It has been a while since I have written anything personal. I suppose it always comes down to that line of personal and professional. Being a therapist who is going through this process I try and keep at least some of my personal life, well private. But today I had a conversation with an old friend, that once again let me see how little others genuinely appreciate the nature of high-conflict divorce.
Why No One Really Understands High-Conflict Divorce
I began my divorce process over 3 years ago, and at the beginning, I was innocent enough to believe it would be a relatively straight-forward, if somewhat painful experience, but that ultimately, when two adults had the best interest of their child in mind, that well, it would get negotiated and completed as quickly as possible.
That was then, and this is now, and of course, I know much better now. I bare the battle-scars.
Having been to court more times than I care to mention, every decision having to be forced upon my ex-husband as opposed to an agreement being made via negotiation. Having watched as the courts seemingly sat powerless, as he ignored court order after court order. Having had to deal with the trauma that our son has experienced caught in this financial limbo. Every day seeming to be yet another battle over money, time, work, and keeping my sanity; I can now sadly say, I know much better.
I was naïve at the beginning of this process. In fact, it might be fair to accuse me of starry-eyed idealism. I had had a relatively blessed life, I had a high level of education and well, things had always been, if not great, certainly not truly awful.
My marriage was of course another matter; an unrelenting saga of loneliness, put downs, and at times, terror. Somehow though my happy disposition seemed to be able to make me ignore the cold, casual cruelty with which I was living. The divorce process, however, put paid to that and brought the frightening reality of who I was married to, to the forefront.
I have spent 3 years in this foreign country, with my young son, with limited practical support from family and friends and I have hung on by my fingernails. And it was this, that appeared to annoy my friend – my reluctance to return to my country. Their solution to my problems was simple, go home and everything would be ok.
Now granted the return to my native tongue, and yes, even the possibility of finding work might make life a lot easier. So, what that I would be swapping sunshine for rain, was that really such a big a deal?
Well, the truth is, if these were the only issues at stake, I would consider the move in a heartbeat. But you see, where I am geographically located is not the issue. The issue is that I am dealing with a Covert Aggressive (C-Agg) ex-partner. The type of man who could sit, without batting an eyelid, whilst his son told him that he had given his birthday money to me, so I could buy food, whilst drawing a salary in the 20 thousand per month.
You see a C-Agg individual is all about winning.
They will do anything to feel they have won. Even when to an outsider it seems at a destructive cost to themselves. Even when what they are doing is against all good sense and morality. Even when what they are doing is against every social and legal code that exists. A C-Agg will fight to the bitter end because for them every moment is THE BATTLE. There is no overall plan, there is no strategy, there is no exit; resolution is not important, only overall victory, right here, right now, in every single moment.
And that truth leaves me stuck here. The divorce process is here; the child protection issues are here. Oh yes, granted he has hidden all the money in the UK, but if I were to attempt proceedings in the UK the cost of legal support would be hitting around 80 thousand by now. In Spain, it is around 8 thousand. Not to mention costs of flights, hotels to attend hearings. And believe me, in a high-conflict divorce there are a lot of hearings.
So, whilst my friend recounted me tales of men he had met, who were screwed by their ex-wives, and left them with nothing; I have little doubt that these men reached their settlements to protect their children. Yes, they may be embittered. They may not have resolved their anger and disappointment at their failed relationship – divorce is not pleasant at the best of times – but at least they have the satisfaction of knowing their children were fed, warm, and clothed. These types of normal divorces take on average 6 months to a year to complete.
I am in year 3.
I have proposed a settlement several times. I have offered to sell our jointly shared house. I have attempted to reach an agreement to ensure our son is happy and secure. My ex has never shown any desire to negotiate, not once. You see I am not the problem. I want this to be over and it be a fair and equitable split. I have no desire to take more than I am entitled to. I have even offered to take less than I am entitled to. But then I really do not care about winning; I just want to move on and my son to feel secure. So, with the greatest respect to my friend, who I am sure was coming from a place of genuine concern, the rules that apply to normal divorce do not apply here. Otherwise, this process would have been settled a few months after separation.
However, he is not alone in his ignorance of this process. His information comes from run-of-the-mill, folk-down-the-pub talking about their experiences, and as a good, caring father, he cannot even begin to comprehend that any father would have so little concern for his son’s welfare. But I work with the confused victims of the high-conflict divorce process who are suffering and have begun to discover, much too their horror, that the legal system is operating under the same uncritically examined assumptions as to my friend, that is: that both parties have the child’s interest as paramount and that both parties seek resolution.
Unfortunately, when one of the parties in the divorce process is a C-Agg individual, these assumptions are frankly erroneous. These premises do nothing but create additional suffering for the other party in the divorce process, and as a result, any children that are involved. So, the truth is, whilst to run home and take cover is appealing, the reality is, I must stand my ground and fight where the legal process is happening, to have any chance of protecting my child’s interests.