How Can I Handle My Anger after Divorce?

"How can I handle my anger" is a question often asked by women recovering from their divorce.

By WomansDivorce | Answers by Gloria Swardenski, Life Coach

It helps to realize that being angry during and after divorce is a very common experience. After all, there are a lot of things to be angry about: what a jerk your ex was, how your whole life has been turned upside down, being screwed over by the legal system, etc. And the residual hurt and anger won't just magically disappear after your divorce is finalized. 

But if you let your anger continue to fester and color everything in your life, it will keep you stuck in the past revisiting all the wrongs that occurred during your marriage and divorce. That's no way to live and you deserve so much more out of life. While it's not always easy, working through your emotions will help you grow after divorce and embrace your future. For insight, keep reading the suggestions from our life coach below. 

Amy writes: "Do you have any information on getting past the feelings of anger?"

Gloria answers: I'd like to begin answering this question by first congratulating you. I'd love to take a minute and celebrate with you that you are feeling anything right now! I know for me personally, and the other women that I've worked with who have gone through the divorce process, that we often shut down our feelings, live in denial, and live life on auto-pilot for months or even years. The fact that you are feeling is a very good thing!

Next, I'd like to take a look at the feelings of anger. Do you believe that the feelings of anger are bad? Most do, and that is why I often see many men and women who get stuck there because they don't want to face it. The fear is that if we look anger in the eye, we'll turn into a raving lunatic and stay angry forever. I can almost sense that in the urgency of your question.

The truth is that anger is neither good nor bad. We have a tendency to put judgments on our emotions and say that happiness is good, but anger is bad; peacefulness is the best, loneliness is the worst of all. But who says? Many have used their anger to inspire them to change the world in one way or another by doing what they could to right the wrongs, to find the courage to speak up, and to motivate them to reach out to others feeling the same way.

A simple question for you to ponder is this: What are you really angry about? Do your best to narrow it down and not just say the whole situation. What is it about the situation that is getting under your skin right now (know that this will change, maybe from day to day or minute to minute)? When you discover the answer, then you can decide what you want to do about it. If there really is nothing to do, then ask yourself this: What would it be like if I could let go of this anger? How would I be different? How would I feel? How would I react the next time this issue comes up?

Your anger can be a positive energy that stirs within you the ability to create changes. Your anger can also be something you choose to let go of, so that you can use that energy in other ways. Use it or lose it - the choice is yours.

How do I move past the bottled-up hate?

Susan's Question: I have bottled up anger not only through 14 years of my marriage but 2 years of divorce litigation. I hate my ex-husband, my lawyer, the judge and anyone that is associated with them. I can't get past this. I'm unemployed. I've got shafted throughout the entire litigation. I've prepared endless amounts of paperwork to defend myself and after three lawyers, my ex-husband still was able to walk all over me and leave me with nothing put a pile of debt. I've considered the extreme on occasion but my children are the only thing that keeps me from doing that. I don't know where to turn to for any help. After 2 years of this crap, no one wants to listen to it anymore. I'm at the very lowest of the bottom of the barrel and I can't get out. I pray to God for help, forgiveness, patience, and just a little break. Who can help me?

Gloria Answers: Who can help you? The answer is YOU! You have the amazing power, creativity, and strength to stop all of the blaming, the resentment, and the constant battle of feeling like the victim all the time. Stop all the fighting with the world and all of the injustices and begin to focus that same energy toward rebuilding YOUR life!

Here is an exercise that I did for me that really supported me in moving past the anger towards acceptance. Lay in bed one night all alone in the peace and quiet of the darkness and ask yourself this question: "What would it be like if I could move past this anger and accept that this is what my life looks like right now?" Be with it for a while, and notice how you feel. What would it be like?

From there, when you begin to feel the lightness and relief that comes with acceptance, ask yourself this: "If I could accept this, what I do differently? How would I act? How would I move forward with my new life?"

Do that, and then I'd love to hear from you again on what you discovered for yourself. The only one who is holding you back is YOU, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you'll be able to move forward.

How can I handle my anger towards my ex?

Katerina's Question: My marriage ended last year, but the divorce wasn't finalized until a couple of weeks ago. He was a womanizer and did many things that were crazy. I got so angry because I felt so stupid for not realizing that this had gone on throughout our marriage. Now he is going to be transferred to another town, but for the few weeks that he's staying here he has found a girlfriend and goes out with her. I am furious and I'd love to tell him what I think of him, but I know it won't do any good. My problem is the anger and frustration that I'm feeling. I just want him to disappear, but he's going to stay for a few more weeks and I feel that I can't cope with it. How can I deal with my feelings? I'm sure that I do not love him but my ego is so hurt.

Gloria's Answer: Even though the two of you split last year, with the divorce papers just being newly signed, feelings are bound to be right on the surface. Just because we signed the papers doesn't mean the feelings immediately vanish away. I say that only to remind you that what you are feeling is completely normal.

At the same time, I'm hearing that you do want to get past this in a healthy way, and you are wondering about sharing these feelings with your ex. In a word - don't! It will accomplish nothing except to feed the anger and resentment inside of you. It's over and the needs inside of you, whether they are to be heard, validated, acknowledged, respected, will go unmet.

My suggestion for you in the next few weeks that he is going to be around is to fill your calendar with fun activities that nurture who you are and who you want to be. Ask friends to go to dinner with you or host your own dinner party. Go shopping, get a massage, read, go to the movies with a friend, etc. Challenge yourself to live in the present moment and enjoy all that it has to offer. Your ex is your past, and you have a whole life of joy and celebration ahead of you yet to live right in front of you.

Other Helpful Information:

  1. Divorce
  2. Divorce Emotions
  3. How Can I Handle My Anger