Unfortunately, in the case of high conflict, this type of couple cannot
resolve their differences in either a business-like manner nor in a
friendly way. They create a war that is costly and damaging to the
children and to themselves. In fact the damage they wreak spreads a wide
net into their extended families and friends, and sometimes even into
the greater community. In the long run this couple pays the price
because they may never be able to restore their lives to healthy
What does it take to make a divorce high conflict? Two things – Motive and Means. “Means”
generally equates to money. If one or both parties have enough money to
wage a war and they are not concerned with an unhealthy outcome (or not
aware of this possibility), this leads to a high conflict divorce.
Another source of means is power, which can come in a variety of forms.
For example, being famous or having media connections is a source of
power. A third source of means is being irrational and tenacious. Even
without money or power, a person can create a high conflict divorce
through simple means. If the controlling person is uncooperative,
antagonistic, and dishonorable, a high conflict divorce will take shape.
Then there is “motive.”
If a person feels aggrieved and they are narcissistic, they can feel
justified doing just about anything to trash and burn the other person.
This includes dragging the children into the fray. And no matter how
self-effacing the egalitarian is, he or she will fight back if pushed
far enough. Thus the motive to protect and defend is aroused.
spite of this disheartening look at high conflict divorce, I still
believe it is possible to prevent or at least better tolerate a high
conflict divorce. Anyone going through a life changing experience like a
divorce, high conflict or otherwise, should seek the support of a
therapist, your church, and other groups supportive of your experience.
If at all possible work with a mediator to craft a win-win solution to
your divorce. Be willing to compromise and to walk away with a “half
fair deal.” In the long run, walking away from your money and
possessions is worth it to avoid the acrimony.
For more suggestions on how to cope with a high conflict divorce, read Recognizing High Conflict Divorce on my website. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office for an appointment.