Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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Don't let your high-conflict ex cause a high-conflict divorce

Even when you are certain it's for the best, your divorce is going to bring with it some level of stress, no matter how amicable the split. Every relationship is different, though, and unfortunately, some divorces are going to be more contentious than others, no matter how hard you try to remain calm and civil. This is especially true in cases where your soon-to-be ex is what psychologists might consider a high-conflict personality. But what, exactly, is a high-conflict personality?

Many psychologists define high-conflict individuals as those with borderline, narcissistic or anti-social personalities. As such, they have a higher tendency to engage in contentious or difficult behavior; of course, if this contentiousness is one of the reasons you are divorcing in the first place, you're already well aware of this proclivity. Regardless, what matters now is knowing what signs to look for so that you can take steps to protect yourself and minimize your own stress and tension during your divorce proceedings.

Signs of a high-conflict personality

It's not your job to diagnose your ex-spouse. In fact, you're getting a divorce, so at this point, psychological labels don't really matter. What does matter is your ability to watch out for troublesome behavior so that you can take the best course of action to address it. Some problematic actions to keep an eye out for may include:

  • Deceitfulness
  • Blaming
  • Manipulation
  • A lack of empathy
  • A refusal to compromise

Unfortunately, when your ex-spouse displays even some of these character traits, your divorce proceedings will likely no longer be about seeking mediation, attempting to find common ground or even finding a way to co-parent effectively. Lying, false accusations, refusal to ever accept any blame or compromise, and refusing to even attempt to see anything from another's point of view often make an amicable divorce impossible.

How to deal with a high-conflict personality during divorce

Instead, you'll want to be proactive in finding a way to move toward a more stable future for you and your children by trying to:

  • Remain grounded
  • Empower yourself
  • Stay aware
  • Enforce boundaries
  • Seek support

Since you're already aware of the possibility of extreme behavior on the part of your ex — especially at this high-stress time when he or she may be feeling threatened — you'll want to document everything carefully while trying to stay grounded. If possible, avoid letting your ex draw you into emotional drama and try to decide which battles are worth fighting without engaging in every little argument. You may find it helpful to remind yourself that this divorce is a stepping stone to a more stable future.

Additionally, your divorce is only one part of your life, and a temporary one at that. You can enlist the support, not only of friends and family members, but of New York professionals. There are therapists who can offer counsel, as well as legal professionals in the Williamsville area who have experience in dealing with high-conflict individuals and contentious divorces. These resources will be able to offer you invaluable guidance and ongoing support as you navigate through this trying time toward a brighter tomorrow.

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