When someone fully grieves the death of a relationship, they will heal. It’s a process that takes time. It’s then possible to move forward and relinquish any conflict that has overwhelmed them. They control the conflict rather than the conflict controlling them. Accepting that you can’t control someone but you can control how you respond to them, is both liberating and empowering.
Conflict can create positive change
Relational conflict can of course be destructive. However, it can also be a driving force that ends a relationship that doesn’t meet either parties’ needs. I know of a married couple who have not spoken a word to one another for 10 years! They are stuck in conflict. They have silenced the conflict but it still controls them and prevents them from living more meaningful lives.
Finances can trap couples in conflict
It can be very difficult for some separating couples (especially those with children) to move into separate homes before finances have been resolved. Funds may not stretch to paying an existing mortgage and renting a second home, or perhaps neither will agree to leave the family home. They are forced to live in a pressure cooker environment – tensions are constantly bubbling and communication is minimal and often negative.
Children and Conflict
I listen to children (with their parent’s consent) as part of my role as a mediator. A 10 year old girl told me the worst aspect of her parent’s separation under the same roof was that she worried her father wasn’t eating well. He was a poor cook and her mother had stopped making meals for him as ‘they hated each other.’ Family meals no longer included her father who ate microwave meals or takeaways. She would look at his empty chair at the table and try not to cry. Her parents were tearful when I fed this information back to them and it appeared to be a turning point in their conflict – their daughter’s feelings mattered more than their conflict. The conflict dissipated and they worked together in mediation to resolve finances and child arrangements. Imagine the same scenario and add litigation in to the mix – parents battling against one another in court and spending many thousands of pounds. How can that level of conflict not harm a child?
After parents separate, if the cycle of conflict continues then children will suffer emotional harm. It’s the conflict rather than the separation that causes them the most distress. Parents who try and convince themselves that their children are not suffering as they keep the conflict away from them, are often misleading themselves. Children are exceptionally perceptive and even if they don’t see conflict; they can feel it.
So how do people let go of their feelings of anger, frustration and resentment? How can they stop their ex from constantly occupying their thoughts?
- Fake it until you make it. Always be polite and respectful to your ex and treat them as a polite stranger. Good behaviour is often mirrored and subsequently adopted.
- Re-establish a new relationship by creating new boundaries. This will make you feel more secure – you may need help, as you can’t see from the inside what you are doing to perpetuate the problem. Agree not to discuss certain topics and respect each other’s space and privacy. This parenting alliance is critical for your children. If you love them enough you will work hard to succeed at this.
- Remember you weren’t able to change your ex when you were together and so you won’t succeed now. However you can change how you respond. If you don’t respond with negative communication then the conflict cannot escalate – you can stop it by depriving it of air.
- Ignore provocations – if you don’t rise to them they often stop. It takes two.
- Pick your battles; don’t sweat the small stuff, the big picture is more important – and that means only holding your ground on important issues and always doing so in an adult way, rationally, & calmly – trying to engage the rational adult in the other person.
- Always avoid eliciting an emotional response by saying something in an inflammatory way.
- Stop trying to be right and trying to prove you are right. Don’t waste time trying to convince someone of something you can’t. Are you trying to make them see how stupid they are? Don’t! Focus on the actions not the person.
- Don’t litigate unless you absolutely have to. It’s so tempting to take someone who has hurt you to court, you want to hurt them right? Make them comply? However, you may not get what you want and there are usually no winners in the courts. You may spend more than the value of your dispute if it is financial – not a good investment. Keep some control of your future. You wouldn’t delegate important family decisions to a stranger at any other time, so why now?
- Consider therapy. Talking to a professional counsellor provides a sounding board and helps you process what has happened and move forward.
- Listen more than you talk. Remember the old adage we have two ears and one mouth – try to understand the other person. Conflict is often born out of misunderstandings based on the wrong assumptions. No one is always right.
- Remember mediation helps so many separating couples. Mediation is a safe space for difficult conversations. Without those conversations important decisions can’t be made and you remain stuck. Your mediator helps you focus on the problems that need to be resolved and you solve them. You can learn how to do this. They will have seen hundreds of couples in your situation and have a wealth of experience of helping couples build viable futures apart. Stand on their shoulders – and see over the horizon.
So if you are splitting up or have constant trouble with your ex – why not try mediation? You have nothing to lose except your problems. You can learn how to manage your post separation relationship (if you are to have one) better. What have you got to lose except a big head-ache and a lot of aggravation? What have you got to gain – settlement, closure, moving on to your separate futures apart.
Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at www.focus-mediation.co.uk