Enduring a high-conflict marriage day-in-and-day-out can be compared to living with a chronic medical condition. It may be calm for a few months, followed by weeks and weeks of absolute agony. When the flare-ups come – and they always do – they consume you. They take up all of your thoughts and free energy and they distract you from the joys of life: your children, your friends and family, and all of your favorite things.
A knock down drag out fight with your spouse will make you run to work. You’ll make excuses for working late or working more just so you can avoid conflict at home. During peacetime, you’ll always wonder, “When is the next bomb going to come my way?”
Now, you’ve decided to divorce your high-conflict spouse who seems to feed on drama; they eat it for breakfast. This person will NOT change, you’re 100% certain of that. He or she is addicted to drama – that much is true and you had your entire marriage to figure that out. With the impending divorce, you don’t expect things to get any easier. You know that during the divorce, your spouse is going to:
- Blast you on social media
- Alienate your mutual friends
- Badmouth you to everyone
- Manipulate your children
- Poison the children against you
- Cyberbully you
- Hide assets from you
- Begin flirting with others
- Twist your words
- Paint you out to be evil
- Threaten divorce litigation
- Refuse to work with you
- Blame you for the divorce
- Try to deprive you of what you deserve
- Convince everyone they are Mother or Father of the Year
If your spouse was somehow to keep themselves in check and behave like a mature adult, he or she would have to take responsibility for their role in the breakup of the marriage; they would have to acknowledge their faults. And, where is the fun in that? The dramatic spouse must have a target to deflect their own failures and that target is you. If you have children together, you may be the target for years to come.
Will your husband or wife have an epiphany, an “aha” moment? Probably not. You will have to live with your spouse until death do you part unless you put an end to the madness. However, you don’t want to become engaged in a losing battle. One that siphons what little happiness and energy that you have left over from your mentally exhausting marriage. In order to have a mindful divorce despite your dramatic spouse, you must change two things: 1) the way you respond to your spouse in your head, and 2) how you relate to your spouse in the real world.
Breaking Old Communication Habits
Whether you’ve been married for five, ten, or twenty years, surely you and your spouse have fell into some bad habits. You probably argue about the same issues over-and-over again and they never resolve. You have developed habits in regards to how you talk to your spouse, how you react to him or her, and how you treat them.
For example, every time there’s a blow up, perhaps you turn on the TV and shut them out. Perhaps you take off and go stay with a friend or relative for a day or two. Or, perhaps you leave the house and come back at bed time until things blow over. As someone seriously considering divorce, there are probably some bad habits in place and it will take some discipline on your part to break them.
In order to achieve a mindful divorce, you’ll want to improve the way you respond to and interact with your spouse. One way to do this is lower your stress levels. Create “inner peace.” This could mean meditating every day, seeing a counselor or therapist, or exercising. In fact, if you’re not already getting daily exercise, now is a great time to start because exercise lowers stress, boosts mood, makes you feel stronger, and improves self-confidence. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make me feel less crazy?”
You don’t have to enroll in a yoga class or go out and buy candles and incense, but you do need to find an outlet or a way to channel your negative energy so you can find peace. You don’t want thoughts of your spouse to consume you during the divorce. You don’t want their threats to take up so much space inside your head. One of the ways to reduce the clutter in your mind is to educate yourself on California’s divorce laws and seek the advice of a skilled divorce attorney. In other words, knowledge is power. The more you understand about your rights and responsibilities under the law, the less you’ll wonder about what could happen to you.
You Can’t Control Everything
Remember, you can’t control your spouse. You can’t control their attorney, and you can’t manipulate the divorce laws to your advantage. But, you can control your thoughts, and you can control how you react to your circumstances. Find out everything you need to know about asset and debt division, child support, child custody, and post-judgement modifications.
Once you’re knowledgeable, STOP obsessing about the worst-case scenarios. Worrying about what might or might not happen in the future will distract you from the now and can block you from enjoying your friends, family and other enjoyable activities – which you need to keep you emotionally balanced.
You may be divorcing a high-conflict spouse. If so, realize that he or she is not reasonable. They weren’t during the marriage and they won’t be during the divorce. Even the most minor situation can cause them to have a strong, intense reaction that is illogical. In their adult life, they failed to develop healthy conflict resolution skills. When you try to talk sense into such a person, it’s like going to an auto part store and asking for butter and then getting mad at the clerk because he says he doesn’t have any butter. Once you stop asking a crazy person to act sane, you’ll feel a lot more at peace.
The best way to handle a high-conflict spouse during a divorce is to not let them get to you. Limit your communication, and grow a thick hide. Stick to the facts when you do communicate and don’t succumb to their intimidation. Listen to your divorce attorney and follow their advice – they’re accustomed to dealing with emotionally unbalanced spouses.
Learn more by reading: “Your Marriage Under Stress.”
To speak with a Los Angeles divorce lawyer from Claery & Hammond, LLP, contact our firm for a free case evaluation.