Using anger to your advantage
I understand how you might be feeling if you’re going through a divorce or have already done so and feel consumed by rage and frustration over the ex’s disrespect.
I’ve battled the ex’s disrespect as well as the intense pain of being consumed by rage, frustration, worry about the effects on my young child, and anger.
I had the impression that I was moving cautiously. No matter what I said or did, no matter how hard I tried, the ex just seemed to get angrier and more unreasonable.
It was clear that our daughter was suffering a great deal as a result of the divorce situation. She had never complained before, but now she was starting to. It was also new to her that she was having trouble sleeping.
Simply put, things got worse and worse.
There must be something I can do to alter the situation, but I had no idea where to start.
The only person I can control or change, however, is myself, so I knew I had to start with me in order to try to bring about a change.
It was at a time when our young daughter was experiencing a situation that offered the chance to change.
Our daughter had joint legal custody that was split 50/50. Over the course of more than two years, we were able to communicate and schedule the births of our respective daughters. We finally decided on an every other week schedule, with Wednesdays seeing our daughter at the other parent’s house.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the ex refused to discuss the schedule with us and insisted that we follow the schedule outlined in our divorce decree.
The divorce decree’s description of an every other day schedule shocked me.
As our 3-year-old daughter would have to alternate between our two homes daily, this would mean there would be no consistency and no stability.
The differences between the two homes in terms of parenting, rules, and so much more are not even remotely taken into account by this.
I was concerned that our young daughter might experience severe trauma as a result of the new schedule.
My thoughts and feelings were confirmed when I discussed the incident with a child psychologist, who shared my outrage.
(I could write for days if I discussed the fact that any divorce lawyer would even suggest, let alone allow, such a physical custody schedule to be included in a divorce decree… ).
I was shocked and furious that the ex was insisting that our 3-year-old daughter be put on an every other-day schedule, in addition to being angry.
How self-centered and unaware of the harm an every other day schedule would do to our child!
I discovered myself mired in a vicious cycle of reacting to the ex with vehement anger.
Needless to say, this only made the situation worse. Knowing that what I was doing was completely ineffective, I realized I needed to change.
I realized it as I thought about what might be helpful… my reacting to the ex wasn’t ever going to improve anything.
I was aware that I wanted to make an effort to give our daughter a balanced and supportive divorce environment. I started to change my viewpoint and my attention at this point.
It was crucial to give our daughter consistency and security. The every other day schedule had to be abandoned, and an attempt had to be made to return to an every other week schedule.
The ex was not even willing to listen. In fact, her rage increased.
I brought her back to court to discuss the custody arrangement because I felt I had no other choice.
This verdict is ironic because we never appeared before the judge. Sitting in the hall outside the courtroom, our respective attorneys started “negotiating”. Many accusations came from the ex and there was a lot of back and forth.
The ex claimed that the only way she would alter the schedule was for me to give her half of an education fund I had set up for our daughter personally.
How dare she, I exclaimed, in shock. To steal what I had prepared for my daughter was outrageous!
She couldn’t be more egotistical.
Our daughter’s welfare was my top concern, and her mother was making it about money—money that wasn’t even hers!
Then it dawned on me that my anger was selfish and that I had made the situation about money.
I changed my attention to the things I wanted to make for our daughter. And that included maintaining a balanced schedule.
I took a few slow, deep breaths, and calmly told my attorney to say “Yes” to handing over 50% of the education fund amount that I had already made plans for our daughter with the ex.
We were able to reach an understanding and settle on an every other week schedule as soon as I informed the ex-girlfriend’s lawyer and her of my decision.
For the sake of my priceless daughter, I chose this course of action. It’s true that I had to let go of my anger and redirect the stirring energy it contained.
My life’s most important lesson was one I was able to learn thanks to this.
I am aware that it is extremely unlikely that I will ever be able to create or obtain what I truly want when I am extremely angry and allowing myself to react to it.
We were able to come to an agreement after I changed my focus to fostering a divorce environment where my daughter would flourish.
Do I still believe that the ex was extremely conceited and unreasonable in the past? Absolutely, yes I do.
But I’d already decided that my daughter was my top priority. And I was then able to let go of my rage and deliberately refocus on making our daughter’s environment more advantageous and positive… and this indeed was the outcome.
Here is my test for you… Consider the last time you vented your frustrations on the ex.
What did you actually do to trigger yourself?
Have you gotten the results you were hoping for? Of course not.
Now resolve to approach your upcoming interaction with the ex with greater awareness and readiness.
Consider your true creative goals and your motivations.
My daughter was the motivation behind this. I wanted to make an effort to give her a better environment.
What can you say or do to yourself to help you stop feeling angry when it starts to bubble up inside of you and help you focus on what you really want to create?
Determine what you are going to say or do next to move you closer to the life you want to build for your children by giving it careful thought.
Insofar as you follow through on this and nurture it, condition it by being consistent, you will be able to maintain self-control, remain composed, and alter the outcome for the benefit of your children.
Everything changes when your perspective is altered. It enables you to leave the state of rage and enter the state of intentionality.