You did what you had to do. You tried everything, you waited, you talked it out, but in the end, divorce was the only option for you. It stinks, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles. At the end of the day, you need to look out for yourself and your family, but, as we all know, divorce isn’t exactly known for being easy and painless. Regardless of all the paperwork and mediating, you still need to associate with your ex throughout the process, which can bring on entirely different levels of hurt.
It doesn’t matter what they did or what they accused you of. This was someone you planned to be with forever, and now you won’t be. For many people, this is the most difficult experience of their life. It can be made even worse, however, if your ex isn’t taking the news as well as they could.
People go through a lot of changes when faced with a divorce, which isn’t news. Aside from the literal life changes – moving, new finances, etc – there’s emotional change as well. Some people use the experience to mature and learn from their mistakes. Others…not so much. Sometimes the change is for the worst, not for the better.
But the labels we use, especially when it comes to legal disputes, have weight. It’s important to use the right ones when we can. Of course, it’s frustrating and infuriating when someone you once loved changes into an entirely different person, but that does not always mean they’ve gone “crazy.” Mental illness is a convenient scapegoat in situations like this, but it is a very real concern with its own stigma and legal rules surrounding it.
So, are they suffering from something medical? Or just acting the fool?
Well, it can be tricky to tell. People develop new mental illnesses throughout every stage of life, and a big change like divorce can certainly bring it on. But there are some common ways an ex will act out when faced with divorce which can, hopefully, shed some light on what you’re dealing with. Most of these tactics are money-related: raiding safe deposit boxes, stealing funds and putting them in separate accounts, attempting to bankrupt the other, etc. These tactics are less of a sign of mental illness than they are of vindictive greed. There is no diagnosis needed to be spiteful.
Some other less-than-stellar approaches may include slandering you, trying to turn your children against you, and even involving their new beau in the whole messy affair (no pun intended). Now, especially if this escalates to them throwing insults at you to your face or in front of your children, this is where their antics may veer into “mentally ill” territory. But the fact of the matter is, they may be perfectly healthy. They may just be mean. Unless they are actively endangering you or your family, or even themselves, this is the angle the court is most likely to consider.
How to cope with a high-conflict divorce
So, what do you do? This divorce is going to happen one way or another, and you’d really love it if you can make it as painless and quick as possible. First, we cannot stress enough how important it is to be the bigger person wherever you can. Not because you owe them forgiveness or kindness or anything along those lines, but because giving in to the temptation to match their spite can only hurt your case. You need to show the court that you are the adult in the room, especially if child custody is involved.
Yes, this is easier said than done, especially with the way some people act. If they locked you out of your home, cheated proudly, and told your kids it was your idea, you’re going to be tempted to go Carrie Underwood on their four-wheel-drive. Instead, put away the keys, take a deep breath, and try to consider one of these options:
- Limit your availability. There may be certain factors that get in the way of this, but you’re already getting divorced – so take some space. This is both so you can take a breather and decompress, and to help prevent them from doing anything else because you’re simply not around. If your ex is getting violent or otherwise abusive, get somewhere safe and the right representation will handle them.
- Depersonalize. This is especially important if you think mental illness plays a role here. As best as you can, try to remember that their views and actions belong to them and them alone. It’s not your fault, and it doesn’t need to be your problem. In other words, try not to take what they say or do personally even if they want you to.
- Empathize. We know. We hear you. But this isn’t about making things better for them, it’s about making things better for YOU. If you’re able to gain a deeper understanding of why your ex is behaving the way they are, it can help you find peace and reduce stress. No one wants you two to have a cocktail and talk about how you can make them feel better.
- Think about apologizing. This is the last thing you want to do and it may be the last thing they deserve, but hear us out. A lot of the spite and slander exes throw is because they feel they have been wronged or hurt. Apologizing for your own less charitable actions may help them simmer down, which will lessen your stress in the long run. Just don’t apologize for wanting to get divorced; a spiteful ex can and will try to use that against you.
It’s going to be hard, in the end. If your spouse is dead set on making this difficult, the unfortunate news is they will probably succeed. But you are not alone, regardless of what they say to you. Your attorney is here to assist you as long as you are willing to work. Being the “good one” can be exhausting, but our high-conflict divorce attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter here in Knoxville are ready to make it as easy on you as possible. You want this over with. We can help. Call us today at (865) 637-6258 or contact us for more information.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
Read more about Patrick Slaughter