“For a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most interesting thing about me. Now it’s not.” - Nora Ephron
High-conflict divorce happens when two people stay psychologically tangled up in each other -- even if one or both has married someone else and started a new family. Their inability to disengage and resolve conflict often leads to repeated litigation, custody battles, violation of court orders, and parental alienation, a phenomenon in which one parent turns the child against the other parent.
High-conflict individuals aren’t bad people; they just have poor strategies for getting their needs met, which makes them really tough to deal with. They can’t tolerate feeling that they’ve failed, so they look for targets to blame – generally their exes!
They have trouble regulating their emotions, recognizing that other people are entitled to different points-of-view, and understanding that there’s usually more than one way to solve a problem. High-conflict individuals may suffer from mental illness, addiction, or have features of personality disorders. And, here’s the thing:
It takes only one high-conflict personality to create divorce drama.
Dealing With A High-Conflict Ex Can Make You Feel Anxious, Depressed, And Hopeless
High-conflict exes tend to create chaos by threatening or instigating lawsuits, playing games with visitation and or/child support, bad-mouthing you to anyone who will listen, and making false allegations. They turn routine drop-offs into melodramatic events. They are particularly fond of sending hostile texts and emails to harass you!
Being on the receiving end of seemingly endless drama can become debilitating. If you’re dealing with a high-conflict ex, you may be experiencing:
- Sleep disturbances
- Depressed mood
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Difficulty eating
- Irritable outbursts
- Decreased ability to focus at work or at home
- Social withdrawal
If you feel embarrassed by your situation, you may keep your feelings to yourself, which can make you even more depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and isolated. Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can face. But you don’t need to face it alone.
Talking to a therapist who specializes in high-conflict divorce can help you feel better, more in control, and able to enjoy life again.
You Need Strategies To Help You Manage Your High-Conflict Divorce
Trying to reason with someone who is inherently not reasonable is like going to the hardware store looking for milk. You need to accept that your ex will probably never “get over it” and that you will not be able to “consciously co-parent” together, no matter what other people tell you. It’s futile trying to “talk sense” into your ex, or expect that your ex will do the “right thing” for the sake of your children.
As your therapist, my job is to educate you about your situation and support you as you develop strategies to manage your high-conflict divorce. These strategies include:
- Minimizing contact
- Developing an effective communication style
- Setting and maintaining boundaries
- Parallel Parenting
- Managing your own reactions
- Finding ways to make your children feel secure
You can’t change your ex, but you can improve the quality of your life by changing the way you react and relate to your ex – and I’m here to help you do that.