Q: I am furious with my ex and have only feelings of hate. We still have contact because of the children. How long will it last?
A: First, your feelings of fury, anger, and hate are normal. These feelings are the result of the behaviors on the part of your ex toward you (high frequency of negatives). For example, you may have been criticized, belittled, demeaned, and disrespected (or whatever your ex said or did to make you feel awful). You did not feel loved and supported. Don’t feel guilty for feeling angry. You have reason to feel this way based on the way you were treated.
Second, let your anger go as it will do more to destroy you than to hurt your partner. The old adage is that “the venom does more damage to the vessel that contains it than the person to whom it is intended.” Getting rid of your anger will not be easy. It begins with NOT ruminating/focusing on the things your partner said or did but on your new life ahead. In effect, you will no longer wake up with a knot in your stomach in a marriage going nowhere. Rather, you are or will move into a different relationship context- one that allows you to experience a new love relationship with someone who will love, respect, and enjoy you. Focus on this, not the past.
Third, commit yourself to doing your part to be positive in what you say and do to your ex-partner. Even if your partner is “nasty” to you, take the high road and don’t strike back with “I’ll get you.” By refusing to engage in a negative exchange, both you and your kids will benefit. You will benefit since you won’t be as torn up after an exchange. Your children will benefit since they won’t be subjected to another fight between their parents. Indeed, the greatest negative effect of divorce on kids is not the divorce itself but the relentless anger that the children see and feel when their parents are at war.
How long will your anger last? As long as you want it to last. The sooner you let your anger go, the sooner both you and your children will benefit and can move on.
Not so fast. There is another element involved in one’s anger and that is anger at one’s self. For not being wise enough in the beginning to see that there would be trouble ahead, for over compromising, for waiting too long to make a change, for hurting one’s children and parents….the list goes on. The hope of a loving life together simply did not materialize. “How could you be so dumb?” you ask. To these feelings you must offer forgiveness -- for yourself and for your partner. You did the best that you could, you took a big hit, but you can recover and move on.
Your ex also has his or her own set of feelings of sadness and anger. You must acknowledge/validate these feelings and endeavor to do no harm as you mutually move forward. Divorce is hard on everyone. But sometimes it is the best option for an otherwise intolerable situation. The goal is to move beyond the anger and sadness to a life filled with hope and promise for everyone.Dr. David Knox is the founder of www.heartchoice.com and the author of "The Divorced Dad’s Survival Book."