Three Questions to Ask Yourself to Extinguish Your Divorce Anger

The anger bubbled to the surface, blistering under the broiler that was the financial mess my first husband gifted to me in the divorce. Every month, as I made payments I struggled to afford towards debt that he had accrued, my body would respond with a vicious energy and my mind would rail against the unfairness of it all.

That anger was poison roiling inside me, its caustic nature wearing away at me, in some ways causing even more damage than he had done with his reckless spending and deliberate betrayals.

Whenever somebody pointed out that my anger was only hurting me, I grew defensive and, yes, angry. “I’m justified to feel this way!” I would insist. “He did these things and left me to clean up his mess. It’s not fair!”

And I was right.

But so were they.

He may have initiated my anger through his actions, but it was now my responsibility to eradicate my own rage.

Here are the questions I asked myself along with the answers I arrived at that finally allowed me to release my anger:

Why do I feel angry?

I feel foolish.

We all like to think of ourselves as smart, as aware. When we hear about incidents befalling others, we find comfort in the idea that it couldn’t happen to us because we’re too perceptive. So when it does happen to us, we feel like a chump.

Maybe you’re embarrassed about your mate selection, only now realizing how poorly you picked. Perhaps you were betrayed and you didn’t pick up on the signs of the infidelity. Or now you believe you married too young, or didn’t heed the red flags or made choices that led to the derailment of your marriage.

There’s a reason that public embarrassment provides the spark for many grade school fights  – we don’t like the vulnerability and shame that feeling foolish provokes, so we respond by turning the tables and attacking back.

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It’s not fair.

“After all that I did for him, this is how he repays me???”

But there are no scorecards in life, no playground monitors ensuring that everybody gets their turn or Hollywood directors carefully crafting an ending. And so most things don’t fall into our vision of “fair.”

The anger here comes from the disconnect between our expectations (that if we do good, good should come back) and reality (both good and bad happen to us all).

I wasted my time.

When a marriage ends, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that all of the time and energy that went into the relationship was a waste, thrown out like milk turned sour.

And that is time that you can never recoup.  Opportunities that were passed by that may never come around again.

When my ex left, I found myself questioning all of the major decisions I made while we were together and blaming him for all of my choices. Choices I would have made differently if I had known the end result.

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Why did they act this way?

 

He acted to protect himself rather than to try to wound me.

This realization was probably the single most important factor in my ability to finally let go of the anger. I had been envisioning him as some sort of malevolent conductor, carefully orchestrating my undoing.

It took time for me to depersonalize it all and to see it from his perspective. He was acting to try to alleviate his own pain and in turn, carelessly caused mine.

Selfish? Absolutely.

But not a targeted attack.

He was too cowardly to face things.

I certainly would have preferred a sit down talk about the state of our finances and marriage to abandonment and embezzlement, but he wasn’t capable of that kind of honesty at that point.

It takes courage to face hard truths and to have difficult conversations. Often when people behave poorly in a marriage, they lack that courage and instead express themselves in a more passive-aggressive (and often more destructive) manner.

He was damaged and may have been coping the best he knew how.

I started to see him as a scared and wounded child, putting together the pieces I knew of his past and his family.  I saw the shame that drove him deeper into the shadows. I learned of the depth of the addictions that drove his lies. I saw the overwhelming darkness that he became lost in, choking on the very cloak he tried to hide behind.

And I softened towards him. It didn’t excuse his actions, they were still unpardonable and it didn’t lessen the damage he caused. But it did help to take away some of the sting that stirred the anger.

How can I release the anger?

 

Be grateful.

With every payment I made towards the debt he amassed, I wrote down one thing I was grateful for in my current life. At the beginning, this exercise was a challenge, sometimes requiring more than an hour for one positive entry to cross my mind.

But in time, it became easy. Faced with that tangible list of positives every month, I could see my new and better life growing in front of my eyes. It was still a high price to pay, but I was determined to make sure the payments weren’t going to be made in vain.

Compose a letter.

I started journaling the week my ex left, the pages a silent receptacle for the pain and anger welling up inside me. At the same time, I composed letters to him, alternately screaming and crying. I sent two of those, the rest I kept.

The purging felt good. Necessary.

But it didn’t alleviate the anger.

