When sparks fly in a drought-ridden forest, the fire destroys everything in its path. When tempers flare during divorce, the whole situation easily goes up in flames.
Momentary fury leads to expensive conversations between attorneys, set-backs in negotiations, and more uncertainty for the future. Worst of all, the toll on children proves devastating. So what do we do about our anger?
First, recognize–anger in divorce is natural. And, important.
Anger signals that real issues are at stake. The moment you feel your blood pressure rise, that anger tunes you into a situation that needs attention.
It’s responding in anger that creates the havoc. A few tips will help you move from an unproductive angry response to a constructive pattern that resolves the issue. Saves you money. And protects your relationships.
Step 1–Find the source:
Asking a few key questions helps you identify the real issues fueling your anger.
- What did the other person specifically say or do when you noticed your temper flare? Identify, as specifically as you can, the words, the facial expression, or the actions that hurt you.
- Did their behavior undermine something you truly value?
- Did they discount a significant need?
- Did they challenge or undermine who you are as a person?
Identifying the actual behavior and perceiving its effect helps you understand your response.
Sometimes this one step resolves the issue. You realize your ex was simply careless with her words and hurt your feelings. Or, he unintentionally forgot a message from the school, which left you feeling outside your child’s life. Closer inspection reduces the behavior to a passing incident that you can let go.
Bucket of water on a spark. Flames extinguished.
Step 2–Define the issue
If you find you can’t just let the incident pass, move on to defining the issue. What is truly at stake?
- What did your ex say or do that went too far?
Did she make fun of your work in front of the kids? Did he forget a notice from the school–which left you explaining why your child didn’t have needed supplies?
- How did you react to her going too far?
Did you feel humiliated? Unprepared to meet others’ expectations? Put in a position to fail your child?
- What were the consequences of your reaction for you? For your ex? For others?
A clear definition helps you raise the issue in a concrete, practical, and productive way.
Once you are clear on your own reactions, take a moment to consider your ex’s perspective.
- What would she say started the conflict?
- What specific thing did you say or do, or not say or do, that seemed to provoke him?
- What line did you cross?
- What reasons might she have attributed to you for provoking her?
- What were the consequences of her reactions for her? For you? For others?
From these questions you gain perspective. You own your own role in the situation. You prepare for the defenses he or she may throw at you when you finally raise the issue
Step 3–Create a solution
Deeper insight helps you create a solution with your ex. When emotion controls, we reel from point to point like a drunken sailor. Having processed the emotions to find the cause–we can focus on the real issues at stake and defining workable solutions.
“I feel” statements communicate well. “I feel left out of our child’s life when you forget to pass along a school notice about ordering pictures. The deadline has passed and now it’s too late to get this year’s picture. I don’t think you were being malicious, but I’ve lost an opportunity that I can’t get back. More, it makes the children think I don’t care when I do. What system can we put in place so neither one of us is in this position?”
This type of statement:
- focuses on a specific incident,
- offers a concrete explanation of the problem and it’s effect, and
- issues an invitation to create a solution together for mutual benefit.
Tempers flare in divorce. But, they don’t have to destroy. Understanding the source of your anger and finding a healthy way to work through the issues offers a way through the conflict to a more stable place.
At The Resolution Center we help couples move from conflict to resolution. If you find yourself stuck in patterns that destroy and would like a different path, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com for a free consultation on how we might help.