When it comes to divorce strategy, my biggest and best source of information is YOU. From the time we first meet, I am already getting a sense of who your spouse is. As you go on recounting the history of your marriage, the struggles, the pain, and ultimately what brings you to my office, I am already tuning in to who I am dealing with on the other side.
Over the years I have come to recognize quite a few "types" in divorce. Unknowingly, I had categorized them into various degrees of "jerks." This simplified system had enabled me to deal with these types quite easily. As it turns out however, certain behaviors go with certain "archetypes," a concept that has been around for a very long time. Once you can identify your spouse's divorce archetype, you can understand, predict and plan for the likely battles that will ensue. Keep in mind that you too have an archetype, and as such, are just as vulnerable to having your behaviors anticipated and provoked. I so often hear, "He knows how to push my buttons" from a client who has just done something that undermines her case, and my response is usually some version of "Yes, he does!"
Pushing buttons is just one way a spouse can get the upper hand in divorce, but if you want to anticipate, prepare and respond in the best way possible during this trying time, recognizing archetypes is key. As a preview to my book, here are my "men-types" from the top 12 which I have affectionately named The Dirty Dozen:
1. The Bully. The Bully in divorce is the same bully as the one on the playground. He likes getting his way, and will use any and all tactics to get his way. This is the guy who will stare you down, threaten you, and even have his "friends" reach out to you in order to try and talk some "sense" into you. The best way to deal with a bully is to get your own bully, i.e. your lawyer to do all the talking and dealing. You cannot and should not try to have any direct dealings with the bully. He knows or believes you are the weaker one, and will prey on all your soft spots. He will wear you down. It will drive him absolutely crazy when he can't have total access to you.
2. The Softie. Unlike the Bully, the Softie can't stand a fight. He's passive and anxious. He will be reasonable and likely to settle but it will take some time because he is so passive that you can't get him to the finish line. He is not deliberately trying to stall. He is genuinely afraid. He even cries. It is almost like having another child, and you are going to have to hold his hand. These are the same traits that probably drove you to divorce him, but he's not going to change-not then, not now, and not in the future. Be patient and be kind. In this scenario you will most likely get all you want and more, it is just going to take some time.
3. The Victim: Despite his title, this guy is more like the Bully than the Softie. He may be really nice but he's really bitter about the divorce and will yank at all the guilt strings he can find. He is the one who will tell anyone and everyone who will listen, what a great guy he is, and can't understand for the life of him why you want a divorce. The best advice here is to stop explaining it to him! He is never going to see your side of it let alone take ownership for his part. Unlike the Bully you can deal with him directly but steer away from anything other than numbers, dates and times.
4. The Charmer: This guy is all about image. He is neither tough nor soft, and certainly no victim. He loves to "put on a show" and goes to great length to have everyone see what a great guy he is. You of course know the truth and are sickened by his schtick, but guess what? Let Mr. Charming put his money where his mouth is. All proposals should begin with "Keeping in line with Mr. Charming's generosity..." basically wording and packaging is key here. Whatever you propose, make sure it has all the bells, whistles and plenty of red ribbons. Don't be upset if your attorney has to whisper to him about how "difficult" YOU can be or what a hero he will be to his not-yet born grandchildren from his not-yet adult children.
5. The Blamer. It's everyone's fault except his own. We lawyers especially can't stand this guy because he loves to tell you how bad a lawyer you have and how all these problems are the lawyer's fault. Trust me, his own lawyer probably can't stand him either. Rather than engage in the blame-game, your best strategy with this guy is to have him make the proposals, i.e. "Well Mr. Blamer, how do you think we should handle X?" Ironically, this guy never has an answer. Rather than wait indefinitely for this guy to come up with the answer, give him options. I suggest a minimum of six.
6. The Guilty Cheater. This guy seriously feels guilty for doing you wrong BUT wants to stay with his mistress. He feels so badly about it that he will give you just about anything you ask for. His hope is that by giving you everything, you will forgive him, and he can somehow "make it up to you." The biggest mistake women make with this guy is expecting to get MORE than all the money AND an apology. While they may be sorry for hurting you, they are not sorry for divorcing you, so in this case, take the money and run. I guarantee you will get more from a guilty cheater than an impartial judge.
