High conflict divorce is real and it is ugly. Often there is one party who is driving the conflict and that party usually presents well, refuses to pay any money – whether ordered to or not, does not have any legal consequences for failure to pay, can afford good legal counsel, and often has manipulated his/her own counsel into believing irrational positions. The other party is usually completely hysterical because the unjust antics have gone on so long, and therefore does not present well, and usually has been dropped by their lawyer for nonpayment. We end up hearing from the “victim” party who wants some kind of magic cure to this problem or some “super lawyer” who will work for free. This is not the answer.
People in this situation need to step back and first and foremost begin an analysis of their own life and what are their needs as they relate to the high conflict person. This seems simple but it is not. What people need and what they want are two different things. So many victim parties get trapped into fighting only for what they want and perceive to be what they “must-have” they lose sight of what they really need and how to get it. For instance, maybe they want custody of the kids but they have already lost that battle in court. So unless the kids are in physical danger which often they are not, the issue becomes not an analysis of how to get an attorney and keep fighting but an analysis of how often I can see my kids and how can I still mother or father them to the best of my ability. I know this is not what the victim party wants to examine but it is an unexamined issue. So much energy is spent on getting custody, no energy is spent on looking at the situation as it is and how to make it work for you to satisfy your needs now and in the coming years.
Or perhaps you are in the middle of an ugly divorce that is only getting worse. You are running out of money and energy and the emotional toll is tearing you up as well as your relationship with your kids. Continuing to focus on the divorce from a win/lose perspective will continue to drive the conflict. Your lawyer is usually not the person who has the time or energy or even skill to help you refocus, analyze where you want to go with your life, and change your goals. But if you do not change your focus and examine your real needs, the high conflict process will continue through the divorce and after with no end in sight.
Couple the concept of examining your goals and identifying your needs with also learning how to change your behavior when dealing with the high conflict person. There are skills and techniques that work and ultimately have the effect of empowering you and giving you a sense of control. That is a far different feeling than the overwhelming sense of defeat, helplessness, and re-victimization that repeats itself ad nauseam. Continuing to fight the high conflict person is good at and you are not is like never learning from a mistake or not realizing you are handicapped and continuing to act like you are not. This is exactly what drives the high conflict person. He or she wants that control and you continue to play the game on unequal footing. Stop it already.
What so many victims come to realize is that once they change their goals and behavior, the whole relationship changes. I stress again that changing your goals is not going to be instantaneous. It is going to take some talking about and time and careful thought. But it must be done. Then changing your behavior is crucial. Not getting along with someone is a two-way street. I don’t care how awful the other person is, it takes two to tango and you play a role in it. Many times, if one of you is willing to change, the whole relationship will change. This is especially true with negative personalities. Somebody has to get in there and be the catalyst – start the healing process. It may mean changing your goals for right now but it can also mean gaining more ground in the future you would never dream could be possible or even changing yourself enough to where what you thought you needed from that person you really do not need or never needed. You only thought you needed it or deserved it because you were supposed to think that.
In a high conflict situation, you have to take control of your life again. You have to establish priorities and boundaries and actually work on moving yourself out of the rut of playing into the high conflict game by looking inside not outside. We must endeavor to love those around us – not with some mushy love – but with dignity and respect for ourselves and them and we will then see the transformation.
Sanchez and Baietto LLC specialize in high conflict coaching of individuals and high conflict mediation. Give us a call to discuss your situation.