Handling a Difficult Spouse During a Divorce
June 9, 2021
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
How to Handle a Difficult Spouse During a Divorce
Divorce is never easy, even when spouses decide to end their marriage amicably. Unfortunately, dealing with an unreasonable spouse can add a layer of complexity to the process that challenges the most reasonable person. These are some helpful tips for dealing with a problematic ex-spouse during a divorce.
Control Your Reactions
A divorce can allow feelings to surface that you may not recognize, and the same is true for your spouse. For example, divorcing couples commonly experience feelings of:
Your spouse’s words and actions may be motivated by these feelings but don’t allow them to dictate your responses. Instead, look for ways to promote positivity from your spouse to avoid escalating the drama that can leave you both exasperated and hurt.
Empathize With Your Spouse
Despite the acrimonious relationship you currently experience, try to remember that much of your spouse’s problematic behavior reflects the same pain you are feeling. Therefore, rather than responding defensively to your spouse’s attack, acknowledge and validate your spouse’s feelings without challenging them. Doing so might make your spouse less resentful and combative.
Keep Your Distance
Limit your interactions with your spouse if your relationship is volatile. If you already have an attorney, allow that person to handle all communications regarding your pending divorce. If you and your spouse share children, have your attorney negotiate a visitation schedule and minimize direct contact with your spouse when picking up or dropping off your children. Avoiding social situations that include your spouse will also reduce the risk of unpleasant interactions.
Sometimes a triggering event leads to a divorce. At other times, spouses gradually realize that they want to pursue different life paths. Either way, your difficult spouse may feel a sense of loss, disappointment, and guilt about an inability to keep the promise of your marriage. Let your spouse know that you share the responsibility for your marriage’s failure. If your spouse wants a divorce because of your transgression, don’t overlook making a sincere and thoughtful apology. You may not salvage your marriage, but you can help your spouse achieve closure and a willingness to compromise on sticking points.
Avoid Involving Your Children
If you and your difficult spouse share young children, avoid discussing the difficulties of your divorce with them or using them to communicate with your spouse. You don’t want your children to experience anxiety or conflicting loyalties, which will further antagonize your spouse.