Resolving Divorce Conflict – Be Hard on the Problem, Not the People

A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

Key 1: Be hard on the problem, not the people.

We made this the first conflict resolution skill because it’s likely the first one you’ll put to use.  Right now, it may be hard not to see your spouse as the problem, as the reason for your divorce.  Or the other way around. That’s why we think it’s such an important skill to learn. 

Change the nature of the fight and you’ll change the dynamic. Stop throwing stones in arguments.  Using blame, shame, or guilt to get your spouse to do something will become less effective as your relationship ends, because each of you will stop making the little concessions you once made for one another in the relationship. Instead, address the problem rather than laying blame on your spouse.  For example, “Whether or not to sell our house is a tough decision.  We both have a lot of work to do. I would like to work together to figure this out”, works much better than, “If you’d only earned more money while we were married, we wouldn’t have to think about selling our house.”couple

If you don’t keep the problem separate from your relationship, you risk having the conflict overtake your life (especially after your divorce).When two people who are stakeholders in a relationship are at odds, they sometimes say and do all sorts of irrational things, project, deny and shift blame.

All this drama has nothing to do with solving your problem. But there are things you can do to focus hard on the problem, not the person. The goal is to work with your spouse, rather than being adversarial.

  • Bite your tongue. Think before you respond. Those few seconds of tongue biting can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • Remember that your problem is mutual. You need your spouse in order to solve this problem — and to reach an agreement. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  • It takes two to have an argument. If you refuse to take the bait for a fight, the fight can’t happen. 

  • Reframe your problem as a mutual problem and use “we” language.  “We need to decide what to do with the credit card debt” gets a different reception than “You need to deal with your credit card debt or we’ll never have an agreement.”

  • Think about the situation from your spouse’s point of view, even if you think he or she is wrong. Remember, you need this person to sign your agreement.  By only thinking of your own perspective, you’ll never get resolution.

  • Don’t interpret what is going on based only on your fears. Resist the urge to turn everything into a catastrophe.  You will get through this.

  • Don’t blame.  Blame doesn’t get you anywhere, especially not now.

  • Let your spouse blow off steam and don’t take it personally.  Not everything is an invitation to fight, and even if it is, you’re not coming to that party.

  • Listen. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings without being patronizing.

  • Be direct; don’t play games.  Have your own priorities straight.

Though many of these points are common sense, when the relationship gets tangled up in the problem, things can get volatile fast