Reducing conflict following a separation

How to keep conflict at bay following a separation. 

Avoiding conflict following a separation

You may dread receiving emails or texts from your former partner. There may be sense of shock every time you see his or her name come up on your screen for fear of what new accusation there may be against you.  Changeover times for the children may be full of stress and tension for you having to deal with your former partner.

What to do in that situation?

One of the “mantras” of the Family Law Act is best interests of the children.  “Best interests” is the paramount consideration guiding a Court when determining what should be the care arrangements for children.

We would probably all agree that best interests includes keeping children out of any conflict between parents following a separation.   And not only for the sake of children.

Continuing conflict with your former partner can also keep you from being able to move forward with your life. It can erode your confidence over time and leave you feeling isolated from friends and family.

Sadly, you may find an escalation in conflict with your former partner as you seek to resolve your family law issues following separation. That is not an uncommon experience but the good news is that tensions often settle down after you have finalised the division of property or care arrangements for the children.

In the meantime though, it is important that you do what you can to reduce conflict with your former partner and the stress that that can cause for you and your children.

Often, that conflict is seeded in tensions that developed during your relationship and has a long and complex history. It may be that truly resolving that conflict would require real change in both you and your former partner.  Where you are separated, you need to be realistic then about what you can achieve. Since you can’t change your former partner, any reduction in conflict is going to depend upon change in you and your approach to the conflict.

Here are some suggestions which we hope you will find helpful:

  1. Try to bury the past: This may be easier said than done as you may feel very strongly that things have not happened – and maybe still are not happening- as they should in your former partner’s dealings with you. It will help though in your current communications if you do not make comments about what has gone wrong in the past. You can’t control what comments your former partner may make but if you can do this, it should help defuse ongoing tension.
  2. Be careful in your choice of language: As much as possible, be polite to your former partner in the way that you address him or her. You may feel that your former partner has been at real fault in his or her treatment of you. You may well be right. However, if you use language of blame or accusation directed at your former partner, it will be hard to see improvement in the way you communicate. Even if he or she continues to be rude to you, if you can keep communications polite and not “fuel the fire”, it will likely help you in your feeling about communications. It is harder too for the other person to keep on the same negative track if you are not responding in kind.
  3. Making some mutual ground rules: You should give some thought to what situations or issues may be commonly causing conflict between you. For example, it may ease tensions if you both set some ground rules such as not making calls to each other after a certain time of night or agreeing that you will each only use certain language when addressing each other.   If you are in the middle of trying to reach a property settlement or formal arrangements for your children, it may ease tensions if you agree that you will not speak to each other about these issues but that all communications on those areas must be by email between you or conducted only through your solicitors.
  4. Making your own ground rules: If you are finding that your former partner is sending you a barrage of emails or texts and you are feeling harassed, you should carefully consider if it is really necessary for you to reply to a particular communication before you go ahead and do that. Choose to respond only when it is essential for arrangements for the children.
  5. The bottom line: If your former partner persists in conduct that leaves you feeling threatened or at risk, then you may need to take other measures. Contact us for advice in this situation.