How to Deal With an Angry Spouse During a Divorce

Couple fighting

Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Divorce can bring about a variety of emotions -- and anger is typically one of the most prominent. The emotional roller coaster that you and your spouse are likely to experience as you go through the divorce process can bring out the worst in both of you. Learning to change your communication patterns to deal with an angry spouse can help move the divorce proceedings along without unnecessary or additional conflict.

Have Realistic Expectations

If you’re wondering why your spouse is angry or why he or she is lashing out at you, remember that you cannot control the actions of others. Be realistic and know that just as the divorce sparked a range of emotions for you, it is also likely affecting your spouse in the same manner. You can’t expect your spouse to be cheery or agreeable at all times when the breakup is changing the family dynamic. Understand that both of you will be experiencing anger, resentment, disappointment and even bitterness during the divorce. When conversing with each other, it may also help to validate each other’s feelings. Express that you understand the pain and anguish your spouse is experiencing and hopefully, your spouse will see that you are making an effort to communicate positively.

Keep Conversations as Cordial as Possible

When a spouse is angry or bitter, it is evident in her tone of voice. She may snap at you when you're discussing splitting assets or determining custody arrangements. While it may be tempting to raise your voice, return insults or rehash arguments from the past, try your best to keep conversations brief and cordial, dealing with each issue of your divorce separately and one at a time. If you need to take a break from the situation to escape the anger, that is perfectly acceptable and helps set boundaries.

When couples yell or disagree as a result of pent-up anger, the potential for explosive arguments and even violence is too much of a risk, especially if children are present. Try to speak softly, remain calm and keep a polite tone during all discussions with your spouse, even if your spouse is shouting. Try to be empathetic toward your spouse and listen to the words to figure out the underlying cause of the anger. Pay close attention to your body language as well. A shrug or a roll of the eyes can fuel anger within your spouse and can communicate negative feelings that will not help improve your interactions.

Seek Mediation

When tension and tempers are high and it is clear that you and your spouse cannot communicate cordially, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a professional divorce mediator, especially if children are involved. Children experience extreme stress when parental conflict and verbal aggression occur. These unresolved fights, bitter conversations and expressions of anger affect the entire family; therefore, seeking a third-party individual to resolve divorce details may help couples reach an agreement without public outbursts.

A mediator will work with you and your spouse to generate options, explore ways to communicate positively and make decisions about child custody, division of assets and problematic issues that would otherwise require litigation. A mediator will also set expectations for each meeting to help ensure that angry expressions don't occur.

Establish a Support System

Dealing with an angry spouse during a divorce will undoubtedly take its toll on your emotional health. It’s important to build a support system of friends, family and divorcees who understand what you are experiencing. Having a friend who will listen when you need to vent or express emotions may help you to cope better when it’s time to communicate with an angry spouse. Surround yourself with positive people who will listen actively and help you develop logical and rational strategies for future communication with your spouse. Many community centers and social service organizations also host divorce support groups and social activities that may keep you active and positive during this challenging time.