The whole New Year's Resolution thing can be useful. There's something about the idea of a new beginning, a new start, that is pretty appealing. So here's a suggestion for the newly and not so newly divorced who are still angry, angry, angry at the ex. Yes. He or she probably deserves it. Yes. It can feel like letting them off the hook to stop being angry. Yes. The ex probably provokes and no normal human being would do or say the things to you that the ex routinely throws your way. But the truth is, being angry is only bringing you down. Holding onto the anger is getting in your way of moving on.
The New Year is as good a time as any to just let it go. If your anger hasn't brought about any significant change by now, it most probably won't. More to the point, it keeps you emotionally connected to someone you don't like very much. Every time you spend an hour decompressing from a 5-minute phone call when he or she once again said something totally infuriating; every time you get in a twist because she or he is again late; every time you call your best friend to vent because once again the ex did something that disappoints your kids, leaves you in the lurch, or makes you look bad to someone else -- every time it happens, you are giving the ex a whole lot of power and wasting your time and your life.
I know. This isn't new information to you. But for some reason, you still let the ex get to you. So why not use this time of new beginnings to resolve to flip the anger switch to "off" and to get on with your own life; to stop giving the ex the satisfaction of knowing you can still be turned inside out by the same ol', same 'ol routines?
Easier said than done, right? So here are a few tips from clients of mine who have found ways to flip that switch and move on:
When I asked Celia how she stopped being triggered by her chronically irresponsible ex, she replied, "I remind myself that he's boring." She went on to say that he hadn't been at all original or creative in how he set her off in years. She finally got to the point where she is just able to yawn and shrug and say to herself, "There he goes again." She can then turn her attention to much more important things.
Tanya tells herself that watching her ex's provocations is just like watching TV. She pictures a frame around his head and mentally turns the volume to mute. After all, she knows pretty much what he's going to say and that it really doesn't matter what she says in return. When he seems to have wound down, she steers the conversation back to the issue (usually something about the kids) that needs to be settled.
Jon took up running. Elsa took up yoga. Merry took up swimming at her local gym. For them, deep breathing while in the encounter helps them stay focused on the issue instead of on an argument. Physical exercise later gives them a healthy way to discharge any build up of negative energy.
All those I talked to agree that the most important factor in their ability to let go of the anger was the decision to make a new choice. Instead of revisiting the dynamics that caused the divorce in their interactions with their exes, they resolved to do whatever they could to make different kind of relationship. Instead of giving the ex all the power by waiting for him or her to change, they changed themselves. They resolved to put their energy into making their own, new post-divorce life. It wasn't easy. They all were quick to emphasize that they made many slips back. But they kept their eyes on the goal and renewed their efforts until it worked -- at least most of the time.
Jon said it best: "I don't think I was really divorced until I got to the point where what my ex said or did didn't put me on edge. Now we can stick to business when we have to talk about the kids' issues. I think it's better for both of us and I'm sure it's better for the kids."
Follow Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MHartwellWalker