Get bitter or get better

A former colleague who has battled chronic health issues most of her life posted this meme on social media yesterday:

bitter

It’s such a powerful message. I love it.

And I love that I chose to get better.

One of my core beliefs post marriage break-up is that bitterness does no one any good.

I recently read some great advice from Dr Andrea Brandt, the author of Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom on dealing with divorce-related anger. She said:

  • Write it out. Work through your anger by keeping a journal or by writing letters you don’t mail.
  • Shout it out. If you can roll up the windows in your car or put your head in a pillow and scream, it can drain some of that negative energy out of your body.
  • Talk it out. It’s important when you’re angry to develop your own personal support system. Instead of directing your anger at your ex-spouse, talk to a good friend (or two), or find a therapist who specializes in anger management.
  • Get some professional help.  Remember, anger acts as a shield. Your anger suppresses other vulnerable feelings that may be too hard to deal with. It’s easier to feel angry than to feel lost, confused, and worried. Talking to a professional can help you begin to feel those emotions you’ve been suppressing and move past the anger.
  • Re-examine your core beliefs. Anger can be based on something that you observed or were told in early childhood, and that you grew up believing. Ask yourself if that belief is actually true, and if it’s still serving you well.
  • Take responsibility for your part of the marriage break-up. It’s a rare couple in which both partners were exactly equal in the breaking of the marriage, but it’s an even rarer couple in which one partner was solely at fault.
  • Do some personal growth work. Your anger can help you identify old patterns, and then you can take the steps to stop repeating them.
  • Learn what pushes your buttons. Try to understand your anger – and what triggers it – before you express it. Don’t be afraid to say that you need some time to think about your response.
  • Protect your children. Never make them part of your conflict with your former partner by withholding visitation or support or poisoning their minds against your ex. For the sake of the children, if for no other reason, learn constructive methods of expressing anger.
  • Keep conflicts at a moderate level, and choose your battles carefully. Expressing every little irritation and disagreement provokes resentment. Think about the most important issues – and let go of the small stuff.
  • Use “I-messages” when expressing anger. Say: “I feel disappointed when you don’t call,” not: “You stupid idiot, you’re always late!”
  • Give yourself time to recover from the loss of your marriage . On average, experts say that the healing process takes about two years. It’s important to realize how sad you are. This won’t necessarily make you more vulnerable to your ex-spouse; your successful handling of your emotions puts you in a more powerful position.
  • Forgive, let go, move on. Anger can become a comfort, a constant in our lives, but as long as you continue to nurse your anger against your ex, you will never have a happy, fulfilled, post-divorce life. Own your responsibility for the break-up, and realize that you have the power to make the choice to forgive and move on, or stay angry and remain stuck. It doesn’t matter what your ex does, you can still choose forgiveness.

I didn’t “chose” forgiveness, but it seems to have chosen me. This year, there’s been no emotional toll from sitting with my ex at our kids’ various Christmas concerts. We’ve even been talking about spending Christmas Day together as a family.

The fear creeps back sometimes –  I wish I wasn’t a single parent battling the endless challenges it brings – but I’ve found so much happiness in my vastly different, often difficult, but ultimately rewarding new life.

Don’t get bitter, get better.

Song of the day: Alanis Morissette “You Learn”

 

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