A spouse suffering grief and anger is part of the normal grieving process in divorce. This needs to occur if your spouse is going to confront and ultimately accept the divorce. It may delay achieving the settlement you desire; however, I suggest that patience and understanding, and your willingness to face your spouse’s anger, will perhaps help the process along. For the one being left, the experience of having someone they depended upon for so long suddenly exit their life can be excruciatingly painful. All their hopes and dreams vanish, and they are left with just their self.
Try to listen to your ex-spouse and diffuse the heightened anger with comments such as, “I am listening, and I understand you’re angry; however, we have to concentrate on our settlement now.” Another suggestion is for your ex to have a journal where he or she can express feelings of anger and organize his or her thoughts, allowing your ex to take some attention off the grief and talk more about the divorce negotiations.
The point is that your ex-spouse needs to take some time to deal with the anger so he or she can then focus on what needs to be done for your divorce to be finalized. The fact that your spouse loses composure during the divorce negotiations suggests that he or she needs time to explore his/her feelings outside the settlement meetings. Perhaps your ex could speak with someone, such as a counselor, about these feelings. Other avenues include group therapy or a divorce support group where your ex can share with others who are also coping with divorce and are in the recovering process. Since this is a traumatic loss, it no doubt triggers prior losses. Therefore, an outside objective party can help him or her determine how much anger is applicable to the here-and-now and how much belongs to the past.
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist specializing in couple counseling, divorce, custody issues, and women’s concerns. She is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.