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3 Tips for dealing with high-conflict divorce

No divorce is easy, but it can become particularly challenging with an ex-partner who turns every issue into a fight. Maybe this person thrives on drama, or sees every compromise as a lost battle in the war to “win” the divorce.

Whatever the reasons, getting through a high-conflict divorce requires skilled help, both legally and emotionally. Here are just a few tips on how to deal with high-conflict divorce.

Remember you’re not in control of your ex

You can only control one thing: you. Don’t assume that if you just use the right arguments that he or she will “see reason” and start cooperating. High-conflict people tend to only see their side of things, and trying to convince them otherwise will likely just create more frustration for you. The more time you spend attempting to change them, the less time you’re focused on moving on. After all, their inability or unwillingness to change is likely what drove you to divorce in the first place.

Instead, focus on what you can do to move the process forward. That could be as simple as getting in touch with your attorney about your next steps or as complex as finding the right therapist to help you or your children through this difficult process. Either way, the power lies in what you can do to move your family forward.

Act, don’t react

Remember that overly dramatic people like to stir up trouble because it deflects attention away from their own insecurities. The best thing you can do is resist the temptation to retaliate. Before firing off an inflammatory email or text message, take a minute to breathe and re-center yourself. Walk away from the screen for a few minutes, if that’s what it takes.

Treat your separation like a business transaction, if that helps you. In the realm of work, emotional outbursts are rarely rewarded. When communicating with your ex, adopt a professional, fact-driven tone. Acknowledge his or her concerns without engaging the emotional weight behind them.

Deflect personal attacks by focusing on the big picture

Your ex likely knows exactly which buttons to push to get a rise out of you. Ultimately, however, what they think about you isn’t your concern anymore. As stated above, you can’t control their thoughts or actions anyway. Often a personal attack or insult is more about them than you. You’re an easy target to blame for all of their misfortunes, and attacking you is an easy way to avoid dealing with their own shortcomings.

The healthiest thing to do is ignore these attacks as best you can and focus on your future. Disengaging from a toxic situation isn’t impossible. With the help of a skilled support network, you can move your family in a more positive direction.

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