Resentment: It’s the “R” word that undermines a divorce and the healing process that must take place after. For business owners, entrepreneurial couples, dual-career couples navigating separation and divorce, the issues are increasingly complex and the stakes are high–personally and professionally. Managing resentment that often and naturally accompanies divorce, behaving with grace and dignity, and making wise decisions for the long-term benefit of everyone involved, this will ultimately result in a healthy, happier you. It will preserve many relationships, allow your family to function together when occasions arise, and safeguard your business and career interests and often assets.
But how do you do it? Resentment is an insidious and destructive emotion. It can catch you off guard, but there are ways to stop the resentment from taking you down the bitterness road before it takes over your life.
Divorce is one of life’s top stressors and toughest personal experiences emotionally, financially and practically, and even more so with children in the picture. But there are secrets to getting through this process with dignity, self respect, and self assurance so that you can lessen the emotional impact on you and use your experience to grow. If you have children how you deal with adversity will be a model for them in their lives.
One of these secrets is managing the resentment that often occurs in divorce situations. Resentment can be used as an excuse for or represent a fear of moving forward in our lives. Getting stuck in resentment means no growth, no new and exciting adventures, no time to feel the real feelings of loss. Freeing yourself from those insidious feelings of resentment is easier said than done, I know, but let’s look at some of the benefits of taking resentment out of the divorce formula:
You feel better physically: Resentment is an aspect of anger that can eat you alive, from the inside out–not a pretty picture for sure. It can make you physically ill, cause self inflicted stress responses, and leave you exhausted. Take it away and you just plain feel better physically.
You think better: No one thinks well in the grips of the strong and overpowering feelings of anger and resentment. How can you negotiate for yourself, your children, your financial future or your peace of mind when you are blinded by anger and resentment? Your resentment at your partner or life in general, no matter how justified, will absolutely not get you what it is you need and want from this parting of ways. In fact, it can actually make your situation worse.
You are emotionally better: Getting stuck in resentment of what could have, should have or would have been is a recipe for long term bitterness and an inability to move ahead in your own life. Of course, you will experience sadness, anger, grief, and many other emotions during a very difficult time. And rightly so, as divorce is loss, and loss equals grief and grief must be attended to. But there is no healing from grief if you allow resentment to block your way.
You are a better parent: The studies are all conclusive: the worst case scenario for children of divorce is an acrimonious divorce. Acrimonious divorces are almost always built on the unsteady house of resentment cards. Children watch and learn from you at every turn. Teach them how to handle adversity with grace and dignity. And although they may see you sad, tearful, and even angry at times, teach them how to live through and handle appropriate emotions, rather than be stuck in the quagmire of bitterness.
You function better at the office: So much of life asks you to shut off one part of yourself to function at the office. This may be especially true if you are the business owner, and it’s more more complex if you own the business, run the business or work together. While it’s complicated and often requires outside support and coaching, aligning yourself and your intentions behind your values of preserving relationships where it is healthy and respectfully disengaging from those that can no longer go on is highly important for healing in the long run. It will also help you to make careful decisions that preserve the personal and work aspects you value.
So just how do you manage your resentment, and what do you do with it when it surfaces? How do we make sense of this destructive emotion so that we can feel, think and be better in our lives despite the loss we may be feeling? Of course there is no magic formula, but these tips might help you on this journey.
- Recognize and name your emotions
Start with asking yourself regularly, what am I feeling right now? Maybe you are very sad, because you think of what might have been, or what was or wasn’t a part of your relationship. Perhaps you are angry that life has worked out this way. You could be relieved that the relationship is ending because it was so emotionally draining. Or you may harbor resentment because your partner has moved on to someone else while you have no one. Get some clarity on what you are feeling.
2. Express yourself
Once you have identified what you are feeling, the next step in getting through any loss is talking about it. You can talk with a professional, or you can use a journal or talk to a positive friend. The more true real feelings you can get out, the more steps you are taking to working your way through this divorce process – the key is to get them out in an appropriate place. This would not include through your children, in the talks with your partner about the practicalities of who gets what or in the legal system. One very positive and beneficial way to do this is with the help of a divorce mediator or collaborative divorce process that focuses on divorce with dignity and integrity.
3. Ask yourself this question
How is this resentment I am feeling helping me right now? Most of the time you will find that it is hurting, not helping you. Granted, it is easy to fall into the pit of resentment, because, after all, emotions are running high. But resentment takes the power away from you and gives it to your partner by letting your partner’s actions of lack of actions (which, by the way, you have no control over) decide how you are going to feel. Take your power back.
4. Be emotionally intelligent
Yes, there is such a thing. It means that you are able to acknowledge, accept, feel, manage and place your emotions in the proper perspective. Shouting your anger during the legal meeting is not the right place. Telling your children that your partner is not a good person because you resent his or her leaving, not leaving, taking, not caring, having a new car, or a new partner is damaging to your children, but also to you and how your children will view you in the future.
5. Remember the bottom line
This is a parting of the partnership, the end of a special relationship and it is painful. The goal is to work through all the feelings, sort through the practicalities, build up your self confidence, grow because of your experience, and move forward to be the best person you can be. Then there will be new goals for you, a new relationship, perhaps, or a better career, or a freedom that you may grow to like. Picture yourself in three years, five or even ten. Do you choose to see a bitter, resentful, angry person filled with despair? Or do you choose to see a vibrant, wiser, fulfilled and happy person with a new, exciting, and hopeful life?
This is not easy to do when you are going through a life-changing transition like a divorce. Either way, but especially if it is not your choice. Please reach out for support and guidance. It will save you lots of extended grief in the big picture.
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