The objective of this article is to provide some guidelines for dealing with anger in post divorce situations.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: Usually the anger from the marriage continues into the divorce. In fact, when there are children, there is really no divorce and the issues continue into infinity. This article provides some guidelines for ex-spouses dealing with each other in spite of their anger.
Too often the marital discord that caused the family break-up continues in the aftermath, to the children’s detriment. Even with the best of intentions, divorced or separated parents have a difficult relationship to maintain. Even though the parents are apart, they must still discuss many old issues–finances, visiting arrangements, plans for children’s education, holidays, grandparents, and more.
When they become aware of new developments in a child’s behavior or interests, they should tell each other so that they can behave like a team if there is any cooperation at all. Whatever the conversations are, whatever is necessary, they should be conducted with courtesy and consideration but also with brevity. They should get to the point quickly.
It isn’t fair to make the meetings so “friendly” that the children maintain the unrealistic hope that they will get together again. When a divorced couple must meet to discuss family affairs, the children should understand that this is the sole purpose of the meeting.
If the father visits his children in the mother’s home, it is wise for her to be out of the way during the visit. Also, she should not ask that he stay for dinner even if the children would like him to do so. No one should recreate anything that looks like a reconciliation if there is not one. It can be explained to the children that when people get “unmarried” it is hard for them to see each other personally. This has nothing to do with special occasions like graduation when children are entitled to having both parents present.
Children benefit most from a life of realities.Give them opportunities to talk about what has happened. Divorce sets off many complex feelings in all parties concerned. Some of these feelings are unconscious and are revealed only indirectly by their effect on behavior.
So what if you are so angry with your ex-spouse that you can’t compartmentalize your anger for the sake of the children? It is terribly important that you not act it out around them. I recommend that you have someone to talk about it with–preferably a relationship therapist, and that you do your best to time your visits to precede conversations with your ex-spouse. Talk about your anger with a third party–use a tape recorder, write a letter—-but express the anger by yourself or with a safe person.
Many angry ex-spouses send their anger through the children by making visitation difficult for the other parent. This damages the children–puts them in the middle–and intensifies loyalty conflicts.
Think about what is good in your life rather than what may have been done to you. Keep yourself busy and productive, exercise regularly in order to keep enough brain chemicals active to be optimistic. Spend your energy rebuilding your life and providing continuity for the children rather than obsessing about past hurts and injustices.