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Divorcing or Separating from a High Conflict Spouse

Does My Spouse Have a High Conflict Personality?

  1. Is your spouse rigid and uncompromising?
  2. Does your spouse have difficulty accepting and healing from loss?
  3. Do negative emotions dominate their thinking?
  4. Does your spouse have an inability to reflect on their own behavior?
  5. Does your spouse have difficulty empathizing with others?
  6. Is your spouse preoccupied with blaming others (mostly you)?
  7. Does your spouse avoid any responsibility for the problem or the solution?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then your spouse may have a High Conflict Personality. According to the High Conflict Institute, these are some of the patterns you see in a person with a high conflict personality.

If this describes the person you are divorcing or separating from, then it is important that you learn the tools you will need to navigate through your separation from them as skillfully as possible. This is important as these types of spouses tend to engage in extreme behaviors which can harm you, and most importantly your children.

As stated by the High Conflict Institute, such extreme behaviours:

“…include shoving or hitting, spreading rumors or outright lies, trying to have obsessive contact and keep track of your every move – or refusing to have any contact at all, even though you may be depending on them to respond. Many of their extreme behaviors are related to losing control over their emotions, such as suddenly throwing things or making very mean statements to those they care about the most. Other behaviors are related to an intense drive to control or dominate those closest to them, such as hiding your personal items, keeping you from leaving a conversation, threatening extreme action if you don’t agree, or physically abusing you.”

Some of these spouses will have such lack of control over their behaviours, they will include your children in their ‘war’ against you. Divorcing or separating from a spouse with a High Conflict Personality can be especially difficult, and filled with such turmoil it makes it hard to fathom an end to what some of my clients have described as a ‘never-ending nightmare’.

Why Is Managing Conflict So Important?

The biggest reason to skillfully learn to manage your interactions with your high conflict spouse is to protect your child or children. Research, time and time again, has made it very clear that children exposed to conflict between parents are at high risk numerous negative outcomes, which include emotional and behavioral difficulties, drug and alcohol dependency in later life, trouble with interpersonal relationships, problems settling and achieving at school, sleep difficulties, and poorer health.

Coming up from us, is a series (Three Bees) of three different techniques, methods or tools you may use to manage your interactions with your high conflict personality spouse.

By Lorraine Mlambo- Family and Surrogacy Lawyer at RLM Law, Edmonton (Alberta).