Until I wrote a very particular one – the letter that I wanted to receive from him.

As you can imagine, it felt strange at first writing this. But soon, the awkwardness faded and the tears came. Healing tears, tears of mourning and yet acceptance.

I read that letter frequently the first year, the words feeling real. And isn’t that what matters?

Work to right the wrongs. 

Anger demands action.

I identified the primary sources of my anger towards the situation and actively worked to address each in turn.

I felt foolish, so I decided to counteract that embarrassment by sharing my story and helping others know that they were not alone.

I felt like it was unfair, so I found ways to earn money out of the experience and used those resources to help pay for the debt he incurred.

I felt angry about the time spent with him and the decisions I made with the marriage in mind, so I focused on celebrating the positives that came out of those times and choices.

I was justified in my anger.

But that didn’t mean I needed to keep it.

Thank you for sharing!

4 thoughts on “Three Questions to Ask Yourself to Extinguish Your Divorce Anger

  1. SassaFrassTheFeisty – Indianapolis, IN – I'm a mother of two-mostly amazing-kids. This is my journey towards healing from the ruin of my marriage and 10 year relationship to my kid's "dad", my stories of dealing with really good and really bad days, learning to cope and move on. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 with mania and ADHD-look! Something shiny!!-and Postpartum Depression. I love completely and passionately. Just don't piss me off, because I'll burn that bridge-and I'll stand on it and watch the flames consume everything. Sass 101 First-As my name suggests I am a Feisty Lil Thang. I tell it like it is. It is no holds barred on my blog. If you expect fluffy puppies, rainbows and sunshine, exit Stage Right because it ain't gonna be here. If you expect no cussing and positivity, and that I pray to a God or deity, exit Stage Left. That's not here either. What's here is real, honest, raw and truthful. This is my journey through the last 18 months from the separation of my husband and the JOYOUS roller coaster my family has been on. Oh yes, I did forget to mention-I am a sarcastic quick witted one. Sasscasm is trademarked by the ever Butch Blah. Don't mess with her Dragon, he eats assholes for breakfast. We have a tribe here that is very exclusive-seriously. If you're lucky enough to enter, you are worthy enough to partake in our Femme Speak. If not, just nod your head yes, and move on. I have Bipolar 1 with mania and I cycle into depression 2 times a year. This year has been an exception to the rule considering this year has just been shit. I've been to my local psych hospital twice in less than 10 months-once for depression, once for a psychotic episode resulting from over medication. YAY! Piss on that shit. If it hadn't been for Blah, I never would have gone. Thank you Blah. I lurve you! I have 2 kids-a boy I call NSLM-Not So Little Man-because Anxious Mom has her LM. Didn't want to steal her LM's thunder :) And I have a daughter referred to as Monkey-it's self explanatory. They are also referred to as my Heathens-yes I can call them that because I gave birth to them, I know them and they act like Heathens at times-just thank the Good Lord they aren't Hellians or I'd be in jail. I have an almost 5 year old purebred Red and Black German Shepherd named May-she's momma's baby, and Monkey is on her THRID guinea pig in about a year-thank her dad for that one. This one is S'mores and he's a wheeker and fat and fluffy. My kids and I live with my parents, because I'm not stable or healthy enough to work and live on my own. I have FINALLY found my magic pill cocktail-for now-and I have clarity for the first time in my life. I no longer use the word "stable" I use baseline. I've been on a lot of meds over the years, and since the last med I was on and overmedicated I have become med sensitive-SUPER YAY. I'm good at recognizing side effects and can tweak a med time better than a dr. Not cocky, just fact. I'm that in tune with my body. I'm also very emotionally charged. My emotions have always ruled my decisions, and I don't see that changing, but I am now better to stop and think things through before making a decision-some of the time. I'm mouthy, but I have a huge heart of gold, and I get hurt easily. And when I talk about people on here in my life off of WordPress they get their own special nicknames. DB-Douchebag. BBFL-Best Bitch For Life-My best friend in Alaska that I HOPE I get to see soon. EG-English Gentleman-a guy that I've bee talking to for a year that lives near Scotland and is on an 8 month trip around the world, and will be stateside in January. I can't wait to meet him in person! Cute Neighbor Guy. There were two guys that were named for the states they lived in, and I think I've deleted everything about Florida but the last post-Thank you Andrew for the title, you brilliant dictionary, you. Then there are my most supportive friends here: Anxious Mom, Andi, Zoe, Diane, Morgue, Blah, Chris, Sparkly Pants ;) Victo, Tessa, Bipolarfirst, bp7o9, Vic, Kitt, Leslie, and my newest BUDDY Andrew. I know I've forgotten some people and I SERIOUSLY apologize given the state of my brain haze, I hope you don't hate me!! I know you don't, I'm just overly dramatic. No I'm not...yeah, yes I am. ;) So, if you can't handle my sarcastic tongue and my cursing that can make sailors blush, the lobby exit is in the top right corner with a little X. That being said, I hope you new arrivals aren't just looking for blogs for numbers-this isn't that kind of blog. And I rather like interactive people on my little slice of the crazy pie-well, more like peach cobbler because it's my favorite but ANYWAY. I don't follow back just because you follow me. I may not be too picky about my food, but I'm picky about my men and the blogs I follow. With that, I shall bid you Welcome to Sasstopia, and may you stay to be among my Sassafrains. Reggie my Pegacorn is tethered out back as he doesn't do well with new people. I shall be shining my spork launcher on the table, next to my melon baller and grapefruit spoon all soaked in syphilis. If you have any questions, fucking ask. I don't do vague. LOVE YOU! <3
    SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    Seems like the longer my divorce drags on, the angrier I get. I will try these to see if they help a little. And go to yoga.

