By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC and Amy Sherman, LMHC
One of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of being a parent may be getting along with your child’s other parent. We all understand that parents are parents for life – regardless of whether you are married, separated or divorced. The better you get along with one another, the easier you make life for you and your children – not only for this month, but for years and decades to come.
It’s a safe bet that you and your child’s other parent are quite good at pushing each other’s buttons. It’s not difficult to bring one another to a state of anger – and then to feel frustration and resentment in return. For that reason, learning how to handle and manage your anger is an excellent and very productive skill to master.
Unfortunately people in our lives hurt us and do things we feel are unfair, resulting in anger, frustration and resentment. These feelings may be longstanding and hard to release.
We all get angry. The challenge is not to let it fester so it moves into bitterness. Anger is an experience, but bitterness is a state of mind we carry with us at all times. Bitterness keeps us trapped in the feeling, making it hard to let go. It lingers in our minds and overflows into all aspects of our life. People may regard us as moody and arrogant and want to keep their distance. When consumed with anger, we may not even care.
Anger can be healed through forgiveness, but bitterness may be beyond our ability to resolve. While chronic anger is bad enough, chronic bitterness is worse. It can be more destructive, contributing to marital discord, divorce and physical as well as emotional abuse.
Embittered people are their own worst enemy because they are filled to overflowing with paranoia, cynicism and mistrust. They often believe they are the victim of a profound injustice and become obsessed with revenge and retribution.
How can we avoid falling into this unhealthy state of mind?
- Recognize the role anger is playing in your life. We cannot change what we don’t first acknowledge. So ask yourself some pivotal questions. Has your anger become so blown out of proportion you cannot focus on anything else? Is this feeling worth all the energy you are putting into it? Are you prepared to keep living like this, jeopardizing your own well-being as well as the happiness of those close to you?
- Acknowledge that you may be mentally pitting “yourself” against “them.” This requires considerable awareness because sometimes we can be very stubborn about whom we blame for our lives. The bottom line is that you’re not in a contest. No one is keeping track of your pain except you. It’s time to explore the possibility of changing your attitude. Is this bitterness putting your life in a better place? Are you deriving satisfaction from seeing yourself as a victim? Does being accountable for your actions and behavior take the burden of responsibility off your shoulders? Is that fair to others?
Ultimately, you may be paying the price of missing the joys of life because you feel you’ve been wronged by another. You don’t want to be stuck in a mindset that causes you to be a bitter and resentful person. The difference between a moment of anger and a lifetime of bitterness is the desire to free yourself from the bondage of hurtful hate.
Learning how to manage anger, especially in parenting and divorce relationship issues, is an important component of a creating a healthy future for everyone in your family. The pay-offs, in terms of harmony, cooperation and peaceful days for your children, make anger management skills worth mastering. You will never regret learning how to diffuse anger and tension in your communication with your child’s other parent. We encourage you to give it a try.
You can learn more about managing anger as a co-parent at //angerconflictprograms.com/co-parents. For help with anger issues related to parenting, domestic violence, co-workers, neighbors and others in our lives, visit //angerconflictprograms.com/life-challenges.
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC and Amy Sherman, LMHC are co-creators of two programs for handling anger: Anger Management For Co-Parents and Anger Management To Cope With Life Challenges. Sedacca is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. Sherman is a licensed therapist in private practice as well as a Dating & Relationship Coach. For more information on anger management programs, go to: www.AngerConflictPrograms.com. For help with divorce and parenting issues, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.