Six Tips To Help You Survive High-Conflict Divorce

Do you lose track of time obsessing over all the ways your ex has wronged you? Do you gag when you see another vitriolic email arrive in your inbox? Do you sink into a vat of despair when you contemplate years of co-parenting with someone who won’t co-parent? If so, there are ways to regain your sanity! Learning these simple truths will help set you free.

  1. There is no justice in divorce. A seasoned divorce attorney once told me: “People go to family court to get justice. Instead, they get answers.” Divorce, especially high-conflict divorce, is unfair. But so is much in life. If you’re motivated by the pursuit of elusive justice, you will wait for a very long time, (probably forever!), and waste years feeling bitter and victimized.
  2. You can’t give your ex an epiphany.Be honest: are you harboring the toxic hope that you can reason with your ex so they will change their entire personality so your life will be better? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. When you accept the way your ex is, instead of the way you would like them to be, you can then start to focus on things you can actually control – your own choices!
  3. Ruminating keeps you stuck. Marinating in resentment will keep you from moving through the stages of grief: grief that your life didn’t go as planned, grief that your kids won’t have the idyllic childhood you wanted for them. Accepting these losses may feel excruciating, but doing so is crucial if you’re going to rebuild your life.
  4. Reading about narcissism won’t help (that much). Information on narcissism abounds on the internet. Some of it is clinically sound, but much of it is delivered by so-called experts that know more about self-promotion than an accurate assessment of personality disorders. Having narcissistic features, which most of us have to some degree, is different from having a narcissistic personality disorder, which is intractable. Also, your ex can be a selfish jerk without actually being a narcissist! Consider giving yourself a break from your narcissism dissertation, and learn something that will enhance your life…like #5, below.
  5. Learning how to regulate your nervous system WILL help (a lot). Living through a high-conflict divorce keeps your sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. In order to get out of fight/flight/freeze mode, you need to know how to activate your parasympathetic nervous system in order to calm down. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing is the quickest way to self-soothe and will help you think clearly and respond rationally. Mindfulness, proper diet and sleep habits, and going easy on alcohol and drug consumption, will help too.
  6. Even “regular” people can get embroiled in high conflict. I used to think that only high-conflict personalities had apocalyptic divorces, but I’ve come to believe that almost anyone can go off the rails when they’re pulled into high-conflict situations – not just divorce. For a deeper dive into how this works (and how to get unstuck), read journalist Amanda Ripley’s fascinating book, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped And How We Get Out.

Changing your thoughts and habits will take time, so just try to focus on the present and do the next right thing, as outlined in these steps. Over time, you’ll find that your anxiety and depression have lifted, you’re no longer preoccupied with your divorce, and you actually enjoy your life.

If you found these strategies helpful and want to know more, my book, “Transcending High-Conflict Divorce: How To Disengage With Your Ex And Find Your Power” is available here.

Photo by Eye For Ebony via Unsplash

Virginia Gilbert

Virginia Gilbert

I live in Los Angeles, where I specialize in helping people going through high-conflict divorce. On this blog, you'll find insights to help people who are considering divorce, are going through divorce, or have a high-conflict divorce that never seems to get any better.

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