Parenting: Anger & Vitriol – And What to Do About Them in Divorce

Parenting: Anger & Vitriol – And What to Do About Them in Divorce

Don’t blow your top!

Yes, you’re mad as hell and you’re not gonna take it anymore! That’s what divorce is for. While it’s a normal reaction to refuse, resist and rebel against a divorce that wasn’t wanted, or make a final stand against all the inequities suffered in the marriage gone off track, this—this spot of hostility and righteous indignation—is not a place to set up camp and most certainly is not a location from which to act!

Anger and even hatred of the other spouse may result in:

  • Rigamortus of the spirit, inflexible and uncompromising behavior akin to a child holding her breath or refusing to eat supper
  • Refusal to participate in the new family structure
  • Reluctance to make compromises in the interest of the kids
  • Deliberately abstaining from actions that would soften the new circumstances and remediate the down side of the divorce
  • Staging a demonstration as to how much lack and deprivation are now a part of life due to their spouse’s bad acts or decision to divorce

When a spouse is so overtaken with anger that he enters a self-destructive state, determining that everyone, including his children, must suffer the impact of the divorce, immediate intervention is needed. When a spouse is so enraged that she will blindly set aside even her self-interest in order to punish the other, help must be sought!

Divorce is not Medea.

No good comes from taking everyone down with you, nor of going down yourself.

This is where you may need to reach into that heroic portion of yourself, the part of you labeled “parent.”

Sanity First

The first intervention: acknowledgement. Intense emotions such as anger and grief overcome our abilities to reason. This is a physiological reality. Flooding emotions can sometimes have us denying what is and responding with intransigence (a “freeze” response). The first action is not to combat this, but rather to notice it, including how difficult and unwanted the feelings and circumstances are. Without this essential step—this acknowledgement of what is—change is impossible. The first task is not to cure anything, or force anything away, but simply to notice the “unwanted” that is there. Then transformation becomes not only possible but organic.

Save money: feel first. Getting on stable, emotional footing and permitting your spouse whatever time he needs to do the same before starting the divorce process benefits not only your wellness, but your wallet. When your emotions are somewhat calmed and contained, you can consider them while utilizing your problem-solving, solution-oriented self. You see things more as they are. You navigate complex issues and consider those involved in and affected by your choices.

When emotion has hijacked the aircraft of you, you are flying blind. And more likely to go down with the craft!

When people use the legal process to vent or act out their emotional life, they will be dissatisfied, and poor. The legal setting is not equipped to provide psychological support or help in processing difficult emotions. The legal setting is often even insufficient to handle legal matters, much less personality disorders. There are no adequate legal remedies for what Wordsworth called those “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” (Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood). Legal remedies only reach so far, and usually not into the shaded places that most need healing. Therefore, when parties attend to themselves with good support outside of and in addition to their legal counsel, they are well served.

When clients skimp on support and their attorneys or mediators become their de facto, default confidant, soother, and emotional regulator, counsel fees can become exorbitant. It is not that attorneys don’t play many roles, dipping in and out of them in order to care for and serve their clients. It is that when clients are underserved in necessary areas, the attorneys will step up and step in, and rightly billing for their time and attention to do so.

Be here now rather than being immovable.

While making one’s point is human, it is neither necessary nor attractive. There is no way to harm your children’s parent without harming your children. And there is no way to injure your kids without hurting yourself. Whatever your wreckage, you will likely be the one repairing it. When you manage your anger, disappointment, depression, terror, you also become a better parent and example for your children as to how one manages life’s difficulties.

Your dislike of the current situation mustn’t cause you to take actions that will transmit your hostility to your children—of course they don’t deserve it, but importantly, they are unequipped to healthily manage it. Care for yourself, then take care of your divorce, in that order. In this way, you protect your kids, your assets, yourself. There are possibilities in every reordering and change. They are there, even if as yet unseen.

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Rachel Alexander
Rachel Alexander 6 posts

As a professional divorce mediator and family law attorney in NJ, Rachel Alexander is a mediator first and attorney second. Before any of that, she is a person, of course, and one who has experienced divorce and its inherent losses and disruptions first hand. Alexander Mediation Group is dedicated to mediation as the most effective way to resolve conflicts and create futures of integrity. www.alexandermediation.com

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