Dealing with Anger during a Separation or Divorce - Parent Connection
Anger is a natural and normal response to loss and everybody going through a relationship breakdown will experience it. Although anger is a necessary and healthy response to separation it can be scary, both for the person experiencing the anger and the person on the receiving end. Firstly because the intensity of feeling can make you feel like you’re out of control. Secondly, because it can be unpredictable – you can swing from feelings of hatred and revenge to feelings of insecurity and sadness and then back again.
Feeling angry is not necessarily a matter for concern, but how you deal with that anger is a major one for parents post separation. Feeling angry is healthy when it gives you the energy to get on and take control; when it protects your self esteem and it helps you to stand up for yourself. It also helps you to separate emotionally from your ex.
Dealing with anger is unhealthy when you:
- Bottle up your anger and turn it inwards as this can lead to depression. This can make you less available to your children and deprives them of the normal relationship they have with you.
- Express your anger as aggression (and this includes silent, passive aggression) as this damages you and the people around you. Seeing conflict is frightening for children and affects them. Anger directed at the children’s other parent will interfere with the development of a co-parenting relationship and will affect the quality of your children’s relationships with both parents.
To make sure that your anger works through in a healthy way, talk about your feelings to friends or a counsellor. Use some of that energy in physical exercise - hit a punch bag, a cushion or a football. Take care of yourself.
If you feel your anger has becomes a problem you may need to change the way you think.
- You may think you have a right to be angry and whoever it’s directed at deserves it. No matter how justified it is, ask yourself what good is the anger really doing. Weigh this up against the damage it’s doing to you and your children.
- You may think its ok to be angry because it doesn’t affect anyone else. Just because you don’t rage and shout doesn’t stop people noticing your anger and feeling unsafe or intimidated. Neither does it stop you being stuck in the past and unable to move on.
- You may think that being angry is a way of getting what you want. Ask yourself what you truly want – revenge for what’s happened to you or to be treated fairly. Being a bully is not a way of getting justice and can backfire badly. You risk communication breakdown with the other parent which is a trigger for problems with the child contact arrangements.
You may also need to acknowledge past hurts. You might think that you have got over past losses and injustices, especially those from childhood. If you are now finding that your response to the current situation is way over the top it may be that they still have the power to affect you. Although you can’t do anything to change your experiences, your attitude towards them could change. It can be difficult to do this alone and counselling could help you to explore your feelings in a safe way.
If you are being affected by your partner’s anger
If your ex’s anger seems extreme or if they seem to be stuck in anger and unable to move on, you need to protect yourself by limiting your contact with your ex. Your first priority is to make yourself and your children safe. You may need to involve a solicitor to help and advise you. The Domestic Violence Helpline offers confidential support and information 24 hours a day.