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When divorce gets dangerous, take steps for protection

Too often we hear stories about a divorce that erupts into physical violence. The violence may have been a problem in the marriage and the cause of the breakup. In other cases, it seems to come out of nowhere,  but is the result of escalating emotions prevelant in most divorces. If your own family is suffering from tension that could lead to violence, it's important to pay attention and take steps to stop things from getting worse.

One child psychiatrist has written a book on what he calls "malignant divorces" and offers the following tips:

Take action. If your spouse's behavior is the problem, don't simply wait for it to change for the better.

Seek therapy. You do have control over your own behavior and actions, and talking to someone about them will help you cope and make better decisions that affect your whole family.

Safety first. If your spouse is already exhibiting violent tendencies, you may need to change your living arrangements, no matter how inconvenient. Or, as the author says, if you feel threatened when he or she drops off the children, agree to meet in a public place.

Recurrent violent is just that. If you've experienced domestic violence in your marriage, it's not likely to stop as you attempt to end it. Consider contacting a therapist or calling a hotline dedicated to problems like this.

Act responsibly. You may be feeling some aggression and negativity yourself, and displaying it without realizing it. Remember, especially if you have children, that your words and actions can affect your whole family.

Set limits, especially if you're a parent. Divorce complicates life, but it's more important than ever to know when to put down the phone if things get heated with your spouse, or even when to call the police. Keep your children's best interests in mind, no matter where your head is. As the author points out, this is when a good relationship with your therapist is crucial.

Consider sending your children to therapy, too. They're going through this divorce with you, and they need a safe place and a person to talk to who isn't personally affected by this major life change. This therapist may also be able to provide help to either parent.

If your divorce feels like it's spinning out of control, help is available. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is realizing that you need it. A seasoned divorce attorney can also help locate extra resources and ensure that you're getting everything you need to stay safe and sane.

Source: Huffington Post, "When Divorce Is a Sickness," Mark Banschick, Nov. 17, 2011

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