My divorce story is filled with anguish. I want to encourage you to examine the way you act within the dynamic of your marriage. How does your behavior accommodate the wishes of your spouse? Does your spouse’s anger cause you to “walk on eggshells?” Are you bending over backwards to please him or her? Do you refrain from doing things you would like to keep peace?
In my marriage, little-by-little, I began to change my behavior to suit my spouse’s anger. I left my long-term career job in my home state to move to a neighboring state so he could take a new work opportunity. As a newlywed, my actions in the moment were an expression of love, devotion, and caring.
When Your Actions Ignite Your Spouse’s Anger
When my son was a baby, I received an invitation to Making New Friends Post-Divorcedinner from a new friend I met at my library’s baby book-time. I was new to town and so happy to have made a friend!
When I told my husband I was going out, he pleaded with me not to leave him home alone with the baby. I acquiesced, cancelled my plans with my friend, and stayed home. I was perplexed at his request, but for the most part, I wanted to be a loving and supportive wife (are you already seeing the signs of my accommodating behavior?).
Over the years I mis-took my husband’s requests as signs of caring and did not acknowledge the control he was exerting over me. He asked me to wear certain clothes, rather than the clothing I preferred. When I had coaching clients and male business colleagues, he would pry without respect for my standard of confidentiality. My husband continued to complain about social plans I made, until I eventually ceased to see friends. I take full responsibility for my own behavior. I now recognize that our marriage would have been different had I advocated for myself, rather than acquiesced.
When it came time to face our decision to divorce, at first, we were in mutual agreement. We had a plan in place to co-parent peacefully and support one another in friendship. All that blew up when I hired an attorney to review the proposal my husband gave me. I had never witnessed such anger and malice in him!
During this tumultuous time of exiting our marriage I sought support and guidance from our marriage counselor and a life coach. I learned from them a great lesson that helped me to understand the malicious behavior of my husband.
Simply put, I was accommodating and compliant during our marriage. I had the best of intentions to contribute to our happy life. Once I questioned the proposal he provided and sought legal advice, I was no longer in compliance. I learned the following important visual metaphor from my coach.
Be True to Yourself
Picture yourself in a swimming pool with a beach ball. Now imagine pushing the beach ball down under the water. Hold it there. This is how I lived life. I kept my desires for various freedoms and choices underwater. I willingly refrained from being true to myself so I could be who he wanted me to be. Once I gave up on the marriage, I no longer had to hold the ball under water. When I hired a lawyer the response at home can be likened to the ball exploding up from the pool. His behavior toward this “new” me who was advocating for myself was shocking!
Look for ways you currently contort yourself in order to keep peace in your home. As you begin to remember who you really are and start being that person, your spouse could have a negative reaction.
Unbraiding the contortions you have twisted into can be painful and exhilarating. It takes bravery to step into your authentic self. You will feel freedom you may not have felt in years. At the same time, you are becoming a person your spouse can no longer control. And that is threatening to him or her. My advice to you is to have the best support available, legally with an attorney that understands the psychological behavior of your spouse, and a therapist or coach who can help you navigate this journey with mental clarity confidence.