Toxic Divorce: What To Expect And How To Stay Sane
Are you frustrated that conventional divorce advice doesn’t seem to apply to you? Wondering when your ex is going to “get over it,” as your friends and family keep promising? Feeling overwhelmed by attempts to co-parent with someone who’s chronically hostile and manipulative?
If this is your experience, you have a toxic divorce and you probably won’t be able to mediate or make traditional co-parenting strategies work for you. You can, however, learn skills and strategies to manage conflict and crazy-making behavior.
What to expect in a toxic divorce
Electronic warfare. With a push of a button, a toxic ex spreads their poison through a never-ending stream of hostile emails and vitriolic text messages. Electronic correspondence is beloved by toxic exes because it’s provides them with a 24/7 ability to get under their former partner’s skin. They have no genuine interest in using emails or texts to deliver information; they want a quick and easy way to keep you on the defensive.
Lengthy legal battles. Toxic exes tend to hire attorneys who are equally toxic. Expect a flame-throwing lawyer who will generate endless paperwork, enable your spouse’s spurious allegations, and make negotiation next to impossible.
Kids caught in the middle. Your toxic ex may try to undermine your relationship with your child by making him or think you’re a bad parent. Your ex may also to intrude on your parenting time by frequent calls to the kids so they can check up on you.
Your ex spreads lies about you. Toxic exes love drama. And what better way to create some than telling anyone who will listen that you’re bad, evil, and/or crazy? Getting people on their side is “proof” that they’re the good guy.
You’re at the end of your rope. Going through a toxic divorce can make it hard to function. You may have trouble eating and sleeping. You may struggle to concentrate at work. Perhaps you’re more irritable than usual, or on high alert, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
5 steps to detox your divorce
Implement a communication protocol. If you respond to your toxic ex’s crazy emails with defensiveness and anger, you will just invite more conflict. When writing your ex, keep communication concise, informative, and neutral in tone. Never hit “send” when you’re upset. Instead, wait till you’re calm, edit your response so that it contains only facts (no opinions, feelings, advice) and then send your reply. In cases where hostile emails and texts cross the line intro threats or stalking, you can file for a temporary restraining order to stop all contact.
Don’t choose a shark attorney. You don’t need a lawyer who’s aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. You do need a family law attorney who’s assertive, smart and strategic and who knows how to safeguard their clients from toxicity. Some toxic and/or narcissist spouses are very good at hiding their toxicity in front of a judge. A good attorney knows how to reveal the truth about what you’ve endured.
Keep kids clear of the toxic stew. Don’t badmouth your toxic ex in front of your kids and ask them to come to you when they’re upset with you (instead of going to your ex), so you can work things out. You want to be the safe parent who models conflict resolution skills so stay calm if they repeat your ex’s propaganda. Also be on the lookout for signs of parental alienation and ways you can reduce the risk for strain on your relationship.
Focus on what you can control. You can’t control what your ex says about you. High-conflict exes need to blame you in order to keep their egos intact, so they have no incentive to take the high road. Focus on what you can control: showing your children how to handle adversity. In some situations, another more formal solution is to include a non-disparagement clause in your divorce or separation agreement.
Build trauma resiliency skills. Living with a toxic divorce is traumatic. You need to stop doing things that trigger more trauma, such as engaging back in hostile communication and ruminating about all the ways your ex wronged you. These can be difficult steps for you to take, so prioritize developing coping skills such as mindfulness, meditation, and a go-to toolbox of self-soothing activities. Working with a psychotherapist who is also a trauma specialist can help.
On a final note, put your toxic divorce in its place by following a self-imposed divorce curfew. Do not do anything divorce-related after 8 pm. Shifting your focus to something positive (or at least nothing to do with divorce) will help you sleep, calm down your nervous system, and focus on your future.
Is your divorce turning toxic? Learn how to protect yourself by formulating a clear legal strategy. We can help. To get answers to all your questions about high conflict divorce, including parenting time and parental alienation concerns, please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation. Take the first step towards securing your future. Call us today: 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.
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