©2015 Andrea LaRochelle
Every parent I speak with asks me the same question; “What if I am the one who is high conflict?”
And my answer is always the same:
“If you are the parent who is high conflict, you wouldn’t be asking me if you were the high conflict parent.”
The High Conflict Institute defines a high conflict parent as someone who lacks the ability to have insight into their own behavior; who doesn’t have the ability to reflect on their actions and who blames others for everything that has gone wrong.
So if you’re asking me if you are the high conflict parent, the answer is “No” because the high conflict parent wouldn’t have the insight or self-reflection to question their own behavior and ask the question in the first place. Now, that’s not to say that your actions aren’t contributing to the conflict.
3 WAYS YOU MAY BE CONTRIBTING TO THE CONFLICT
1. Do you react to the attacks against you and your ability to parent?
People who may suffer from a high conflict personality (HCP) thrive on drama. The more you react, the more empowered they feel to continue with their attacks. HCP’s love to criticize and find fault in everything you say and do. Recognize this for what it is and don’t emotionally attach yourself to their words or defending yourself.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; It doesn’t matter what you say to defend yourself, you will never, EVER, change your HCP co-parent’s opinion of you.
So stop trying.
When the nasty, manipulating, condescending emails pop into your inbox, prepare yourself for their ridiculousness before you read them. Ask yourself how much crazier and critical can he/she be of me? And I promise you, each email will be just a little bit worse than the last one.
So if you know it’s going to be awful, you know his or her opinion of you is going to get worse, and you know nothing you can say will change it – why do you keep reacting?
If you haven’t disengaged from your co-parent sufficiently to be able to disregard the attacks, don’t read the emails. Have a friend, family member or professional edit out the attacks for you so that the only portion of the email you see are the child related topics.
Every time you react to the attacks, you are fueling the HCP’s fire to continue with even more attacks.
2. Do your words mimic your actions?
Parents in conflict tend to get triggered when attacked. Then they react to the attacks. And THEN they calm down and respond to the attacks/child related information.
And what often ends up happening is that their reaction is different from their response. Which sends a mixed message to their co-parent.
And while a simple apology for the mixed message may work with someone who doesn’t have HCP, if your co-parent has HCP tendencies, any mixed messages you send will only further fuel their drama cycle.
If you say no to changing the schedule, then a week later agree to change the schedule – you are telling your co-parent that they can continue to attack and manipulate you to get what they want.
And that is definitely NOT the message you want to be sending.
Be deliberate in your responses. Take 48 hours to disengage from any digs or attacks, to process the request and how it may affect your day-to-day living, to decide whether or not the request works for the kids.
Ensure that when you do respond, you do so with a well thought out answer that WILL NOT CHANGE.
3. Do you over-share information?
I’m guilty of this.
It often feels like I have 12,000 thoughts racing through my head during any given second. And I like to share them ALL.
Because sharing what I’m thinking helps me figure out what it is I’m actually feeling/thinking/wanting/needing. And it’s important to understand how you are actually feeling/thinking/wanting/needing.
I just told you in Rule #2 to be deliberate about how you respond.
And how can you be deliberate if you aren’t sure what it is you are actually feeling/thinking/wanting/needing? If you are one of those people who process information through sharing, that isn’t going to change just because your co-parent might be an HCP.
And if you stop over-sharing in an attempt to be deliberate, you’ll end up self-imploding.
Trust me, I’ve tried it. It wasn’t pretty.
Over-sharers are verbal processors.
They figure out their stuff by talking. And once they are done talking, they’ll forget half of what they said and remember only their ‘aha’, that’s what I’m actually thinking/feeling/wanting/needing.’
There is nothing wrong with being an over-sharer, you just have to be careful who you over share with. Over sharing with an HCP co-parent is a recipe for disaster. The more you say, the more likely an emotion is going to be expressed – giving an HCP ammunition to use against you in the future.
If you happen to be an over sharer, find a friend, family member or professional you can over share with to figure out your ‘aha’s and then be deliberate in the message you send.
3 THINGS TO REMEMBER
Do not defend yourself against the attacks, it won’t stop the attacks and will only drive you even crazier.
Say what you mean and do what you say.
Do not over-share with your HCP co-parent.
ANDREA LAROCHELLE is an author, trainer, and speaker with the High Conflict Institute and serves on the board of the Alberta Family Mediation Society. She is a high conflict co-parenting expert and a registered mediator with over fifteen years experience helping families through the challenges of separation and divorce. She teaches co-parenting communication and guides parents to manage conflict more effectively, so their kids can focus on being kids. Andrea’s published books include: The High-Conflict Co-Parenting Survival Guide; I’m Done!: Take Control of Your High Conflict Divorce; and the Goodbye Bugs children’s series (Goodbye Angry Bugs, Goodbye Teary Bugs, and Goodbye Worry Bugs).