In following the Divorce Feeds these days, I’m noticing some new trends. One is a lot of media attention around Good Divorces, and for that I am grateful. As a culture, we need to become more aware of the peaceful options for dissolving a marriage. We need to turn our attention away from the old ways of thinking and look outside the box for creative, win-win solutions to our family challenges.
The other trend is more concerning. I’ll call it “Diagnosed Divorces.” These unique separations are characterized by conflict caused by personality disorders. I’m seeing a lot of buzzwords such as “narcissistic abuse” and “high-conflict divorce.” To be honest, these words are quite familiar to me. I used them myself several years ago, as I desperately searched for answers as to why certain people went bat-shit crazy as a result of the dreaded D-word (the answer I found: they’re human). But now, such terminology causes me to pause, and/or cringe.
Don’t get me wrong, high-conflict divorce is a real thing. In fact, it’s a real serious thing. And personality disorders can add a host of new challenges to an already-difficult situation. It’s important to arm appropriate individuals with appropriate information so they can design appropriate strategies and make appropriate decisions.
Did you catch the key word? As information becomes widely available, I fear that it will fall into the wrong hands to be put to inappropriate use. The result will be reduced resources for those in need and a further strain on the family court system. Thus many more families will suffer, and some will do so unnecessarily.
Let’s take a step back and consider the topic of divorce: it makes everyone a little crazy, doesn’t it? In a state of heightened stress, every interaction can feel like a train wreck, and every unmet expectation can appear to be an intentional attack. The emotional roller coaster spins us to the edge of sanity, and then some. Exes tend to argue. Sometimes they argue a lot, and contentious communication can be extremely uncomfortable.
Yet, in most cases, such conflict is born from productive intentions on both sides. Often, couples can adopt a new approach to work through the issues. It takes courage. It takes effort. It means stepping out of the coveted comfort zone. And, while no solution is perfect, it’s usually possible to find some cooperative middle ground so Mom and Dad can remain on the same parental team.
If creative and conservative approaches don’t work, perhaps you are in fact dealing with a diagnosable divorce. For those who find themselves in this segment, I applaud your efforts and acceptance. I hope you’re able to firmly define your boundaries and devise a strategy that makes your circumstances more tolerable.
But regardless of the current situation, let’s remember the effects of time as we move beyond the broken pieces and reconstruct our lives. If divorce teaches us anything, it’s the fact that relationships change. What was once a high-conflict scenario might be more cooperative a year or two (or five or ten) later. It’s OK to occasionally test the waters and re-configure those boundaries. Exes don’t have to be enemies forever.