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The Difference Between Anger and Bitterness in Divorce

May 23, 2018  | 

{2:42 minutes to read}  As a divorce mediator, I certainly expect to have clients express strong emotions, including anger. But I’ve encountered a few clients recently who made me recall my earlier post on the difference between anger and bitterness.

The definitions of anger and bitterness are similar:

  • Anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
  • Bitterness: anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.

The definitions may be similar, but to me, the emotions themselves are worlds apart.

I see anger as something that is of relatively short duration; a totally appropriate and human response to someone hurting you, or someone you love. Something happens, you get angry, you hopefully express that anger constructively, and it eventually dissipates.

Bitterness, on the other hand, is something that is a little darker and all encompassing. To me, bitterness doesn’t go away easily — instead it festers and begins to infect your general outlook on life.

When I litigated matrimonial matters, I saw that clients who were angry tended to move on with their lives after their divorce. Clients who were bitter, not so much. It always saddened me that clients who “won” and got what they thought they wanted, were still not satisfied, still bitter, and still evoking sarcasm and negativity.

Litigation doesn’t help anyone to move on in a constructive way. Instead, the goal to “win” and exact vengeance, encourages a battle in which holding onto negativity propels one to go to an even darker place. When the litigation is over, those feelings don’t go away, and without the outlet of the battle, those dark emotions prevent one from moving forward.

That is one of the many reasons I shifted to mediation many years ago. Of course, I still see clients who are angry, and yes, clients who show signs of bitterness. However, if you choose to engage in a process that by its very nature seeks to achieve a mutual result and not a one-sided “win,” there is more of an opportunity for the focus to shift from the past to the future — and for the emotions to do the same. 

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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