A recent article on anger and divorce appeared at mediate.com by Jeanette Bicknell. Ms. Bicknell views the negative implications of anger in its more public manifestations. She also sees how anger can serve some constructive ends. She poses a few questions that parties going through a divorce should ask themselves. These questions are outlined below.
1. Is this the right time to show anger?
Anger at home can expose children to issues they are better off not seeing. Anger at the workplace can cause colleagues to be uncomfortable and can lead to loss of job. Even when anger is appropriate, ensure it is being brandished at the acceptable moment. I, for one, do not mind seeing anger displayed at a mediation, with the proviso that it gives information not an excuse to shut off effective dialogue.
2. Am I arguing to the right degree?
Sure it is rude to pick up your children for parenting time later than agreed. But will anger at this action, lead to better results in the future or will it be counter-productive? Knowing how angry one is permitted to be is indeed a skill worth developing.
3. Am I angry for the right reason?
As attorneys, we are reluctant to predict how a judge might rule. When our client presses the point, they might ask what it will depend on? I am candid enough to say: "It depends on anything. It might even depend on how the Judge's breakfast turned out this morning." That judge may thereafter take it out on the party in the classroom. Did the client deserve some rebuke? Perhaps this is so. But sometimes people are transferring an upset in another matter to the situation at hand. In this case, "Know thyself" is sound advice. Why are you angry? If it is not for the right reason, drop the anger routine.
Anger is not always wrong. But perhaps following the ethics of anger is a good course of action, in all of life's trying situations.
Martin Rosenfeld, a Family Attorney and Divorce Mediator, can be contacted at Rosenfeld@Juno.Com or at 201.794.4545