Is your divorce not working out amicably? Is every conversation a yelling match? This very common situation is referred to as a high-conflict divorce. Makes sense, right? Parents who are able to communicate amicably during a divorce have the luxury of being able to figure out a lot of their answers through regular communication. For some people, this is just not possible. Obviously, it’s not what you want, but there are tools to help you work through this because managing a life filled with drama, inconsistencies, lies and manipulations will take its toll on you and your children. Here are four simple words to help you work through a high-conflict divorce:
Decide. Deliver. Disengage. Document.
There are a lot of decisions to be made during a divorce. What will the parenting schedule be? Who gets the house? Do I have to ask my ex before I get the kids haircuts?
Before speaking with your ex, DECIDE on an agenda in order to keep the conversation on topic. When communicating, make proposals. Offer your suggestions for what you would like the outcome to be – the other parent will say no, because that’s what they do – but rather than let it stop at the no and stall the process, ask them to make an alternative proposal and don’t take no for an answer. Stay focused and committed to making decisions.
When speaking with your ex, keep all emotional words out of your email. Keep your emails brief and to the point. If you are writing more than four sentences, you are either sneaking in an opinion for which you will be attacked, or an emotion, for which you will also be attacked. Keep in mind the following when responding to hostile emails: brief, informative, friendly and firm.
If you are in constant conflict with the other parent because their words and actions negatively trigger and affect you and your children, you will never be able to move forward. Take the time to sort through your triggers and plan a strategy for how to cope when frustrated, this will help put you and your children on a path for healthier conflict resolution.
Always document the facts surrounding each manipulation/lie your ex attempts to control you with. Do not add emotions to your notes. Simply include dates, times and outcomes.
High conflict people are crafty and charismatic – often manipulating those in perceived positions of power. In order to ensure your voice is heard, you need to provide a detailed document outlining the pattern of behavior that is causing you, and your children, harm. Emotional words give way to the “he said she said” line of defense, so you want to ensure you keep all emotions out of your documentation. Include facts only – and ideally facts with supporting documents (emails/texts messages, etc.).
won’t change your ex’s behavior, but they will help you cope with the situation.
If you put these four steps into practice the high road won’t be as lonely and you might just preserve a little bit of your sanity during this insane time.
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