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Coping Mechanisms for Divorce Wars

Updated on March 11, 2013

We’ve all seen it.  Couples who were once seemingly rational people who spin totally out of control when the marriage fails.  From screaming matches, vindictive acts of anger and retaliation, to horrific acts of violence, divorce can lead to emotional turmoil that is overwhelming.  Unfortunately, the raging battles leave many victims behind, including children.  If you are experiencing this situation, you are probably searching for ways to get through the divorce process as emotionally unscathed and as civilly as possible.  What can you do to help take the combativeness out of your divorce?    

Learn Your Body’s Warning Signals

Raw emotions like anger, depression, resentment and blame sometimes make us lose control. If you realize what is happening before it goes too far, you will have a better chance of taking charge of the situation and maintaining emotional equilibrium. It is important that you learn to recognize your body’s cues so you can remain in control, rather than letting emotions control you.

There are signals your body sends to tell you it is being overwhelmed with emotional stress. They can differ from person to person but often include a racing heart, muscle tensing, fluttering stomach and a feeling of extreme heat or cold. When you find yourself in an argument and begin to experience the symptoms that happen just before you say or do something detrimental, heed the cue and step back for a moment. Use the time to calm down so that you are once again in control.

How do you calm down, you say? Remind yourself repeatedly that you can choose to let your emotions take over and make unconscious choices that will be harmful or you can consciously decide to make choices that will be in your own best interest. You can use other coping mechanisms as well. You may have to experiment with several to find the one that works for you.

Gary Coleman on 'Divorce Court'

A Variety of Coping Mechanisms

Simple methods that some people use successful to control overwhelming emotions include:

  • Deep breathing. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm, not your chest. Exhale completely.
  • Create a soothing mantra to tell yourself repeatedly while breathing deeply. Choose a short simple phrase like “I am calm and in control” or “I am at peace” or simple “Cool”.
  • Use imagery to help retain control. Imagine a giant red stop sign in front of you to help you put the brakes on runaway emotions or picture a serene place in your mind and draw on the emotions of calmness it generates.
  • Use the time to think of an assertive response, rather than an angry or aggressive one. When you are ready to speak again, do so in a calm tone at a normal volume.

Of course, you can do these things for yourself, but what about your ex? Hopefully, if you remain calm, it will help your estranged spouse to do the same and defuse the volatile situation. If it does not, then avoid being alone with him/her as much as possible. Let your lawyer handle the negotiations or consider a divorce mediator. If your ex is prone to violence, seek a restraining order against him/her.

Divorce is a stressful period in anyone’s life, but even more so when caught up in combat with your ex. Try these coping mechanisms to keep the battles at a minimum and remember, “this, too, shall pass.”

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