Don’t Rock The Boat: Techniques for Anger Management

Opportunities to fight will arise frequently during your divorce. When anger during a divorce is a problem, the best response is often no response. Most people find that, while it may be difficult not to defend or respond in kind, this approach works.

You have two options: engage, and turn your divorce into a series of major battles, or try some of the following techniques to disengage, reduce tension, and decrease the length and expense of your divorce.

1. Resolve to change the way you communicate with your spouse.

The old methods have obviously not worked well.

2. Think beforehand about what you want to accomplish.

Try writing down key phrases you want to use in discussing the issue. What do you want to say to reach your goal? Use neutral words that are solution-oriented.

3. Employ calming techniques.

Before you begin speaking, use whatever works best for you. Take three deep breaths. Count to five. Uncross your arms. Ask yourself: “Is this a big enough issue to get angry over?” Try to see the issue from your spouse’s perspective, and question whether two years from now you will care about this.

4. Listen.

Your spouse may say things that make you want to jump to self-defense or anger. Before reaching premature conclusions, ask calm and clarifying questions to make sure you are understanding correctly.

5. Do not interrupt.

This goes hand-in-hand with listening. Arguments often arise because one or both people feel as though they aren’t being heard. Allow your spouse to completely finish a thought before you begin to speak.

6. Empathize.

To further remedy the feeling of not being heard, recognize and acknowledge your spouse’s emotions. Try to respect where they are coming from, and ask yourself if you would feel similarly, were the roles reversed. Let them know, too: “I can see why that upsets you” can go a long way.

7. Take accountability.

You can admit your share in the problem, and still focus on being part of the solution. This could look like “I know I’ve made this matter worse, and I want to correct that.”

8. Restate in your own words.

This is another piece of the “feeling unheard” puzzle. When you hear your spouse ask for change, don’t be afraid to repeat their complaint in your own words. This way, they know you’re listening, and it becomes easier for you to understand and incorporate mutual listening and agreement.

9. Suggest multiple solutions.

Shutting an idea or a feeling down can lead to an entirely new argument, and then you’re both back at square one. Be flexible — offer more than one way to resolve and compromise.

10. Take a pause.

When an issue arises that you know is too intense to resolve immediately, ask for a break. A good example of this request is, “Can we take 24 hours to come up with some possible solutions, then sit down and go over our options together, and choose one?”

Anger management can prove challenging — that much is clear. It’s important to try and approach arguments with empathy, and with a desire to work together towards a common solution. These techniques can help to reduce the stress levels of the divorce process, as well as the accumulated costs of contested issues.