When it comes to divorce, some are easier to navigate than others. While some couples can amicably separate with minimal interference, there are others where the situation is anything but friendly. These types of divorce are often labeled as “high-conflict” because they usually involve just that…high levels of conflict. They are often costly as well.
High-conflict divorce can include anything from drawn-out legal proceedings to custody battles. At times it may even include restraining orders and accusations of domestic violence. Sometimes, when children are involved, I have seen them used as pawns.High conflict divorces can seem like a never-ending battle with your soon-to-be ex.
A high-conflict divorce usually happens when you’re dealing with someone who has a high-conflict personality. Psychologists describe people with a high-conflict personality as having four similar traits: unmanaged emotions, extreme behavior or threats, a preoccupation with blaming others, and lots of “all or nothing” thinking.
Psychologists have not been able to pinpoint why people act this particular way, but when you put this personality type into the dealings of divorce you can end up with an explosive situation. There are four specific things you can do if you’re dealing with someone with a high-conflict personality:
Maintain careful and respectful communication. If you’re in the middle of a high-conflict divorce it’s your job to maintain careful and respectful communication. If you are not being treated with respect, it is your right to tell the other person. If you are being bullied in a conversation, end the conversation. If you receive hostile texts or e-mails, your best option is not to respond to them. If you think the communication needs a response (like if it deals with legal proceedings), keep responses as brief and civil as possible.
Work with a skilled divorce team (therapist and family law attorney). You can’t deal with a high-conflict divorce on your own. You need a skilled family law attorney as well as a therapist on your team. The family law attorney will make sure your rights are protected while a therapist can help you work through the emotions of a high-conflict divorce.
Be diligent about self-care. It’s important to take care of yourself when going through a high-conflict divorce. There’s bound to be stress, so exercise is a good way to deal with that component. Also, eating well can help you maintain your health and feel good. Although you may not feel like laughing, spending time with friends to get your mind off things is also a good idea.
Consider parallel parenting instead of co-parenting. Co-parenting involves both parents, who assume joint responsibility for raising their children, after divorce. Co-parenting can be difficult and stressful, even if you have a good relationship with your ex.
So, if every conversation or encounter ends in a full-blown argument, you may want to consider parallel parenting. This is when parents have limited direct contact with each other because they just can’t have healthy interactions. This often helps the child because he or she doesn’t have to see as much arguing.
Co-parenting usually works best when both parents can have healthy and respectful conversations and are able to make decisions together. Often parallel parenting is chosen to allow some dust to settle while still allowing both parents to be involved in their children’s lives. Whether you are co-parenting or parallel parenting, remember to keep the focus on the kids and their well-being.
Keeping these things in mind when dealing with a high-conflict divorce can help you cope during this difficult time.