divorce war conflict

How to Get Through a High-Conflict Divorce

New reports of war-torn nations provoke intense fear and heartbreak. But what about “battling it out” in divorce? That is also unnecessary and leads to stress and heartache. War is never the answer, even in a high-conflict divorce. Even though your marriage didn’t work out, that doesn’t mean you can’t both get a lot of what you want in your divorce. 

Unfortunately, we know that—while ideal—a cooperative, respectful dissolution is not always an option. If you and your spouse can’t easily work out the details, are misunderstanding each other, or it’s a full-on hostile situation, below are some steps our Hello Divorce team recommends you take (if you can) when a divorce battle seems imminent.

1. Analyze your spouse’s objectives

Why is your spouse demanding more than their fair share of the assets during property division negotiations? Why are they refusing to speak with you? Is it because their feelings are hurt after you said, “I want a divorce?” Is it because they are worried you’ll create a child custody agreement that won’t let them see the kids? Understand what’s motivating their demands in the divorce. In doing so, you’ll have a better chance of responding in a way that doesn’t trigger them more. 

2. De-escalate and communicate

If you’re able to communicate with your spouse and have considered what’s motivating their behavior, try to communicate in a way that de-escalates aggression. That said, it won’t always feel “fair.” You may even have to repress your own anger. Definitely don’t agree to terms unless you actually agree to them, but do whatever you can to get through discussions about divorce as peacefully as possible, especially when dealing with a high-conflict or narcissistic spouse

You’ve heard the phrase “kill them with kindness”—we say, “convince them with kindness.” Even if they are being ridiculous, appealing to their feelings and being the bigger person will almost always help you get more of what you want.

3. Remember your objectives

Things can get heated, and that’s normal, but when you feel yourself giving into negative thoughts or behaviors, remember why you are trying to keep the peace. Of course, the goal is to not lose yourself in actions that don’t reflect who you want to be. But also, by working with your spouse, you have a better chance of getting what you want. Think of your kids, your future, and remember that divorce is just a phase that will end. You want to get through your divorce with as little regret, emotional baggage and heartache as possible.

4. Prepare for potential difficulties

If things get difficult and you’re dealing with a high-conflict situation, have a divorce plan. Is there someone you can stay with? If your finances are strained, can you use some savings or a credit card? Can someone help you with the kids? Prepare for what you can, and persevere through what you can’t. (We’ve seen a lot of hardship, but everyone has made it through—know that you can, too.)

5. Seek help

If all else fails, seek professional help. While nobody wants to spend money on a divorce, the money you spend on a divorce mediator, financial advisor, legal coach, therapist, or attorney will likely save you much more money, time, and stress in the long run. Usually, spouses are able to work through most of their divorce; it’s often just one to three issues (like custody or dividing the family home) that lead to conflict. Seek help for the issues that are preventing a peaceful transition.

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