Divorce is tough. When you live with a high-conflict person, it can be even tougher. The challenges you faced during your marriage can spill into the divorce process; in many cases, those challenges are what instigated the divorce in the first place. Even if the decision to divorce was mutual, you can still find yourself facing undue stress and pushback from your spouse.
But never fear. At McCabe Russell, PA, our Bethesda divorce lawyers are particularly adept at assisting clients facing high-conflict and contested divorces. We understand that moving forward with your new life can be a challenge when your ex keeps dragging you back into the past. We want you to know that you are not alone; you have advocates on your side.
The 6 emotional stages of divorce
Many people imagine a legal battle when they think of divorce, but the reality is that there’s an emotional battle, too. Each stage of this battle can vary in difficulty and timing for each person and their situation, but it’s usually a tough road ahead no matter what. There are six emotional phases to divorce:
- Denial. Especially if you’ve been in your marriage for a long time, it can be hard for you to accept the possibility of a divorce. You may feel that there is something that you could do to still save your marriage.
- Shock. You or your partner may panic and act in atypical ways.
- Contrasting emotions. Your emotions will get the best of you. You can feel like you’re drowning under all your varying emotions.
- Bargaining. No matter the circumstances, you may make yourself believe that you can do something to save your marriage.
- Letting go. You will realize that nothing will change the ultimate fate of your marriage. You may feel a strange, welcoming sense of freedom.
- Acceptance. Your positive emotions are here to stay. You have finally accepted that there is a life ahead of you after the divorce.
5 tips for handling pre-divorce conflict
The decision to end a marriage is possibly one of the most difficult ones you can make. It takes a lot of thinking and weighing the pros and cons. Truly, there is no simple way to determine if a divorce is the best path to take, but there are five steps to take beforehand:
- Openly communicate with your partner. Discuss your concerns. Is there any way to save the marriage? If not, can you agree on how you wish to proceed? You may be able to avoid conflict if you can come to some agreement about how you want the process to go.
- Manage other current stress in your life. Having marital issues is stressful enough; external stressors can make it worse. If you can, try to address those stressors separately.
- Make a plan. When you make the decision to divorce, there are some immediate decisions you need to make: where will you stay? Where will the children go? How will you handle bills? Start small and practical to ensure you are safe and secure.
- Create stability. Divorce can be unmooring. Building a support network is crucial for your emotional stability, but you also need to ensure you have enough financial security to survive. Review your assets and debts, and make sure to tell your attorney the truth about your finances so we can help you secure temporary support if needed.
- Take care of yourself. Stressful situations can be draining. Ensure that your physical and emotional health is in check and prioritize it.
5 tips for handling conflict during the divorce
Many adjustments happen during a divorce, and it can quickly become overwhelming and taxing. If you find yourself digging in your heels, or if your soon-to-be-ex is refusing to budge, here are five ways to help de-escalate conflict during the divorce process:
- Listen to understand. It can be easy to block out what we don’t want to hear, but it’s crucial to have an open heart. Reflect your opinions in a respectful manner.
- We have all been told at one point or another to take a deep breath. The truth is… it helps. Breathing helps to reduce stress and will help you relax so that you can continue communicating with your soon-to-be ex-partner.
- Compromise when possible. Focus on what is important and let your guard down when appropriate. This can pave the way for a smoother process.
- Take ownership of your part in the situation. If an apology is necessary, do it. It’s important to not react defensively.
- Say what truly matters to you. Openly communicate what you need and want from this situation, and you both may be able to reach a solution on how to move forward.
Note: if your spouse is threatening physical harm to you, your children, or even your pets, everything changes. High-conflict can devolve into acts of abuse or assault. Contact us immediately so we can seek an interim protective order on your behalf.
5 tips for handling post-divorce conflict
Although one partner may have already reached the acceptance stage of the divorce, the other may have not. If the marriage was a tumultuous one, you can face many conflicts after everything has been said and done with the divorce (legally, at least). Here are five tips for handling conflict after your divorce:
- Be respectful. Even if your ex-partner is the one stirring the pot, ensure that you are always as respectful as possible. Not only can it help end petty squabbles, but it’s good behavior to model for your children.
- Follow the rules. The legal part is never truly done. Follow your agreement as it is written and ordered, and go through proper legal channels if you need to modify it for any reason.
- Let go of hurt feelings. Understandably, a divorce can bring about many painful emotions, but it’s crucial to let go of the past in order to move on. A counselor, a therapist, or a support group may help.
- Put the children first. Remember that children absorb lessons from everything. If they hear you badmouthing your ex, or see you behave childishly or angrily, they will internalize those feelings. As hard as it may be (and some days will be harder than others), always model good behavior for children, and allow them to speak with you as they need in order to process the divorce themselves.
- See it from their perspective. Although it may be challenging, each person has their own way of handling emotions and stress. If you can walk a mile (or even a few steps) in your ex’s shoes, it may help you understand their reactions in a new light.
Learning how to move past a problematic divorce takes a lot of time, patience, and cooperation from both parties. If you’re struggling with divorce, you may be full of questions and concerns about the process. Whether you’re still in the marriage and contemplating divorce or you’re in the middle of one already, call McCabe Russell P.A. for help. Our experienced Bethesda family law attorneys will ensure that you proceed in the best ways possible. We also have offices in Fulton, Rockville, and Colombia that can help. Fill out our contact form today to set up a no-obligation consultation.