5 Strategies to Survive High-Conflict Divorce
All divorces are difficult but some are particularly distressing when they are filled with non-stop conflict. It may quickly seem as though the divorce is taking over your entire life. This much stress easily leads to both physical and mental health exhaustion, which can cause a host of other problems. We know that during this trying time, it can be very difficult to prioritize your own wellbeing, especially when children are involved, so here are five strategies that may help you cope with the stress of a high-conflict divorce.
Communicate Only Once a Day
Your soon-to-be ex-spouse may send several hostile emails, messages, or texts, and they may call you constantly. Often, high-conflict divorce cases have one spouse who wants to retain control over the other even after the separation. The spouses receiving this aggressive or excessive communication are under no obligation to respond immediately unless there is an emergency, or the situation involves the children that otherwise shouldn’t wait. If it’s an issue that does not require an immediate response (which is going to be almost everything), try waiting 24 hours to respond and only send one response per day. This can help you draw a boundary and prevent your divorce from affecting every moment of your life.
Do Not Arrange Face-to-Face Custody Drop-Offs
Oftentimes, conflict arises during custody drop-offs as it may be one of the only times the two spouses meet face-to-face. It may be wise to limit face-to-face contact with your spouse if it is likely to stir up conflict. Contact can be avoided by arranging for public drop-offs or having your spouse pick the kids up directly from their school or activities rather than your house.
Consider Attending Birthday Parties and Teacher Conferences Separately
Any time the two parents are together during a high-conflict divorce, there is a chance sparks may fly. As such, accommodations should be made for events such as birthday parties, parent-teacher conferences, or any other time the parents must face each other. Many children of divorced parents have two birthday parties, and teachers will often make accommodations to meet each parent separately. Avoiding conflict with your spouse in front of your child helps reduce the toll of the fight for you, but also the stress on your kids that comes with seeing their parents fighting.
Do Not Fight Back
This is a tough one because of the fear that if you do not stand up for yourself, the other spouse feels justified with their bully tactics. But, fighting back usually only fuels the fire and makes the conflict even greater. We know you are hurt, and as difficult as it is, try to remain calm. Even when what is being said is unconscionable, removing yourself from the situation could potentially diffuse the immediate conflict, and, if your spouse is continuously messaging you or leaving voicemails, it could create evidence of your spouse’s bad behavior which you can use against him or her. Additionally, sometimes a high-conflict spouse gets a “high” out of pushing your buttons; that spouse is waiting for you to get upset and dive into the “game.” By not responsing, it often sends a bigger message that you will not be controlled by that spouse any longer. Although sometimes the communication can get worse at first while they try even harder to get a rise out of you, eventually, they give up because it’s not fun for them any longer.
Only Focus on What You Can Control
There are many things you will not have control over in life, and as much as we would like to be able to control our ex’s, we just cannot. When one spouse is aggressive, there may be nothing you can do about it directly. Trying to change someone else’s behavior is not only a futile attempt, but it can only cause more frustration and aggravation because people do not change unless they want to. If you are dealing with a toxic partner during a divorce, you should focus on things such as your children, seeking support from your family and friends, protecting your rights in the divorce, and your mental and physical health.
The best way to deal with a toxic spouse is to take away their control over you by not letting it bother you the way it used to.
While you may have felt a duty to help them during your marriage, behavior, and issues are no longer yours to fix after you’ve separated. Letting go of this obligation can free you up to spend more time with your children or prepare for the other aspects of your life, including what activities bring you joy rather than despair.
A Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer can Help with High-Conflict Divorces
The majority of our casework over our combined 35-years of exclusive family law experience deals with high-conflict divorces. These cases can be extremely challenging because they are highly emotional, there is usually a power-struggle, and they do not settle easily. In these situations, it is essential that, if you are moving toward divorce with a high-conflict spouse, that you speak to our extraordinary legal team to get someone on your side who can fight for you and not let you continue to be bullied. Our lawyers at O’Connor Family Law have come up with very creative solutions to help diffuse the high-conflict situations you may be facing every day currently. We can make sure that your rights are protected and think outside of the box to bring your marriage to an end so you can live the future you deserve. Call today to discuss your case.