Conflict and disagreement are inevitable when a relationship breaks up, especially if the circumstances are unexpected or controversial. If there are ongoing ties such as a marriage to dissolve, a home to divide, or children to care for, the disputes can go on for many years.
Each new episode of divorce conflict can be stressful, draining and leave you feeling stuck with all the pain of being around that person, yet none of the former benefits. So how do you stop the stress of conflict taking over and preventing you from moving on with your life?
It’s all a matter of detaching, which is very hard at the start of a break up, but gets easier the more you do it. While our mind thrives on the need to be right, our heart simply wants us to be at peace. To move forward we need to let go of the attachment to “my side of the story”, and do what’s best for our overall situation.
This requires faith to see that sometimes, what we think is best for us, is not necessarily the case. Things often happen for a much better reason than we could imagine; we just don’t see it until we let it happen.
This does not mean rolling aside and allowing unreasonable requests and behaviour from your ex. But it does mean examining where in the conflict we could let go, because we would rather be happy than right.
Far from giving in to demanding behaviour, when you re-look at the situation with an open mind you may find that it strengthens your resolve to fight your corner, but this time it will be for the right reasons. It will also make presenting your side clearer, more rational and authentic.
Here’s how to deal with conflict in a way that will truly strengthen and serve you.
1. If you find your ex-partner confrontational, intimidating to speak to, or likely to manipulate what you are saying, then you are within your rights to choose to correspond by email. It takes the heat out of discussion, and allows you time and space to absorb and reflect on what you both want to say.
2. If you receive an angry or bitter response to anything you have suggested or asked for, you do not need to reply in the same way. In fact the opposite is true. Don’t fuel their drama by reacting to comments intended to cause conflict. Ignore any provocation and stick to the facts. The term ‘rise above it’ could not be more appropriate here; see it from a higher perspective.
3. Having said that, do point out where their behaviour is unacceptable to you and why; you are entitled to respect. Try to take the judgement and emotion out of it and stick to clear facts.
4. Don’t score points for the sake of it; however tempting the opportunity is! While it makes the ego temporarily feel good to be right, the real sense of peace you will feel is from knowing that you remained solely focused on doing the right thing for the situation.
5. Remember that your side of the story is your mind’s perception, and their side is theirs. In reality the situation simply is what it is; with two of you coming at it from opposing views. When you are able to recognise this, it actually helps you to feel compassion for the other person; especially if they are being particularly unpleasant and you realise that they are just coming from a misguided or unaware perspective.
6. Pick your battles. Not everything needs to be a conflict. Some people thrive on drama or need to make the other person wrong in order to be right. Sometimes, if something is not worth fighting over, then don’t. Notice how much easier you breathe, and how your jaw unclenches when you let them have that toaster. Just buy another one.
7. On the other hand, if you know in your heart that something is worth sticking to your guns over, then don’t be afraid to insist. Just make sure that you are coming from a place of love, not fear, in refusing to back down. If you are doing it for love (of yourself, of your children, of the highest good for all involved) then you will find that people and opportunities show up to support you.
You may find this is a very new way of dealing with conflict. Letting go of the need to retaliate, score points or be right about something is very hard when it’s the only way we know. However, if you find that your life is a never-ending cycle of conflict with your ex, then maybe it’s time to see things a different way. And always ask yourself:
Would I rather be right or happy?