Regaining power in a high conflict divorce

June 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

Maybe at first you thought that it couldn’t be that bad.

Or you thought maybe if you could just help, it would get better.

Or maybe, now that you’re not new to it and you’re completely run out of the will to try anymore, you’ve resigned yourself to realizing that it is that bad and you helping doesn’t seem to make a difference, you hang onto hope that maybe one day she will just learn to let go and your life could approximate something even close to normal.

You married into a high conflict divorce, and that’s really the shit of it.

Everything out there for blended families offers such shiny, glimmering prospects: co-parenting, family scheduler, 50/50 split custody, mediation, alternate agreements. All such seductive words. All useless in a high conflict divorce. Especially if you are the stepmom in the equation.

It’s a harsh reality to face. There is nothing you can do to change the situation.

How much energy have you wasted trying to be the conduit, trying to diffuse her vitriol, trying to keep the peace? How many emails have you helped write, how many phone calls from her have you taken? How long did you continue to beat your head against the brick wall before you realized your head was starting to crack and not the wall? Are you still submitting yourself to the abuse?

It is such a difficult thing, to surrender to powerlessness. It goes against human nature. And in high-conflict divorces, all of this is even moreso diffiuclt, because if your situation is anything like mine, you know that you are unequivocally right. Every single time, in every single argument. You’ve got logic, kindness, intelligence, and dammit, the kids’ best interests on your side. But she just won’t quit, ever. Even when she knows she’s wrong, she’s right, right? She’ll cut off the nose to spite the face and sometimes it seems as if you are there holding up the mirror so she can get the best angle.

To admit powerlessness feels like you are admitting wrongdoing. As if loving your husband and his kids, providing an open and loving home, being compassionate could ever be wrong. To say you can’t change her feels like admitting defeat, like letting her win. But it doesn’t have to be.

There is an element of freedom in embracing your lack of power over the situation. Almost like regaining control of your life. Because, you know what? Whether you’re right or wrong, she’s always going to want to fight. Him, you…it doesn’t matter. She fights because she doesn’t know any other way. If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know that this is a theme in her life. Look at her family, her friendships (or lack thereof). You’re no exception. The lack of results for all of your well-intended efforts doesn’t mean that you have failed. It just means that you have been going to Taco Bell and ordering a cheeseburger. That dog just don’t hunt.

You can write email after email after email explaining 6 ways to Sunday all the ways she is wrong. But why? So she can write back and rewrite history, get under your skin, throw in passive digs, flaunt the parenting plan and cause you angst? Hey, why do you keep hitting yourself?

Let go. Just let go.

It’s okay.

You know she’s wrong, your husband knows she’s wrong, and you know what? She fucking knows she’s wrong. She knows it better than anyone else. That’s why she screams the loudest and points the finger at anyone else who will get in her way. Do what you want to do in your home and don’t worry about what bullshit she has to say about it. It is bullshit and she can write it all she wants; you don’t have to listen to it or care that she’s writing it.

Keep your records, keep them religiously. But quit inviting her to challenge them. At a certain point, the patterns speak for themselves. You don’t need any email trail between anyone to show the pattern.

She didn’t let your husband talk to the kids on the phone? Write it on the calendar. After years of emails telling her that he wanted to talk to them? You know what, she knows it already. It’s about the chase, the game. She’s waiting for you and him to email her. She’s got her lies all picked out. So don’t give her a chance to spread that poison.

She wants to send the police to your house? Let her. You’re not doing anything wrong. Eventually, dispatch will get used to her calls and they will figure out the pattern.

You do what you want to do. You want to take the kids on vacation? DO IT. She may not like it. She may stamp her feet and she might call 5 times a day. But you know what? She doesn’t get to ruin your vacation. Put the kids on the phone and walk away. Don’t listen to it. It’s just going to make you mad, and you have a choice to not hear it. You are entitled to happy moments in your life with your stepkids.

You know she’s going to have a fit; it’s inevitable. At some point, learning to accept her unpredictability as a certainty is going to be your saving grace. There is a peace to be found in accepting what you already know.

It may not get better, ever. But you have choice. Admitting you are powerless is not about giving up your own power, it’s about taking power away from her. She doesn’t get to run roughshod over your life, never giving you a moment’s peace. You don’t have to allow her any of that.


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§ 2 Responses to Regaining power in a high conflict divorce

  • I’ve been there… this is a great post about an all-too-popular topic. I love the cheeseburger at Taco Bell analogy.

  • I appreciate your blog! I appreciate you! I appreciate all that you share! I feel like we are kindred spirits, especially after this post! Sometimes, I, too, get sick of the sunshiny, “my life is awesome as a stepmom” blogs and twitter accounts! Why are we so afraid to admit that sometimes our lives are shitty! And sometimes it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies!

    Okay….sorry….didn’t mean to go on a tangent, but this really hit home with me! Things suck in mine in my husband’s life, too, sometimes, and we have got to become powerless!

    I love this blog so much! Man….I wish I could meet up with you and talk it out face-to-face! Or that you could be my little Jiminy Cricket conscience!

    Thanks for sharing all that you share!

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