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Dealing With High Conflict People

Arguing During the Holidays? Considering Divorce? Here Are Some Tips on How to Manage High Conflict People

During the holidays, stress and tension can mount, and you may experience increased pressure and friction with so much going on during the business of the season. This time of year can cause couples to reflect on their relationship and marriage, particularly if conflict is present in the relationship. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to note that there is no such thing as an easy divorce. While one person rarely carries all the blame, there are circumstances where psychological problems between the couple become too much to bear. When one spouse suffers from a mental illness such as borderline, histrionic, antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder, the conflict can reach new levels. These individuals are referred to by attorneys as “High Conflict People” or HCPs. Here are some things you should know about dealing with High Conflict People in a divorce mediation.

Not All HCPs Have Disorders

While those with the above-listed personality disorders are classic examples of HCPs, a disorder is not necessarily a prerequisite for high conflict. Many people who are not diagnosed with a mental illness can still exhibit a chronic capacity to place blame, emotional outbursts, pessimistic thinking, a lack of willingness to accept responsibility for actions or absolutism in thought and action.

Personality vs. Issues

While you may be dealing with a split in property or possessions, or financial issues such as child support or alimony or even custody problems, the actual problem on the table could be personality conflict. In fact, most disagreements have personality at their core. If the divorce is being dragged out, you may be dealing with a high conflict person.

Why This Occurs

Why would an HCP want to drag out an already painful situation? There are multiple reasons this may occur, including:

  • HCPs have difficulty negotiating. Compromise is not in the nature of an HCP, so they play to win every single situation. If things are not going their way, they keep fighting.
  • HCPs create chaos and conflict. These types of people feed off of chaos. Aggression and blame are the way they relate to other people.
  • They display oppositional defiance. Is there something they know you want? An HCP will always try to keep it from you.
  • HCPs display a failure to stay on task. Whenever things start to go against them, a high conflict personality will try to go off on a tangent or change the subject. This makes negotiation difficult.

What to Do?

If you are dealing with a high conflict situation, the best things you can do are stay the course and pick your battles. Let your mediator, arbitrator and/or attorney know what the non-negotiable areas are for you. If you have any leverage against this person, be willing to use it. Pick your battles wisely — give a little to get a lot in the end. Any time you reach an agreement, put it in writing and get a binding signature.

Finally, remember that you are getting divorced. It’s time to let go of this person and not allow them to push your buttons. It’s almost over and the finish line is in sight.

Have you had issues with high conflict persons in a divorce situation? Are you considering pursuing a divorce with a high conflict person? Connect with us to learn more about how to get started.