doesn’t justify cheating and then blaming the other person. The person could have left before getting involved with someone else.
Then there is resentment. The person who left has probably been harboring resentment that’s been building up for years. So, since they have all this resentment that they no longer have to hide, they decide to let it out. And once it starts coming out, it feels like such a relief. So, the meanness is almost coming out uncontrollably. The person can’t help it.
Instead of being angry and mean to a spouse, wouldn’t it make sense if (A), be in therapy, (B), the person took accountability of the cheating, getting into another relationship and leaving, and (C), acknowledges the guilt? Maybe the divorce isn’t their fault. Maybe they were treated like crap for years. But, the bottom line is the person cheated and should acknowledge that it was wrong to cheat. Maybe even apologize, and I mean apologize just for the cheating. Maybe the spouse who was cheated on needs to apologize for certain things, too.
In closing, I want to offer advice to the person who was left, whose spouse is being mean and angry. Like I told my reader and her mom, you should disengage and realize that your spouse is most likely doing two things: one, feeling guilty for cheating, and two, letting his or her resentment flow after years of holding it in.
Your spouse probably doesn’t like him or herself right now because after all, what cheater feels good about what they did? Try to let mean statements such as “You’re the reason I cheated,” roll off of you. Your spouse is most likely very confused and conflicted. Also, he or she might someday regret the cheating and leaving, and might regret being mean and angry towards you. But the thing is, you will never know because most cheaters who leave are too proud to ever apologize or admit they made a mistake. Or, they convince themselves that no matter what happens in the future, they are “way better off.” Understand that you have no control over what your ex things, feels or acts. So, it’s better to let it go and start moving on with your life. It’s not easy. I get it. But it’s healthier to detach yourself than to listen and react to the meanness and anger.
In closing, I also have another question, but this one doesn’t baffle me:
Why do some people whose spouses left them end up happier than they ever could have imagined?
Because they stopped trying to control the feelings and behaviors of their ex, and they started focuses on themselves, what they want out of life, and what it will take to get to happiness, independence, and self-love. Instead of being bitter, they let things go. This doesn’t happen overnight, by the way. They accepted that their ex left. They accepted that they would be scared and unsure of things for awhile. They accepted that God has a plan for them. They let it go. They let him (or her) go, and they embraced the uncertainty of a huge life change, and viewed it as an adventure that includes gratitude along the way. And when they least expected it, they looked in the mirror and felt proud and fulfilled.
I hope that happens for you.
Like this article? Check out: “Divorce Advice: Keep Hating”