5 Tips for Navigating Divorce with a High-Conflict Spouse


June 27, 2019

NAvigating Divorce with High Conflict Spouse

Divorce is never easy, but it can be downright awful under the wrong conditions.

While some bickering and arguing is expected during your divorce, if your spouse has a tendency to seek out things to pick at and fight about, you’re in for quite the ride.

But just because your spouse seems to always be spoiling for a fight doesn’t mean your entire divorce process has to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. There are some things you can do to help decrease the risk and intensity of the clashes.

Here are 5 tips for navigating divorce with a high-conflict spouse:

Don’t Apologize

Your spouse may make it seem as if everything going wrong – the divorce, money struggles, even the weather – is your fault. 

While it may be tempting to apologize, admitting fault gives your spouse a way to continue worming into your thoughts. Apologizing opens the door to further conversation when what you really need to do is shut down communication.

If you’re being blamed for the problem of the day, simply change the subject or leave the conversation as quickly as you can.

Don’t Argue

On the other hand, don’t give in to the impulse to argue your side of whatever story, no matter how right your point of view may be.

Your spouse is just looking for an opportunity to argue, and feeding into this impulse will just cause the pattern to continue instead of stop.

Just as you should keep quiet and change the subject or leave the conversation if you’re facing blame for things that aren’t your fault, you need to look for ways to get out of a situation if your spouse is trying to get into a bickering match.

Limit Contact

The best way to minimize fights is to avoid situations where they can happen altogether.

If you can completely stay out of contact with your spouse during your divorce, except on rare occasions, this is the best way to avoid conflicts. 

However, this option isn’t practical for many couples, especially those with children or assets that need to be managed throughout the divorce process.

Whenever possible, keep communication to print-only methods such as email, text, or special family communication apps. This gives you some distance from the things your spouse says to try poking at you, helping you resist becoming engaged in the fight.

For the times when you do have to speak on the phone or in person, limit your conversations to only the subject at hand, and only if you’re trying to solve a problem.

Rehashing the past won’t help you decide what real estate agent to use to list your house, for example, and putting up those clear boundaries makes it easier to exit the situation if they’re crossed.

Remain Calm

Your spouse is looking for ways to rile you up. Maybe that’s bringing up an argument you had years ago, or a mistake you made at some point in your marriage.

Do everything you can to not play into the picking. If they attempt to goad you into engaging, take a deep breath and calmly change the subject.

This may cause their anger to increase, especially if you’ve never responded this way to their bickering before. 

Get out of the conversation if they do not calm down, especially if you’re feeling unsafe.

Bring Backup

In some cases, your spouse may avoid attempting to fight with you if others are around in order to save face.

Bring someone else with you if you need to meet with your spouse, preferably a friend or family member. This person can help get you out of a situation if the need arises, and can be another set of ears and eyes in case you need witnesses about what was said or done.

Avoid bringing along a new romantic partner, however, as this person’s presence can cause behavior to escalate.

Divorce Attorney in Rockville, MD

You deserve the best representation you can get in your divorce. Whether you and your spouse are at odds about everything or largely agree on how your property should be split, having an experienced attorney to guide you through the process gives you the peace of mind many people need during a trying time. The team at the Law Office of Sandra Guzman-Salvado have helped many clients through their divorce processes, helping them come out on the other side stronger and happier. Schedule a consultation today!