The 4th century BCE Daoist book, Zhuangzi, holds a parable called The Empty Boat. A boater on a swift-flowing river must contend with an empty boat that bangs against his. He deals with it, calmly calculating how to move the empty, drifting boat out of his path. Consider, though, if he would have done the same thing if the other boat had an occupant. Would he deal with the situation calmly, or would he heap anger and accusations on the occupant? Where do we place our anger when dealing with divorce?
Anger is Understandable
Anger in divorce is completely understandable. A marriage is an investment, and you are now bankrupt. Something went wrong, so someone must be to blame, right? Unable to control so much in your life, you lash out at everything (and everyone).
The way you handle your anger defines you either as a mature adult or an immature lightweight. You can choose to call your divorcing wife a terrible name, or you can choose to punch a pillow. You can accuse your children of spying, or you can play an extra round of handball.
Anger may arise from something done to you, but what you do with the anger is done by you.
Anger is Manageable
Consider these tips to manage your anger during divorce:
- Acknowledge and unlock your feelings — If you are accustomed to stoically burying your anger, stop and assess what your body does when angry; your heart and breathing rates increase, you flush, you get a rush of adrenaline; learn to recognize these lead-ups to outbursts and poor choices
- Vent safely — Medical or mental health professionals, a confidant, and best friend are safe sounding boards; your children, coworkers, family law team and divorcing spouse are not
- Admit being fearful — Most anger has at its root of fear of having no control over yourself or your destiny; admit your fears and gain confidence that you can control your reactions to those fears
- Exercise — Regular, intense exercise helps rid you of anger, tension, and some of your body’s chemicals produced by fight/flight/freeze reactions
- Indulge — Put yourself first as you adapt to the process of divorce; your anger is legitimate and need not take a back seat to everyone else’s needs
She Did Not Do All of This
No matter how terrible a spouse your wife is, she did not do everything in your life to make you angry. You and she fell in love together, wed together, and stayed married together.
Venting your anger on her does nothing constructive for you. Your goal is to reach divorce as quickly, calmly and inexpensively as possible. What makes you think screaming at your wife is going to make her agree to your terms?
And, often, part of your anger at her is because your feelings for her — love, respect, lust — are all still inside you, say experts at Psychology Today.
Your Law Team Did Not Do This
Anger is normal and understandable, but you are responsible for the actions you take in your anger. Anger toward your wife is normal, understandable, and manageable. One additional object of your anger, however, is neither understandable nor acceptable: your law team.
Misplaced aggression toward the sincere souls working on your divorce is so antisocial and counterproductive, it must be dealt with immediately. You ruin any goodwill when you behave like a tantruming teenager to your legal team.
Behaving badly toward your legal team invariably costs you:
- Though they are highly trained professionals who will perform their duties as required, they, like all humans, will only go above and beyond for those who value and appreciate them
- Your unpredictable and antisocial behavior could cost you with your family law case, whether it be property settlement, child support, or spousal support. When you act this way, you turn the attention to your behavior instead of your family law case.
No legal team will do less than their legal requirement for you, but think about it: do you seek out angry, seething people or avoid them? How does being angry with your legal team help you at all?
The Empty Boat parable has two sides, of course. You must decide not only how you would react to the empty boat, but which boat you are in.
Are you the “empty vessel” aimlessly, rudely bumping into your wife, legal team, or even your own children? Or are you commander of your boat, steering around all the challenges to reach your destination?
Sail Calm Seas with The Firm For Men
For a cool, calm and collected divorce experience, turn to The Firm For Men. Contact us online or telephone our offices at (757) 383-9184. We deal with all types of Virginia divorces, exclusively for men.