5 Strategies To Deal With A High-Conflict Ex-Wife
High conflict ex wife? If you have the supreme misfortune of divorcing a high-drama spouse, you need certain strategies to get you through divorce (and beyond) with your sanity in tact. But before we delve into those tips, let’s get specific about what makes someone a high-conflict personality (HCP), and not just someone who’s temporarily making poor choices due to a difficult situation.
Characteristics of High-Conflict Exes
- They’re blamers. Does your ex blame you for the downfall of the marriage, difficulties with the divorce, and any problems with the children? Does she feel that you’re 100% in the wrong while she’s right about everything? HCPs seek targets of blame so they don’t have to take responsibility for their behavior.
- They’re rigid. HCPs see the world in terms of black-and-white. There are good guys (that’s them!), and bad guys (you, of course). There’s only way to do things, and, unfortunately, it’s not yours. The HCP’s inflexible thinking makes it hard for her to see that there’s more than one way to solve a problem.
- They have extreme emotions and behaviors. Does she turn molehills into mountains? Does she use tears, screams, rants, even throwing objects to hijack conversations? Does she turn minor infractions on your part into allegations of abuse or unfit fatherhood? HCPs have difficulty moderating their emotions and actions so they create unnecessary drama.
5 Key Strategies To Deal With Your High-Conflict Ex
Have you determined your ex is an HCP? Don’t despair! While you can’t change her, there are things you can do to help you manage your divorce from this difficult person.
- Utilize an effective communication protocol. Implementing an effective communication protocol is a critical step in defusing conflict. When emailing and/or texting, remember: be brief, informative (no opinions, feelings, advice, threats), neutral in tone, and firm (set your boundaries and leave negotiating for attorneys).
- Manage your reactions. Don’t add fuel to your ex-wife’s fire by responding with equal intensity. If your blood pressure spikes when you read one of her incendiary emails, wait 24 hours before responding. If she yells at you, explain calmly but firmly that you will be happy to discuss matters when she stops yelling and exit the conversation. If you find yourself in a constant state of turmoil, see a therapist to help you cope.
- Practice radical acceptance. Your ex-wife is who she is. You are not going to be able to change her personality or what she says to your children. You may never be able to co-parent effectively. Fighting reality will just make you miserable and expend energy trying to change circumstances beyond your control. Accepting your ex and high-conflict divorce doesn’t mean that you’re passive; it just means that you accept life on life’s terms while you make the best choices available to you in the present.
- Hire an attorney who will be appropriately aggressive. Hiring a shark attorney will create more drama and drive up legal fees. You want a lawyer who will be only as aggressive as the situation calls for. For instance, you need someone who’s comfortable in the courtroom as you might end up there, but you also want someone who’s going to do everything in his or her power to settle out of court.
- Sweep your side of the street. Shift your focus from your ex’s flaws to what you could be doing differently. You can’t change her, so it’s pointless to obsess about all the things she does that drive you nuts. Take stock of your own shortcomings: do you have a temper? Do you over-accommodate to avoid conflict? Bad-mouth her to your kids? Get clear about what you’re doing to exacerbate the problem and change your behavior.