Understanding Divorce-Related Anger


  • Anger is a common emotion expressed during a divorce.
  • Anger can fuel decisions made during a divorce proceeding and color the opinion of a co-parent.
  • There are resources one can use to control their anger.

"To say we understand the aggressive and intense behavior of someone facing the complexity of their own situation is to diminish the unique nature of every divorce case and every marital relationship."

Marital problems are not always instant. Many of the issues that couples face, such as dishonesty, poor spending habits, or substance abuse, are problems that continue to build over time. Other concerns, such as infidelity or violent behavior, are more instant, but all of these have the potential to lead to divorce.

What leads up to the divorce experience, as well as the divorce experience itself, can create some of the strongest emotions that one may feel during the course of their lives. These emotions can guide the decisions being made and color the opinion of a soon-to-be ex-spouse for years to come.

This is anger.

The emotion

Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage, according to psychologist Dr. Charles Sielberger, published by the American Psychological Association. It is expressed through an instinctive, natural, and adaptive form of aggression that responds to threats and inspires powerful behaviors and feelings.

During a divorce, understanding the anger directed toward a spouse or an ex-spouse seems simple. They did something wrong to hurt you. You did something wrong to hurt them. The children have been hurt as a result of someone’s faults. On the surface, this seems easy.

Because of the complexity of human emotions and how transpiring events are never simple, it’s difficult to call any aspect of a divorce or understanding why someone feels the way that they do, easy. They are entitled to their feelings, whatever they may be.

However, understanding the layers to them and how they affect aspects of your case are part of the first steps in moving forward after the experience.

The action

Many of can forget this, but we, as human beings, have choices about how we act on anger, according to Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Rosalind Sedacca and Amy Sherman, of The Huffington Post. It’s significant to grasp how the anger from a divorce affects others. People fearing you or walking on egg shells solves nothing and creates more problems and potential conflicts.

There also is very little excuse, in terms of justifying aggressive behavior to others. As much as we, as a society, say we understand what someone facing a divorce is going through, the truth is that we don’t. Every person is different, and every divorce is different. To say we understand the aggressive and intense behavior of someone facing the complexity of their own situation is to diminish the unique nature of every divorce case and every marital relationship. This makes for little ground to stand on, in terms of justifying one’s anger to others.

Keeping your distance from others, especially children, is the best course of action, when dealing with bouts of extreme anger, due to your divorce. Many believe that these bouts of intense anger are a part of an individual’s grieving process. Due to the mental and emotional damage of the experience, one can feel repelled from their ex-spouse. However, the anger and possible hatred is not because you no longer have feelings for this individual. It’s because you still do and those feelings have been abused, according to therapist Susan Pease Gadoua in Psychology Today.

When a soon-to-be ex-spouse expresses dissatisfaction regarding an aspect of the marriage or asks for something that you consider to be crossing a line during divorce proceedings, the anger can surface, clouding your judgement and adding a level of intensity that can disrupt legal proceedings.

Co-parenting problems

It can get even worse for co-parenting and custody. Emotional baggage is always one wrong word away from being unleashed, and when one of the divorced co-parents is experiencing issues related to parenting styles or scheduling, it can be damaging for the children.

According to Sedacca and Sherman, parents who learn to control their anger and make better choices when emotionally charged, enjoy the privileges of co-parenting more effectively and successfully.

The experience

While control is important, it can be beneficial to let yourself feel the frustration. In getting angry, you can get motivated. According to The Huffington Post, your anger may give you the fuel to fight back In whatever way you feel wronged. It gives you the energy and focus to get back what you deserve or take back from your ex-spouse what you feel they took away.

In getting back whatever you feel that you are owed, you may find yourself letting go of the anger and the grudge. Individuals exploring a life after anger find themselves taking more responsibility for their own behavior and their own feelings and displaying a much deeper appreciation for what it means to love yourself. That can help you move on and find someone who will love that passion and intensity.

Anger management

If you are unable to move forward in your quest to quell your anger, there are resources that you can look to, which will help treat it.

Seeking help from a mental health professional for anger management is not something to be ashamed of after a divorce. It is admitting that the experience and intensity of this loss in your life requires the attention of others who will listen and support you, as you process your feelings and grow healthier and stronger for the experience.

Anger is a common emotion to feel during the divorce experience. It speaks to the intensity of affection you had during your marriage, and when that ended, there was no other way to express the sudden change in the physical, mental, and emotional makeup of your life. Anger was the solution.

However, it does not have to stay the solution. In fact, it would be beneficial to your case if the irrational portions of anger were processed before the litigation begins, but we, as human beings, do not always have the ability to control the processing of emotions. All we can do is learn to control the intensity of our feelings and grow as individuals.

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