Your anger exists for a reason. It's a force summoning your strength so you survive. It can be a great, fiery ball of flame and energy. It's got unstoppable momentum. With each new insult and injury you suffer because of your "mate", it's gaining direction. It's got to go somewhere......
But before you allow this meteor to incinerate your most fundamental goal, which must be minimizing more pain on your children, let's unleash your anger some place where it's not going to wreak incalculable damage. Let's get you and it somewhere safe — like our office, or a walk on a nature trail (preferably where you can yell or cry) or your girlfriend's couch.
Safe is a place where you can pound a pillow or break a plate. You can wail, spit toward the ceiling, or convulse. Safe is a place where you can pull your anger out of you and let it be what it must be. Safe is where you — or anything or anyone around you — will not be hurt. A firing range? A dance floor? I will drive you.
Based on our experiences and work with women, we know that, in particular during the first and second phases of divorce, there is a lot of room for rage. But there are also a lot of other feelings converging and spinning out, too. The trick is to give these feelings space; and in this instance, really understand what you are needing underneath your rage.
Tip #1: Find a safe place and get to the root of your anger.
Learn what this anger wants to say to you. How does it want you to heal? Giving you and your rage space is acknowledging you are human. You are alive and feeling. And if you are human, you also get to choose how this anger will affect you and lots of people.
And that is why if losing your kids in a custody battle is one of your biggest fears, then you've got to remember this: above all, you must prioritize your kids. You must adapt your behavior and thoughts. Maybe to do this you need professional help, a therapist or a coach like us, but you must acknowledge your anger. Yes, rant and rage in a safe place; but then, turn your head. Point your nose. Establish your goals and set your course. I mean, fake it if you must in the beginning, but stay focused on your goals. Do not get caught up with the sideshows.
Tip #2: Aim to avoid litigation.
One goal you must have is to AVOID litigation or a custody battle (see our previous articles Divorce Litigation: What You Should Know Before Heading to Divorce Court and Three Reasons Not to Go to Divorce Court). But we also recognize you must be prepared for anything. How do you do both? Begin now by paying special attention to Tips 3-5.
Tip #3: Do not disparage the other parent.
I hear you laughing, cackling, rolling over and hitting the ground. But know your outrage is best shared with your friends, your coach or your therapist, otherwise known as your support network. Don't expect a judge to reward you because your mate was a lying cheating bastard. Judges have heard everything (even though your story does sound like the worst you've ever heard!).
Judges tend to look favorably on parents who support their child's relationship with the other parent. If you are constantly denigrating your ex, or talking smack regardless of them being "real facts" this behavior negatively influences your child's relationship with his other parent and the court will not smile upon you.
Tip #4: No negative writing of any sort about or to your ex.
Thanks to our brave new world of technology, you might be portrayed in a very damaging light. So cut it out right now. Nothing. Nothing written in text, email, or haiku that negatively portrays or speaks to the other parent in a bad way.
Sometimes this kind of evidence can make or break a custody case. The evidence can include text messages, photos or negative emails. Also potentially harmful are video and voice mail recordings. If you are prone to sending impulsive responses, rants and raves, curses to the other or to your child, you are at risk. How will you stop?
Tip #5: Model what you want.
In a word.....justice. Show your lawyer, your ex, your children — and if you must, show the judge — but above all, show yourself. You have the best interests of your children in mind. You recognize the value of your children's relationship with your ex, and take steps (yeah, I know, this is very hard) to encourage that relationship.
Tip #6: You must appear steady and solid.
If you are in litigation now, or an adversarial place, you must appear steady and show good judgment. A parent who regularly loses control and who cannot manage her/his anger will be at a disadvantage.
If you are in court, an angry outburst can cost you a lot, as your behavior will be remembered. If you misbehave in front of people like teachers, neighbors, social workers or the child's attorney, you might be confronted by negative testimony at a trial.
Tip #7: Learn what will motivate you to shift.
When you are triggered by any of the old insults, or the new arrows being slung, how will you control repeating negative patterns? Maybe think, "Well, the old me would have (insert your most satisfying fantasy here).....but now I must do a 180! By choosing not to act or not to respond, I am doing right by my kids."
And you know what? Going forth, there's a sense of relief with this simpler formula to decision-making. No more plotting or energy wasted organizing your retaliation. After all, you have limited resources and you can't be wasting time on things that are not going to serve your goals. Think of the energy you save deciding how to move forward instead, and thank yourself. You are finally deciding how you want to live.
If you would like more information on rehabilitating your anger to a positive motivator as you deal with separation or divorce, visit our home page and sign up for our free, weekly newsletter. Learn tips, strategies and steps to educate you on your options as you learn to survive and thrive past divorce. Get Smart. Get Sas Day Break, our confidential letter to you.
More on divorce from YourTango: