Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Dealing with Your Spouse's Rage During Divorce

            Whether the angry spouse is the one who filed or is being left, in a large proportion of cases, one spouse who may have been largely compliant to your wishes in the past, will resist your requests and become outright hostile. 

            This can be caused by them seeing you and their relationship with you in a different light.  As part of initiating the divorce, certain disclosures may have been made that revealed new information to your spouse, such as infidelity, use of money, dissipation of assets and other behavior that was previously unknown to your spouse.  In other words, the rose-colored glasses have come off.  Additionally, your spouse is struggling to reconcile the new information with his/her vision of you.   Finally, he or she may be angry at themselves for having missed the signals.

            A frequent response by the less angry spouse to this hostility is to blame the lawyer for the formerly compliant spouse.  We frequently hear statements like, “You didn’t used to act this way until that lawyer put those ideas into your head.”  Generally, such minimizing of the angry spouse’s reaction is met with greater anger. 

            Another frequent tactic employed by the dominant spouse is to try to drive a wedge between the formerly compliant spouse and her lawyer.  They question the effectiveness and loyalty of the formerly compliant spouse’s lawyer and suggest the spouse obtain the services of another attorney, one to whom they can refer her.

            Sometimes the less angry spouse blames his/her lawyer for not controlling the other spouse and attorney. This is also not effective.  Nor is retaliating. 

            Anger is a component of the grieving process.  It follows other difficult emotions, such as shock and denial.  Everyone going through divorce experiences such grief, though in different ways.  For some the anger is a slow boil.  For others it shows itself as rage.  In any event, these emotions need to be dealt with understanding and patience. 

            It is also important to remember that the anger is pointed in two directions; one at the other spouse and at yourself.   People who are in the shock or denial phase of grieving cannot negotiate or work towards settling this case.  The good news is that people in the anger phase can begin to work on settlement, though a better settlement will be reached when they have worked through this aspect of grief.

            The most effective way to deal with the anger is be empathetic and supportive.  Accept responsibility for your role in ending this relationship.  Do not blame others. Accept that your spouse is very upset by the divorce and needs time to adjust to this major change in your lives.  Encourage your spouse to work with a mental health professional and obtain the services of one for yourself.