Community//

How to communicate with the high-conflict ex

3 critical strategies to help you win the battle without losing your mind

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

800 pages of text.

That was the communication “novel” from the first 6 months of my separation. Pages of accusations, pleadings and nonsensical narratives between my ex husband and I. I allowed it, and I responded because I thought it would help make things better. This was my attempt to be conciliatory, non-litigious and solution-focused. It got me nowhere, and came to an abrupt halt once there were death threats and a restraining order.

It is my job to save you from all of the mistakes that I made during my high-conflict divorce battle. So, here goes. These are my essential tips on how to communicate with a high-conflict ex.

Disengage

Unless there is a specific question to answer or child-centred logistical issue that needs to be addressed, there is no need for your words. That means no response verbally or in writing. There is no reason to defend yourself or set the record straight. The high-conflict ex will not be convinced by your arguments. Don’t waste your energy.

Toxic and manipulative people thrive off of attention and drama. You do not have to participate. Don’t feed the beast. In an email or text tsunami, just disengage.

Written communication only

Make sure there is a record of all communication. The courts don’t like recordings. This is a boundary that you can establish and enforce. All communication is to be over email – preferably a specific application like OFW or Talking Parents. Texts can be tampered with, so I don’t let my clients use them.

This means allowing all phone calls to go to voicemail unless the kids are with your ex. You don’t want to be sucked into a phone conversation with a toxic ex.

At pick-ups and drop-offs do not engage in conversation. Single word answers to logistical questions only. If your ex tries to engage you in front of the children, excuse yourself and request that s/he email you with any concerns or questions. Quick hug goodby to your child and exit promptly.

BIFF

You know the drill. Keep your written communication brief, informative, firm but friendly.

There is no need to participate in a war of words. There is no war if you don’t engage. One day a judge may get to read some of these communications, so keep your end squeaky clean.

Let the bombs drop

Now for the fun part. You still don’t get to communicate. But…you can collect, sort and compile the communication bombs that have been hurled at you. Spread sheets can be quite compelling!

All of the hostile messages from your ex may become gifts of evidence for your lawyer to use at your next court appearance. I was able to arm my lawyer with the most profane and shocking assortment of goodies from my ex.

Who says divorce strategy can’t be fun?

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Managing a loss in family court

    by Stacey Mendelson
    Community//

    Back-to-School Survival Tips for High-Conflict Families

    by Jason Castle & Emily Britton
    Shutterstock
    Divorce and Co-parenting//

    How To Deal With Your High-Conflict Ex

    by Virginia Gilbert, LMFT

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.