    1. Good luck! Seriously, mine was an eternity and all ended as it never should have. All I hoped for was Fair at the least. I knew “what” I was dealing with. A pathological liar that had me believing him 16 of 18 years of marriage. (last 2 separated)!
      I got the worst of the worst plus ended up buried with financial burden he just simply walked away from, & the judge let it be known she thought I was the gold digger.

  2. KnightLines – Susan Knight has been writing for over 50 years, beginning at an early age with short stories, song lyrics, poetry, and prose. A former newspaper journalist for over 15 years, she has had more than 1,500 articles published. She earned a Pennsylvania Keystone Award for Feature Story Writing, and learned the editing trade in the newspaper venue. The inaugural president of the ANWA (American Night Writers Association) Salt Lake County Chapter, she was also the newsletter editor of the Oquirrh Writers Chapter of the League of Utah Writers. Knight is a former editor for Gospel Ideals, and is a sought-after judge for writing, first chapter, and poetry contests. A Pennsylvania transplant to Utah in 2010, she considers Utah to be a writer's Mecca. It is here that Knight has honed her writing and editing skills by attending workshops, conferences, critique groups, and chapter meetings. She also gives seminars and workshops on "Writing Your Life Story," and has spoken at civic and church groups, historical societies, retirement homes, and libraries on that subject. She is an avid genealogist and has been researching her lines since 1979. A performer at heart, Knight appeared on many stages, has sung in bands, choruses, choirs, trios, duos, and solo, had the lead in an opera, as well as danced at festivals on the east coast, including Lincoln Center Outdoors in NYC. An award-winning and certified artist, she taught art for her local Community Ed for 25 years, mainly teaching calligraphy, which she studied for over 20 years--straight from manuscripts, in various languages. This skill has helped in her genealogy pursuits. She also specializes in scherenschnitte, a Pennsylvania Deutsch word for "scissors cutting." She loves to paint her papercuttings with gouache and watercolor. She is a One Stroke Certified Instructor (OSCI, Level II). Crocheting since she was 16, Knight feels blessed to know this craft because it was the only creative thing she could do when she had an accident and mangled her ankle. She had to keep her foot up, so she crocheted caps and afghans for preemies in the nearby NICU. Knight is the mother of four adult children, and has one lovely grandchild, and three superb daughter- and sons-in-law, all her pride and joy. She also dotes on her toy poodle, Tobey, who reminds her to get up from the computer now and then
    tobelknight says:

    This is great, Lisa. I can’t wait to try your exercises.
    I am the conqueror (I refuse to call myself a victim) of a Triple A divorce–Abuse, Adultery, Addiction (porn).
    I have tried to forgive, but that makes me feel like a co-dependent again. I realize working on my anger would be a better use of my time.

  3. Great post…as I’ve come to expect when I open yours… 🙂

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