First Aid: Part 3 (12min)



Measuring the temperature of the divorce – the anger stage – may leave you feeling concerned if the temperature seems to be rising. The links between the anger stage and how it causes adversarial divorce is clear – so seek out ways to reduce the temperature through accessing coaching or counselling.


Don’t try to repress the anger. Most of all, acknowledge it. Many people insist that they are very calm about it all but they are clearly fuming, and are not in a mindset to forge constructive solutions.


  • Measuring the temperature of the divorce – the anger stage
  • Murder statistics and other acts of divorce rage
  • Understanding the links between the anger stage and how it causes adversarial divorce

Jack Benny once said: “My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.”

“When it comes to testing the temperature of a divorce, you will notice something about a regular-sized thermometer – It’s not long enough! It doesn’t go high enough!”

Several thousand intimate relationships each year are terminated early – by murder.

Roughly one-quarter of all women slain in the US are killed by a husband, a boyfriend or an ex, according to government statistics. (iii)

And don’t think that murdering spouses is just done by the husbands – a groundbreaking study of spousal homicides committed in 1988 found that four in 10 killer spouses were women. (iii)

British MP Chris Huhne and Vicky Price didn’t murder each other – but they did turn an acrimonious break up into a national spectacle, ending in imprisonment for them both. Angry architect Andrew McGarry expressed his bitterness over his divorce by driving his car into the matrimonial home in Wales and setting fire to it – whilst his six year old was inside watching TV.

Never underestimate the fury and anger that overcomes people who are going through a divorce. Their rage makes them go a little crazy. It also makes them forget about their children – and do immeasurable harm. So when someone is in the ‘anger’ stage of divorce, you may not be able to help them much – but you may be able to help their kids.

How can you help?

Don’t just stand by when you see the kids are being used as weapons in the divorce battle.

In a divorce survey by Mischcon de Reya, (xxii) one in five parents said that their primary objective during separation is to make the experience “as unpleasant as possible” for their former spouse. Half of the parents involved said that they had sought a day in court to haggle over residency arrangements despite knowing it made matters worse for their children.

It’s so hard to speak your mind when you feel that you may get the fury of an angry family member or work colleague unleashed upon you – but hurling blame at them is not what I’m suggesting. Just something like “Hey, I can see you’re really angry at the moment – but your kids matter more than getting back at your Ex, don’t they? So I want to support you in keeping your eye on what really matters here – which is making this divorce less damaging to your children than it needs to be. Don’t let your anger at your Ex be greater than your love for your children.”

On the Alternative Divorce Directory, there are experienced Parenting Experts and Communication Experts – people who can offer support and useful training in how to deal with an Ex without letting your anger become a ball and chain tying you to a relationship you are trying to escape.

When someone is in ‘anger stage’ of divorce, they would benefit from taking up squash or hitting a punching bag. Anything that physically allows them to vent some of their fury in healthy ways.

It is only a small percentage of the approximately 240,000 marriages each year in the UK (xxxii), and the 2 million marriages each year in the US (xxxiii), that end without the legal niceties. Through murder.

In most of these instances, a spouse is blinded by rage while committing the deadly act – and it is then often later regretted.

Understand that when someone is in ‘anger stage’, they don’t need you to join in and allow your own anger – possibly against your own previous Ex – to become drawn into this game. Better for you to understand that this anger they feel is really a way of warding off the next stage of the process – which is pain. It’s hard to feel the pain of divorce when you are still fuming, and you really can’t blame someone for wanting to ward off that next stage as long as possible. But they need to move through it quickly to avoid causing long term damage to their children – and possibly losing most of their friends in the process.

A surprisingly good way of releasing anger is to do what kids do instinctively – until we teach them not to – which is to cry. Sit down with a good friend and watch a tear-jerker movie and sob. This will do more good than you can imagine.

Your friend or family member will be easy prey for adversarial lawyers – so try to steer them away from a litigious divorce and towards using mediation or collaborative lawyers, who keep you out of court. They may not realise the options open to them – and seeing the wrong lawyer too early on in the process – before they have got their emotions in check – could be dangerous to their pocket and to their children.

Steer them towards legal advice that is aimed at keeping the divorce away from the courts, and encouraging at the very least round-table discussions by both parties. It is important to interview mediators and lawyers with a view to keeping the divorce and break up non-adversarial, because the people divorcing should be in charge of the process – not the lawyers.

Luckily, not all lawyers are like those spoken of by Jean Kerr, who once said: “A lawyer is never entirely comfortable with a friendly divorce, anymore than a good mortician wants to finish his job and then have the patient sit up on the table.”



  1. (xxii)Mishcon De Reya study 2009

(xxxii) Measuring National Well-being – Households and Families, 2012 (ONS)

(xxxiii) United States Census Bureau





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