7. The Heartless Cheater. This guy does not feel guilty about cheating. In his mind YOU were the reason he cheated, and since you did him wrong emotionally or sexually, he has every right to hold out financially. This is the guy who will start every meeting with "you need to get over it" and heartless as it may be, he's right. Stop making yourself crazy thinking he is going to apologize or do the right thing (however you define that). Let your lawyer deal with him "by the book" because it's all he is ever going to agree to (he has no choice).
8. The Miser. This guy thinks that everything is his and cannot believe that you are entitled to anything. If your job in the marriage has been to care for the children, look after the home, cook for him, do his laundry and otherwise help him get to where he is today, he will only talk about how "easy" a life you have had. This is the guy who tells you that you "did nothing" all day but go to the gym and shopping. He cannot stand the thought of having worked so hard his whole life only to share it with you. It doesn't matter if it is you or him who wants the divorce. In his mind you came in with nothing and should leave the same way. Though he has bully traits, he is more of a lion, seeking to protect his jungle and when you are looking for a piece of it, he will be sure to play the victim. Skip all attempts to be nice or negotiate. You are wasting your time. This guy needs to hear it straight from the Judge.
9. The Ostrich. It's one thing to go slow, even painfully slow as the Softie likes to do, but quite another when you can't even get this guy to acknowledge that the divorce is taking place. Incredibly sometimes an entire divorce will take place and this guy won't get his head out of the sand until he's literally taken out of the house. You can write letters, make phone calls and even threats but this guy will ignore them all. This "no show" is among the very worst because he will cost you lots of time and money. He is like the Softie in that he will need someone to hold his hand, but it cannot be you. You are going to have to call in an outsider an intervention. Whether a friend or therapist, they will take this divorce more seriously than him, and get him to do what you can't.
10. The Baby. No matter how old or successful this guy is, he doesn't make a move without Daddy's okay. He is usually the heir to a family business throne and has been in his father's controlling claws for years. Now that you have taken steps to extricate yourself from these treacherous trenches you will be fighting not just your husband, but Daddy too. In this case be sure you know Daddy's archetype as well. You don't have to worry too much about Mommy because she too is controlled by Daddy. He will not be able to agree to a court date without clearance, let alone an entire divorce deal. Do not despair because in their zealous quest to protect their baby they inevitably take positions that are so unreasonable that you could not possibly do worse. With so many spoons in the soup, this bunch is sure to leave the Judge with a bad taste in his or her mouth.
11. The Yes Man. No matter what the question, issue or request, his answer is always "Yes." The problem with this guy is that he never delivers. He is a modified version of the Ostrich but even more frustrating because you actually believe he is going to do something. He will "yes" you to death if you let him. Whatever it is that you ask of him, when he says "Yes" or even worse, "No Problem," expect a problem! The solution here is to get it in writing- no matter what it is- big or small, get it in writing.
12. The Menace. He is hated by everyone and loves it. This is the guy who is one part arrogant and two parts ignorant. He thinks he knows more than you, your lawyer, and even the Judge. He seems to come and go as he pleases, doesn't have a care in the world, thumbs his nose at the law, and loves to say "so put me in jail." This is exactly where this guy belongs. He is so smug that he will even use these words in front of the kids, causing you to beg your lawyer to back off. Trust me, this guy is not one who will willingly go to jail. He may be tough around you, but a real criminal he is not. Although he is definitely a Bully, it's going to take more than your own Bully to bring this guy down. Fortunately, that person is him. He will do himself in. He will lose control and say or do something stupid and have no ability to hold back. The best thing you can do is keep things public. Do not ever meet with him alone. The Menace loves to cause chaos but hates when he's caught. Tough as you may be, and equally able to match him in a game of shout, don't do it. The one thing he can't stand is losing control and having everyone feel sorry for you.
Ladies, do not think you are off the archetype hook! There will be a Part II to this, and it will be all about YOU.
More About High Conflict Divorce:
Is Your High Conflict Divorce Causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Trying To Negotiate With Someone Incapable Of Negotiating?
How To Co-Parent With a High Conflict Ex