Dealing with Difficult People in Divorce

How do you deal with the difficult people in your life, those who thrive off of conflict? 

We all have them, whether it is a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone in your family.  Difficult people are hard to deal with in your everyday life, and even harder to deal with when going through a divorce or separation, and trying to coparent.  When dealing with a difficult partner,  an amicable divorce might seem impossible.  Reducing conflict is still possible though, by looking critically at the behavior and coming up with an appropriate strategy on how to respond.

I had the opportunity to go to a live training hosted by Howard County Collaborative Professionals on November 7, 2022, where Bill Eddy, from High Conflict Institute presented on this topic.  He is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, as well as an author, speaker and trainer, focusing on managing disputes involving high conflict situations.  At the presentation he went deeper into some of the skills he trains professionals to use to understand and manage high conflict disputes – namely divorce and custody disputes, but also in the workplace and other relationships.

Resisting temptation to label

When dealing with difficult behavior in a partner, I often see clients jumping to conclusions about their partner’s mental health.  This can be harmful, and make an already difficult divorce implode.  Bill Eddy strongly discourages individuals from self-diagnosing others.  When you self-diagnose others it serves no productive purpose and creates more acrimony.  Even worse, I have seen many folks lose credibility in the court’s eyes by alleging that their spouse has a personality disorder without an actual diagnosis.  I agree with Bill Eddy’s advice to focus on the behaviors, not labeling them.

Focus on the troublesome behaviors

When you start focusing the actual behaviors, you’ll likely start recognizing patterns in your partner’s behaviors.  Then you can use that information to adapt your approach and come up with a strategy for managing your partner.  That information can help you manage the situation and get a better outcome if you use it strategically.  Do you know your partner is going to be triggered right after exchanging the kids?  It might still make your stomach turn when you get the nasty text while driving home, but you can be better equipped to diffuse the situation if you are prepared to respond.

Create a plan to respond 

Many of the skills and tools we discussed at the training are ones that you can use in your everyday life, as difficult people that cross your path.  They are some of the tools and skills that I use in coaching, to help clients create a plan to respond to difficult behaviors.  While an amicable divorce is not always possible, an informed, thoughtful, approach can significantly dial down conflict. 

Allison McFadden is a Divorce and Co-Parenting Coach.  She has helped clients navigate divorce for over a decade, first as a family law attorney, and now as a coach.  She made the decision to focus exclusively on coaching because she believes that individuals should be in control of their own destiny, and decisions about children should be made by their parents.  As a divorce coach, she can help you navigate your divorce with purpose and dignity.  Learn how she can help you create a roadmap forward here.

This information is provided for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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