Curb the Conflict of Divorce - Step 1


Every divorce entails some element of conflict.  Conflict, when expressed as open and obvious hostility, results in the escalation of emotional pain and financial expense.  Open and obvious hostility, as easy as it may be to engage in, damages you and your children’s psychological well-being as well as your ability to come away with the best divorce settlement possible.  There is an alternative...


Learn to curb conflict and transform the divorce experience from emotionally and financially devastating into an opportunity to manage your emotions more effectively and improve your ability to communicate. This approach does not remove the pain inherent in the divorce process but it will allow you to turn the sh*t of divorce into compost for a healthier next life chapter, both personally and professionally.    


The first step in curbing the conflict is understanding that your focus on identifying and calling out the weaknesses and faults you see in your spouse has not changed him/her or improved the dynamic between the two of you.  What curbs the conflict and improves the dynamic is turning your focus from him/her to you, to identifying your reactions to situations that inflame rather than transform them.  


So practically, how do you begin to curb the conflict and design new responses? Through focusing on you and becoming mindful of:


  • Your thoughts. Thoughts lead to emotions. 
  • Your emotions. Emotions lead to actions.  
  • Your actions. Actions either add fuel to divorce conflict or curb it. 


Once you are aware of the thoughts that fuel conflict begin looking at other ways of perceiving the situation, other perspectives.  Change how you think about a situation and open up new possibilities for improving it.  


Client Story:  One of my clients was co-parenting with a spouse that was irresponsible about time and their daughter’s getting to school on time. His thought was that the spouse was being this way to get back at him for wanting a divorce.  After looking at the situation holistically, he began to see a pattern of irresponsibility in numerous aspects of her life, not just when it came to their daughter’s schedule. Ultimately he recognized that his spouse was having serious challenges managing life, that she had begun to self medicate with alcohol, and that a family intervention was necessary. His spouse was not being vindictive. His spouse was having a psychological breakdown.  Her behavior was not about him. Rather than rail about how unfair she was being to him he was able to see that their child was at risk and began taking steps to ensure her well-being, not out of anger but out of clear sightedness and love.


Your superpower is the ability to change you.


You may be holding it that your spouse has trapped you into living a life that is unfulfilling or worse.  Consider that, while your spouse certainly influences your life, the “trap” is equally your inflexibility, you being stuck in responding to certain stimuli the same way every time and being angry that you get the same outcome. You have the power to alter your reactions and begin to craft responses that create more productive outcomes.  You know by now that attempting to change your spouse is frustrating and futile. Your superpower is the ability to change you.  


Observe what is happening within you.


It only takes one to shift a dynamic from bad to better.  Be that one. Step back when you see the flames igniting.  Breathe.  Observe what is happening within you.  Stop yourself from going down that well-worn path.  Begin recognizing and understanding where you are feeding conflict counterproductively so you can consciously and intentionally recalibrate how you respond.  Be creative and experiment with new responses that curb the conflict while you steer the situation towards outcomes you desire. This isn’t giving in, it is being strategic and managing your emotions and your responses to divorce with less pain, greater gains, and lower legal costs. 


It only takes one to shift a dynamic from bad to better. 


If you are strategic and intentional in your responses you will be able to steer this process.  If you are not you will be at the effect of your spouse's personality and ways of approaching life. The choice is yours, not his/hers. Ultimately, your ability to be clear, strategic, and intentional improves your ability to have healthier relationships moving forward with your children, friends and family, work associates, and future romantic partners.  


Every upset is a set-up for you to look at what just happened, how you perceived it, and separate facts from fiction.  Begin to innovate Plan B’s for situations you know will occur due to the nature of your spouse. She/he isn’t living life to screw you. The characteristics you dislike so hurt his/her life as well.  Work around them creatively since he/she is most likely stuck in his/her ways and not changing. You, on the other hand, have the power to change yourself to be calmer, more prepared, and certainly more effective. Respond rather than react. Slow it down and curb the conflict.  


Curb the Conflict is Step 1 of Journey Beyond Divorce's 12 Step Divorce Recovery Series. You can access the 12 Step Series on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartradio, and TuneIn.  Search Journey Beyond Divorce - Step 1 to get started! 


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