One or the primary emotions felt by people who are getting divorced is anger. People get enraged, say hurtful things, and are critical and blameful. Such hostility is very common. It can go on for years and seems to not easily burn out. So what fuels it?
Anger can be called “a cover-up emotion”. It often hides a deeper emotion such as painor fear. These emotions are prominent (often for both spouses) in divorce. The hurt or emotional pain can be sudden when a spouse finds out about a betrayal or that the other suddenly wants a divorce. Or, it can be the product of years of disappointment and hurts that have accumulated over time (perhaps even leading to the betrayal or a desire for divorce).
Fear is also a very prominent emotion, when it comes to divorce, as so much in one’s life can be changing and uncertain. Financial insecurities can abound. Where you will live can be in question. How the changes will impact your job, or whether you have to enter the workforce after years of not working outside the home can all be uncertainties. Will you have enough money to take care of yourself and the children?
And of course, there are many questions about the children. How often will they be under your roof? What will happen to your relationship with them? Will their other parent sabotage your relationship with the children in some way? Certainly, the uncertainties about finances and children are a recipe for tremendous uncertainty, anxiety and fear.
In many cultures, and even in the animal kingdom, pain and fear are demonstrated with hostility and anger. It is the fightin the fight/flight response. When that gets triggered the reaction can be quite intense. The displays of anger are in many ways that fight response (without it being a physical fight). If we respond in kind, then two people are fighting, and things escalate even further.
On the other hand, what if we try to understand what is fueling the anger? What if we try to determine if the other person has pain or fueling? And, what if then we try to address the pain or fear? By addressing their deeper concerns, we can possibly lessening the angry fight response we are seeing.
Collaborative divorce professionals seek to understand what is underneath the anger. They work hard to not get swept up into the fight, and instead try to address the concerns of the clients in thoughtful and respectful ways to effectively problem-solve rather than argue. By avoiding adversarial positions, collaborative divorce professionals can help families weather the storm of divorce.