By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
While anger is a natural emotion, when faced with a challenging situation, it can also create the most destructive consequences. Not surprisingly it can easily sabotage your co-parenting relationship for you and your children.
Improperly expressed anger accelerates conflict and can produce difficulties between co-parents, children and extended family. The impact also touches friends, your co-workers, neighbors and colleagues. The inappropriate expression of anger can start with some forms of verbal abuse. However, it can also lead to physical violence. Left uncontrolled, it can result in encounters with law enforcement and the judicial system.
The impact of mismanaged anger
We all get angry and feel anger when “triggered.” However, we always have choices regarding how we act upon those feelings. Acting before thinking can lead to mismanaged anger and heightened conflict. Once you have reacted to anger, you have allowed your feelings to control you. This leads to actions and behaviors you never would have taken if you were making wiser, more rational choices.
Knowing how to manage anger can help you set limits and determine comfortable boundaries. This is especially important during and after divorce. And in all your relationships. It will also improve interactions with others, including strangers.
Being exposed to poorly managed anger is especially damaging to children. They are emotionally impacted far more than adults by tension, loud voices, threats and, of course, violence. Children tend to blame themselves when things go wrong around them. They cannot understand that your problem is not their fault. They are helpless to find a solution.
Understanding the role of anger in domestic violence
Anger is a major contributing factor in domestic abuse. Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes around the world. It can take many forms including frequent conflict, physical or sexual violence. It often involves financial secrecy, dependence and restrictions. Abuse cuts across all socio-economic boundaries, all ages, both genders, all religions and educational levels. It is based on the principles of power and control. Sadly, most victims are women (85%), but it is growing amongst men (15%). Innocent children are often caught in the heightened tension as well.
Domestic violence is unpredictable, yet there is a pattern that is repeated with each episode. It starts with the honeymoon phase, where things seem to be running smoothly and going well. It then moves on to the intimidation phase, including actual violence. Then is moves back to the honeymoon/forgiveness phase. However, the level of violence gets worse after each incident and the duration of the violence is longer. It can easily escalate from threats to verbal abuse to physical violence and even murder!
What is considered to be Domestic Abuse? Any coercive behavior that a person uses to exploit, injure, mistreat or violate their current or former intimate partner. The tactics an abuser uses can be varied. These include intimidation, threats, put downs, isolation, humiliation and other verbal sabotage as well as physical abuse. Fortunately, this behavior is no longer thought of as just a family matter. In recent decades it is being recognized as a crime.
According to the FBI, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44 in the United States. About one out of every four women in America will be physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner in their lives. American women are more likely to be assaulted, raped or killed by a male partner than by any other type of assailant.
In addition to the physical injuries, domestic violence has other consequences. It can lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Abuse may also trigger suicide attempts or psychotic episodes.
Recognizing your own anger issues is the starting point
How do you know whether you have anger management issues? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I lose my temper easily and quickly?
Do small things set you off, like getting stuck in traffic, children running around the house or spilling your coffee? Do you have a low tolerance for frustration? Is It difficult for you to take things in stride?
- Do I show inconsistent behavior that is intimidating to others?
Is your behavior so unpredictable that one minute you’re feeling good and the next, you become explosive?
- Have I hurt people close to me because of my anger?
Have you lost love partners, friends, family or perhaps even your job? Do people distance themselves from being close to you?
- Do I find myself explaining or justifying my aggressive behavior to others?
Do you blame others for enticing you or provoking you to express anger?
- Does my anger spiral out of control?
Once you get angry, is it difficult for you to de-escalate? Does it seem to take over and take a while before you are able to settle down?
- Do I have difficulties with authority figures?
Do you not like people telling you what to do and often get into confrontations? Do you purposefully refuse to complete assignments? Do you ignore following directions as a sign of rebellion?
- Do I frequently argue with my co-parent, kids, family and friends?
Is it difficult for you to have a conversation without getting angry? Does it anger you when others disagree with you or make you feel wrong, stupid or inadequate?
If you can relate to any of the above questions, reach out for help from a therapist or divorce coach. You will also benefit from our Anger Management For Co-Parents online program.
This 8-hour self-paced program provides signs to watch for in your own behavior. It also identifies “red flag” warnings about problem partners to avoid. And it provides a variety of tools and strategies for reducing conflict and taking control of your feelings. It will help you find healthier ways of expressing anger, frustration and other difficult feelings. These tips will make for more peaceful and rewarding co-parenting and other life experiences. The comprehensive format includes descriptions and explanations, personal quizzes and exercises as well as a final self-exam.
If you recognize this behavior in your co-parent, the program will provide valuable insights as well to help you avoid repeating old patterns.
To learn more, visit www.angerconflictprograms.com.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and learn about her coaching services, programs and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.