Conflict Avoidant? How to Negotiate What You Really Want in Divorce
Most of us don’t like disagreement, but it can be especially overwhelming for those who are conflict-avoidant. Does this sound like you? You’ve spent your whole life “making nice” and smoothing the edges over for everyone else. But now, here you are facing a divorce, a situation that may be full of conflict, and you are simply not prepared to assertively ask your ex-spouse for what you really want.
If you’re in this boat, you may be wondering how to get what you need out of your divorce settlement.
Does conflict make you cringe?
You’re not alone if conflict makes you cringe. Many people were taught to be nice at all costs and to not upset others. Perhaps you were brought up in a home where being nice was a badge of honor. Perhaps you were criticized or reprimanded for behaviors that were considered disagreeable or even assertive. Or, maybe you developed a habit of people-pleasing to calm your fears of being unlikeable and rejected.
While such behavior may have worked for you as a child, it can be problematic in adulthood if you find it difficult to ask for the things you want and deserve.
Whether you avoid conflict at work, with your spouse, with your kids, or with strangers at the grocery store checkout, it can manifest in many self-defeating ways.
Do you engage in any of these conflict-avoidant behaviors?
- Putting up with uncomfortable or unhappy situations
- Apologizing for things that aren’t your fault
- Being afraid to express your feelings or opinions
- Ignoring or denying that a problem exists
- Becoming resentful instead of addressing the issue
- Resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors
- Deliberately avoiding important conversations
- Having expectations that aren’t based on communication
Unfortunately, while you are hoping to be seen as nice and lovable, people around you may take advantage of your “good nature.” This can result in you not getting the respect you crave, and it can cut off honest communication with important people in your life.
How conflict avoidance can impact your divorce settlement
If you’re conflict-avoidant, chances are you navigated your marriage the same way you handle most other situations in your life.
This can mean that, when negotiating a divorce settlement agreement, your spouse might use your conflict avoidance to their advantage. And while a conflict-free divorce is something most people strive for, avoiding conflict to your own detriment is not the optimum way to get a fair settlement.
You may have given your spouse the upper hand during your marriage, but now that you’re parting, your top priorities should be yourself, your kids, and your future. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you prepared to insist that your marital property division be fair in light of your circumstances and not just what your spouse chooses to offer you?
- Are you ready to insist that your children are financially provided for and that your custody arrangements are fair and equitable?
- Do you need spousal support until you get back on your feet? If so, are you able to insist upon it?
While you want to be fair, you also don’t want to sell yourself short. Divorce requires communication and compromise. However, if these things were missing in your marriage, it’s doubtful they will suddenly appear now, during your divorce negotiation process. This requires that you step up and advocate for yourself.
Take your power back with these negotiation tips
During your divorce negotiations, you will need to discuss issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support. These are important matters that can greatly impact your future, but there may be a big difference between what you want and what your spouse wants.
Before you begin any negotiation with your soon-to-be ex, set yourself up for success. Although the last thing you want is an angry divorce that stretches on forever, you also need to consider your own future needs and be prepared to support them.
- Take responsibility for yourself. Actively participate in the negotiation, even if it’s difficult for you.
- Educate yourself. Learn how the divorce process works.
- Understand the divorce laws in your state. It benefits you to know what you’re entitled to in your divorce case.
- Organize your finances. Decide ahead of time what you feel is a fair property division.
- Focus on your children. Think about them rather than yourself when supporting your requests for parenting time and child support.
- Put everything in writing. Rehearse your positions in case you feel overwhelmed or overpowered.
- Focus on the big picture. What do you want for yourself post-divorce?
- Don’t fall into old habits. For example, don’t give in to things you don’t want or react in anger or passive aggression. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, table the conversation temporarily. Return to it when you feel calm and can come from a place of strength.
- Consider working with a mediator. This can be helpful if you aren’t sure you’re up to facing the conflict that often comes with divorce negotiations
What is divorce mediation?
A divorce mediator is a neutral third party trained to facilitate a successful negotiation between divorcing spouses and help them come to a fair settlement on everything from alimony to the division of marital assets. A mediator, while often an attorney, doesn’t give legal advice or represent either side. Rather, their job is to guide both parties to a fair and conflict-free divorce agreement.
Divorce doesn’t have to be about conflict. If you and your spouse can find a way to peacefully discuss a solution that works for both of you, whether through collaboration or mediation, you are likely to end up experiencing less conflict and also spending less money on your divorce. It’s a win-win.
At Hello Divorce, our goal is to help divorcing couples navigate this life change with the least amount of expense and conflict possible. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call with us to learn how we can make your divorce easier and more conflict-free.