Anger during divorce is completely normal and understandable. I even think it is healthy to live those emotions–to feel them. I don’t know one person who has ever been through a divorce who hasn’t felt extremely angry, at times, furious at the ex, resentful, bitter, pissed off… whatever you want to call it. But, a lot of people ask, “How do you stop being angry about divorce?” What can you do and when do people typically let the anger go?
The answers to those questions are complicated because every divorce situation is unique, and everyone has his or her own timetable and range and variety of emotions to process and handle.
So, I will try to answer based on my own experience, and on the hundreds of divorce stories I’ve heard (and written about.) When I got divorced several years ago, I was angry. Really angry. I was angry with myself, angry with my ex, angry with God, and angry at the world.
As the weeks and months went on, my anger towards everyone and God dissipated, except for the anger towards my ex. We were going through the divorce process, and we were not on very good terms. Looking back, we blamed each other for everything that wasn’t working in our lives–some things warranted, some not.
But as time went on, and the divorce became closer and closer to being finalized, my anger faded. I found myself focusing on new friendships, the lifestyle changes I was making, my kids, dating, finances, career opportunities, and just life, in general. It almost felt like I didn’t have time to put into being angry, which was a good thing. But that said, something would happen, and I’d find myself furious, enraged, and wanting to call my ex and start screaming at him.
People always ask me how to stop being angry about divorce.
My answer is that I really can’t tell someone HOW to do it. The only person who can let go of his or her anger is the person. However, I can offer some things that might help lead you to a place that fosters letting go of divorce anger.
First, let’s address possible reasons people harbor divorce anger and resentment:
1. One person cheated.
2. Years of pent up hostility and resentment that was never expressed, or that was expressed and never worked out.
3. Actual conflict during the divorce–one person trying to get full custody of the kids, or both people wanting to keep the house, or one person thinking what the other person is asking for monetarily is unfair.
4. One person has a new girlfriend/boyfriend.
5. One person is putting the kids in the middle of the divorce.
I personally think that #2 is the most common, and that most of these other issues stem from pent up anger from months or years or even decades.
So, if you are extremely angry at your spouse, and you decide you don’t want to be angry anymore, but you just can’t help it, here is my advice. I think it’s great if you acknowledge that. If you have the self-awareness to realize that you want to let the anger go. That’s the first step.
Then there are some things you can do to help yourself get to a place of letting go. Here are a few:
1. Acknowledge that letting go of anger doesn’t mean forgetting what your ex did or pretending it didn’t happen. You know deep down inside what the truth is. But, you don’t have to be angry about it because it’s over. You can’t change it. So, don’t let it ruin your future by blocking your happiness with its toxicity.
2. Focus on YOU, what you want and need to be happy. Try new hobbies, start dating, volunteer, or focus on work.
3. Take a minute out of every day to look at your children and say to yourself, “If I never met him, I wouldn’t have them.” That will help you not be angry. But do it every day. Make it a daily practice, almost like you are retraining your brain.
4. Focus on TODAY. Not yesterday or anytime in the past having to do with your ex. Focus on what is happening NOW.
5. Stop saying “What if…” What if he marries her? What if he gets half my pension in the divorce? What if he brainwashes the kids against me? Those are all unproductive and unhealthy thoughts.
6. Don’t let him have that power of you. You are not an angry person, in general, so why are you letting him bring out the worst in you? If you are an angry person, in general, that’s another subject and you should try to get some help with that.
7. Work out your anger in therapy or with a divorce coach so you can figure out specifically what you are angry about with him. Maybe talking out the details will help you let it go. For example, maybe you realize you are most angry that he got a girlfriend so quickly. But then you think about it, and realize you wanted the divorce anyhow, and he knew it and you don’t want him back, and deep down you know he loves that it angers you that he has her. Then you ask yourself if you really, truly care and you realize you don’t. Bingo. You might now be able to let that anger go.
In closing, I truly believe that people are happier when they are living without anger. So ask yourself…(and this might be the biggest tip in letting go of divorce anger), “Don’t I deserve to be happy? To move on? To live a life of peace and acceptance and joy?” Then answer: YES!!
If you hold onto your anger in divorce, that will deter you from letting in these positive feelings that will ultimately give you a life you love. So, by staying angry at your spouse, you are really hurting yourself.
People who can’t stop being angry about divorce (for years and years) usually end up alone and with no friends, because after a couple years, no one wants to be around them because all they do is talk angrily about the ex. Also, a person might suffer in business or in their job because of their inability to let their divorce anger go.
I know a woman who had a thriving antique store. Life was great. Then, her husband cheated on her and left. She talked about it with all of her customers non-stop for years, and guess what? They stopped going into her store because they couldn’t take hearing it anymore. When I drove by and saw a “for rent” sign in the window of her store, her merchandise all cleared out, I felt awful because I knew exactly why her store closed.
Being angry takes so much energy; energy that the person could be using to do productive things. And anger hinders any kind of life success and/or true happiness. I’ve known people who get remarried and they still hate their ex. Aside from being totally unhealthy, don’t you think that might be affecting their relationship with their new spouse?
I’m not even saying to forgive, although I think forgiveness is very very important, as well. But that’s a different subject. The decision to forgive an ex (or anyone) is a personal decision. But there’s a difference between not forgiving and being perpetually angry.
Some people thrive on being angry. We all know who those people are. I bet everyone who just read this is thinking of a certain person right now, that person who has road rage beyond belief, the person who just seems pissed off all the time about little things that don’t really matter, a person who makes a huge issue out of nothing and works themselves up about it just because anger fuels them and defines their persona.
The guy who gets pissed at a bad server at a restaurant, the girl who gives someone the finger for cutting her off while driving. I want to tell these people that they are killing themselves. They need to go to a therapist and figure out why they’re so angry at life.
Another thing divorce anger does is, it affects children. If a child sees their parent angry all the time, they are probably going to think that’s normal behavior.
Here’s another thing. Ask any divorce attorney, and they will tell you, anger means big bucks in their pocket. Angry people take legal action purely because they are so angry that they want to hurt the other person. What ends up happening is, when the people’s anger subsides (temporarily, that is), they end up reaching the settlement they could have reached without the $100,000+ lawyer bill. Anger costs a lot of money in a divorce.
Again, I’m not saying no one should get angry. But how long is long enough?
Divorce anger is normal, healthy even. But holding onto it is toxic. Acceptance, grace, patience and inner peace is what leads to a good post-divorce life.
Like this article? Check out “Keep Hating. It’s good for you.”