10 Struggles Of Divorcing a High Conflict Spouse
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By Amy Waggoner, Guest Author - August 09, 2016

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When dealing with a high conflict spouse during divorce it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the drama and miss what’s really driving the train.

While marriage to someone with a high-conflict personality isn’t easy, divorce can be even tougher. Further, co-parenting after divorce is even more difficult when you’re dealing with this type of personality.

Getting through a divorce, no matter who you are married to is easier when you’re informed about the process and you understand your legal rights before you begin.

This article provides you with 10 tips to help guide you through your divorce from a high conflict spouse:

1. Divorce is better when you have realistic expectations

A lot of people start their divorce hoping to ‘beat’ their ex-spouse in court. A high-conflict divorce may involve a number of issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support and division of property etc. When one or both parties see divorce as a ‘winner takes all’ the stage is set for a long and costly battle. The only winners here may be the lawyers.

2. Think before making hasty decisions

Many life-changing decisions come up during a divorce. For example, you may have to determine whether you need to sell the family home or not. Resist the impulse to make a quick decision just to get the case over with. When making important choices, it’s essential that you consider the possible consequences. An experienced attorney can help you make decisions and come up with possible compromises as the divorce progresses.

3. Forget the Past & Prepare for the future

Thinking about all of the bad things that happened during your marriage will only prevent you from moving on with your life and making decisions that are in your best interest. Try to forget the past and focus on the future. Approach the divorce with a willingness to work with your ex to achieve the best possible result for you and your children.
You may be stressed about insignificant matters like; how to divide the DVD collection but again this approach will increase the time and legal fees that it takes to complete your divorce. So, don’t sweat the small stuff! Instead, try to be a “big-picture person.”

Make some concessions on minor issues, and spend more time on important matters such as child custody & visitation.

4. You’re getting divorced, but your kids are not

Saying cruel and bad things to your ex in the presence of your children can have a lasting effect. Whenever you’re going to say cruel things, think before you speak. Remember, unless there’s a history of abuse or neglect, your children will continue to have a relationship with the other parent. No matter how upset you are with your ex, you should not try to discourage or interfere with a healthy parent-child bond. You may seek counseling for yourself and your children to address emotions and past pain.

5. Keep your feelings to yourself

High-conflict personalities are bullies. They like to ‘win’ by making you angry or beating you down i.e. by harassing you. Do not act on your feelings. If you yell, cry, plead, or otherwise show your emotions, you will invite more attacks. Whatever you do, make sure that you don't let a narcissist know how you really feel especially if you have a different point-of-view, which will always be interpreted as a threat.

6. Accept the personality that you married

Do not listen to conventional wisdom that your ex will ‘move on’ in time. Well-adjusted people move on; however, high-conflict personalities never quench their thirst for revenge and their desire to feel like ‘the good one’. Anticipate being dragged into court for minor indiscretions, or worse, total fabrications. Do not say or write anything that might make you look bad. Do not respond to emails that try to set the record straight. It’s best to document everything; save hostile e-mails, take screenshots of abusive texts, note every violation of your court order.

Be prepared. You never know if a narcissist will follow through on threats to sue you, so you must be prepared if they do.

7. Avoid admitting a mistake

Do not admit wrongdoing to your high-conflict ex, especially in writing. Apologizing will not create a more amicable relationship. A high-conflict ex will interpret your apology as proof that you are mentally ill, incompetent, and a stupid person.

8. Things may not go well in court

When negotiations cease, one party may threaten to take the matter up before a judge. This may lead to hearings and eventually a trial. The expense of on-going court appearances can deplete the very assets that are often the subject of the dispute. Even simple matters can require multiple court dates to complete, and after spending many thousands of dollars, spouses may be left with a ruling that is disagreeable to both parties. There is nothing easy about divorcing a high conflict spouse!

9. No takebacks

Be aware of the games that your spouse may play. There are times when your spouse may realize that you are serious and not giving in regarding the divorce. At this point, certain high-conflict personalities may change their game. They’ll substitute their abusive tactics for flowers, gifts and hollow promises to change. To stay in control, keep a notebook of all the reasons you want to leave, including ways you’ve tried to change things and the results.

10. Don’t give up on co-parenting

While co-parenting is the ideal solution for children of divorce, you and your ex may not be able to agree enough to make it work. Your attorney might suggest that you work with a parenting coordinator who can help your whole family adjust to the big changes while putting the kids’ needs first.

Divorce isn’t easy; sometimes it’s downright difficult. Having a high-conflict ex makes it even harder.

Your lawyer might recommend that you talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you deal with your soon-to-be ex. Because high-conflict people tend to leave scars on the people closest to them, you might benefit from rediscovering yourself and letting an impartial third party become your sounding board.

Remember, with the right tools, you can make it through divorce and find true peace and happiness.


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