Has the chaos from your high-conflict divorce taken over your life? Does the unrelenting drama make it hard for you to function at work and be present for your kids? Are you wondering when you’ll ever be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep, or stop worrying about the future? Here are 7 ways to minimize divorce drama and reclaim your life.
Don’t hit “send” when you’re upset. Firing off an email or text when you’re angry, scared, or feeling self-righteous will just encourage your ex to respond in kind. Resist the urge to lash out or set your former spouse straight (you never will). Instead, write a draft and wait till you’ve calmed down to review it. When you’ve edited out everything incendiary, then you’re ready to hit send.
Use skillful communication techniques. One of the best ways to de-escalate conflict is to learn skillful communication strategies. Venting, lecturing, giving advice, and trying to give your former spouse an epiphany are unskillful response that will antagonize an angry ex. When writing or speaking to your ex, be brief, communicate only information and facts, use a neutral tone, and set clear limits.
Eat and sleep well. Insomnia and the “divorce diet” will tax your physical health and your nervous system. When you don’t feel well and think clearly, you will be more likely to do and say things that make matters worse. Eating regular meals and practicing good sleep hygiene will make it easier for you to function and manage your behaviors.
Utilize a divorce curfew. Thinking and talking about your divorce 24/7 will keep you in “high-alert mode” and heighten divorce trauma. It’s critical to bring your nervous system back to baseline by taking time-outs from your divorce. Institute your own “divorce curfew” by ceasing all divorce-related activities and conversations by 8 p.m. This will help you get a good night’s sleep and shift your focus to the positive. When you take a break from drama, you’re better able to respond in measured ways that don’t invite more conflict.
Do your part to keep kids out of the middle. Don’t say anything to your kids that you wouldn’t want repeated to your ex. Sharing details of your divorce, or venting about your former spouse, damages kids and increases the odds that they will become “messengers” transmitting what you’ve said to your co-parent. This will then lead to a toxic game of “telephone,” where statements are distorted and misunderstood. Keep your children out of the middle by communicating directly with your ex.
Have good boundaries. Intruding on your ex’s time with the kids, or the way in which they run their house, will create chaos and ill will. Part of accepting divorce is realizing that you won’t be privy to most of what goes on in your co-parents home, and, unless your kids’ safety is at risk, what does go on is really none of your business. Staying in your own lane will keep conflict from escalating.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness skills help you tolerate difficult emotions and make skillful choices so that you are not acting out of anger and fear and acting in ways that inflame a hostile ex. To learn more about mindfulness, read books on the subject and listen to guided mediations.
While you can’t control your ex’s toxic behavior, you can learn to de-escalate conflict so it no longer runs the show.
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