How to Use Your Anger Constructively in Divorce
Divorce triggers stress, and stress triggers angry responses. Anger is a common emotion during divorce, and while it can be a sign of coming into your own power, it can also be destructive. Before you know it, that anger has taken on a life of its own and become self-consuming. How can you honor your well-deserved anger and keep it contained enough to learn and grow from it?
Understand your anger
Anger is so common that it is considered one of the seven emotional stages of divorce. It may have been simmering for a long time, or it may have come on suddenly with a particular situation. With that anger usually comes a good amount of blame toward your soon-to-be ex-spouse and maybe even toward yourself.
The anger may seem simple. Your former spouse did something to hurt you, or you did something to hurt them. Because of this, you can’t stay married any longer. It is so simple on the surface, but underneath, a sea of emotion swirls. Little injustices. Big betrayals. Your ex is wrong. You are right. Period.
But we all know it takes two to make a marriage work and two to cause its death. Unpacking the anger surrounding divorce usually requires a deep dive into self-awareness. Keeping anger bottled up can be destructive to your health and well-being, but understanding it and where it comes from can help you release it and move on. Using anger constructively is not only possible, but it can also be incredibly cathartic.
Here are some healthy tools you can use to cope with anger:
- Journaling: These words aren’t meant for anyone else’s eyes but yours, but writing down your past hurts and angry feelings can offer some profound understanding and relief. And once angry words are on paper, they often lose much of their power.
- Joining a support group: There is nothing like a circle of people who completely understand what you’re going through to hold you in support and let you know you’re not alone.
- Getting professional help: Divorce is one of life’s most challenging transitions. Getting the assistance of a divorce therapist to help you work through your anger and precipitate healing is money well spent.
- Writing a letter to your spouse: This can be tricky, but many people can’t have verbal communication with a spouse during divorce that doesn’t spiral into anger. If you can put words to paper that succinctly explain everything you’re going through and how you’re feeling, it can benefit both of you and open a door to more authentic communication.
Suggested reading: How to Move On After a Divorce You Didn’t Want
Engage in physical activity
Anger isn’t just an emotional response. It is also a physical one. When you’re angry, your body floods with stress hormones. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory response increase. And, your brain shuts off blood to your gut and redirects it to your muscles to support a fight-or-flight response. Remaining in a chronic state of anger can take a physical toll.
Research has found that movement and physical activity can reduce anger responses. And while aerobic physical movement can help offset some of the physical body responses, there are other ways to take care of yourself, such as meditation and mindful breathing, both of which can help calm the nervous system.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that joining the gym should be on your priority list. There are plenty of ways you can implement more physical movement into your day to support anger resolution. Walk the dog in a new setting. Clean up the yard. Park a couple of blocks away from work, and walk the rest of the way. Take a boxing class. Channel your anger into healthy physical activities that will continue to support your best life post-divorce.
Success: The best form of revenge
There is no denying that negative thoughts can seem all-consuming in a divorce. But if you can convert these bad vibes to creative energy, it offers a new trajectory for you to focus on – success – in whatever way that speaks to you. Many individuals take that built-up anger energy and do something new and creative with it.
Creative energy is one of the many ways you can redirect your anger into positives that can follow you into your new life. Take a class, or go back to school for a degree. Let your anger motivate you to do something you’ve always kept tucked away for “some day.” Paint. Write. Cook. Dance. Not only are you redirecting your self-consuming anger, but you are channeling that energy into positive and emotionally healthy habits that can support you well in the future.
Forgiving your ex is not condoning what they did. It’s letting go of the power they hold over you. The forgiveness process is not for them; it’s for you.
Moving past anger and finding peace
Chronic anger is destructive not only to you but the people around you. Although your divorce recovery will take time and effort, moving past your feelings of anger can help you finally attain peace.
Anger doesn’t exist in a vacuum without its cousins, fear, and hurt. While anger puts the energy “out there,” fear and hurt can still be held internally and be harder to dislodge. Moving forward demands you look at the whole package and take ownership of the parts that are yours.
Divorce is the culmination of two divergent perspectives, but if closely analyzed, the intersection is where you can find peace. While it’s difficult, it’s harder to be angry when you take some ownership of the situation. Honoring the other perspective in small ways can dispel some of the anger and help you grow and find a sense of peace in the middle. This may take time or professional help, but releasing the toxic hold of anger can be an important step in moving on.
Divorce is hard. Healing is hard. No matter how “friendly” a divorce is, it will not be without conflict. But that conflict doesn’t have to take up permanent residence, and you don’t have to live forever with a broken heart. Really.
At Hello Divorce, it’s our mission to support you through these difficult transitions. We know that a better life awaits you on the other side. Whether you’re looking for legal, financial, or emotional guidance, we can help. Schedule a free 15-minute call to learn how we can support you.