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Overcoming the Challenges of Divorcing a ‘High-Conflict’ Spouse

It’s not a secret that divorce often takes an emotional toll on anyone. Spouses resent each other, tempers run high, and, if children are involved, the entire divorce process can be contentious and drawn out. This is especially common during the first year of the separation, so, given the circumstances, this turmoil is quite normal. But with time, the grieving and anger eventually lead to acceptance.

Most divorce attorneys and family therapists refer to this as a ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ divorce. But what happens in a divorce that isn’t normal?

What a Divorce with a ‘High-Conflict’ Person Looks Like

There are, however, a small number of divorced individuals who can’t heal from the separation and continue to be angry and resentful years after the divorce. More often than not, these people refuse to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and blame their ex-spouses for their difficulties and breakup.

These people may have a mental health condition such as narcissistic or antisocial behavior, or even a personality disorder. Other times, they simply have deep-seated, unhealthy personality traits and beliefs that make it hard for them to move on after a marriage breakup, and so, they resort to controlling and/or aggressive behaviors.

In any case, it’s important to know how to act when divorcing someone who is a ‘high-conflict’ person. Below are a few things to remember.

  • Don’t take things personally. Your former partner’s actions and statements come from a place of irrational anger and fear. You are not at fault for feeling that his/her blaming tactics and demands are unreasonable.
  • Set up boundaries. If you feel that you are being disrespected or that your former spouse has crossed a line, you have every right walk away or end a phone call. Make it clear that you will only continue interacting with that person if he or she is calm and willing to have a civil discussion.
  • Recognize blackmail and bullying. Again, set up your boundaries. By refusing to cooperate with unreasonable demands, you are making it clear to your ex that you will not be manipulated or bullied into doing something.
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ High-conflict people employ a variety of tricks to get you to agree to their demands. These include gaslighting, emotional blackmail, belittling you, twisted logic, verbal abuse through jokes, and discounting information. Remember, you have every right not to give in to your ex’s demands without feeling guilty or intimidated.
  • Take care of yourself. For many men and women, their partners can be their ‘entire lives.’ And so, because they feel guilt or remorse over the divorce, they tolerate the abuse they get and/or the unreasonable demands of their partners out of some desire to atone for failing to make the marriage work. Now more than ever, you need a support group composed of friends and family. It’s also a good idea to consult a counsellor who can walk you through your emotions, as well as a reliable divorce attorney who can see your rights are protected.

If you have more questions about divorce in Texas you would like to ask a qualified divorce attorney about, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation about your case.

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