There’s an ancient proverb saying that holding onto your anger is like picking up a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else – you are ultimately the one who gets burned. Most divorce attorneys would tell you from experience that this is true. There may be a lot to be angry about when going through a divorce or child custody dispute, and much of it is justified. But is it helpful to hold onto that anger, or do you need to let it go?
Grudges were the subject of a recent article in the New York Times. The article’s author notes that nearly all of us are holding onto at least one grudge. Righteous anger sometimes feels satisfying, but grudges come at a cost – to our psychological wellbeing and even our physical health.
Researchers have found that holding a grudge is essentially using anger as a coping mechanism, or “an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master.” When you hold onto anger, it puts stress on both your immune system and your cardiovascular system. Over time, the health consequences can be serious – not to mention the psychological effects that you also experience.
Holding onto anger in divorce can have more immediate consequences. Divorce is essentially a business negotiation that you participate in when you are least prepared to make rational decisions. If your decisions are clouded by anger or fueled by spite, you could end up making foolish choices about property division, draw out litigation or put your children in the middle of a custody dispute. All of these actions could harm you and your children for years to come.
So what’s the solution? Forgive and forget? To most of us, that approach seems patently unfair and practically impossible.
Thankfully, there are three things to keep in mind that may help. First, remember that forgiving your spouse is for your benefit, not theirs. It frees you to be your best self. Next, forgiving your spouse doesn’t mean you have to like or approve of what they did to you. Finally, it is best to forgive your spouse sooner rather than later – especially if you are about to enter divorce negotiations.
None of this is easy, nor will it guarantee that your divorce will be a smooth one (because you can’t control how your spouse behaves). But you will at least be able to make better, more rational decisions at a time when a level-headed approach is more important than ever.
Regardless of whether your divorce is expected to be peaceful or contentious, having the right attorney can make a big difference. For more information on our services, check out our divorce page.