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Divorcing from a high-conflict personality? How to tell

| Feb 26, 2020 | Divorce |

Some people are inherently adversarial. They have almost a preoccupation with blaming other people for whatever problems arise. Or, they make everything about themselves by throwing a tantrum and making you pay to resolve it. These people are referred to as high-conflict personalities, and if you’re divorcing one, you may be in for a “high-conflict divorce.”

Here are some characteristics of high-conflict personalities:

  • Unable to accept responsibility; always blaming others
  • Controlling and manipulative, both consciously and unconsciously
  • Single-minded and ruthless, relentless
  • No real capacity for introspection
  • “All or nothing” mentality
  • May threaten their ex and/or their lawyer in order to get what they want

These characteristics make themselves known by how your ex acts around conflict. For example, many high-conflict types will engage in a high volume of hostile communication with their ex and their ex’s attorney. They may intentionally choose counsel known to be combative and aggressive. Often, there has been a restraining order taken out in the relationship. Sometimes, there are allegations — including possibly false ones — of child or spousal abuse.

If some of these things are hitting home, educate yourself on high-conflict personalities and begin to learn how to protect yourself from the aggression, manipulation, tantrums and threats. For example, read up on high-conflict personalities at the High Conflict Institute. Or, find a therapist who is familiar with high-conflict personalities and who can teach you how to remain calm in the face of the onslaught.

It can be hard to solve problems with a high-conflict personality. This is often because they have trouble seeing how they are contributing to the problem. Instead, they tend to focus on their rights and on whose fault they believe the problem to be.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no changing your partner’s fundamental nature. Even after the divorce, it is likely you will be involved in parenting decisions with your ex. What you can do to minimize the long-term hassle is develop a strong divorce agreement that spells out each party’s responsibilities and the consequences for failing to follow through.

Do you need an order of protection?

It is not unusual for a high-conflict personality to engage in harassment, stalking and abusive conduct. An order of protection is meant to minimize the contact between the petitioner and the person named in the petition for the order. Once you have a protective order in place, your ex will no longer be allowed in the joint residence, generally must cut off all communication with you and must remain a certain distance away from you.

Moreover, the protective order orders the defendant not to take possession of or contact your family pets, prohibits them from carrying a firearm and orders them not to commit any offenses under Arizona’s domestic violence statute.

If you are considering divorcing someone who is a high-conflict personality, you need to work with an attorney who has experience in handling a variety of personality types and high-conflict divorces.