Many of my clients are struggling through difficult divorces and often dealing with a very angry spouse or ex spouse. This month I asked attorney, Jason Levoy to give some tips on how to negotiate with a difficult spouse. Here are his excellent tips!
5 Tips On How To Negotiate With An Angry Spouse
So, you’re getting divorced? I’m sorry. Wait, what I really want to say is, “Congratulations!” No, I mean that. Let me explain.
People get divorced because the marriage didn’t work out as planned. At some point after the wedding bells rang, there became a disconnect that created an atmosphere of dysfunction that permeated the relationship to the point of no return. This inevitably results in emotional scarring and damage to both parties.
Unfortunately, it happens. Even more unfortunate, it happens too often these days.
But, is it healthy to stay in a bad marriage? I’m all for going to marriage counseling and trying to make it work, but sometimes it just doesn’t. I always tell clients, “Life is short, but life can be really long if you’re with the wrong person or in a bad marriage.” We only go on this ride called life once, so doesn’t everyone deserve to be happy?
Even though I think divorce should be celebrated as both parties recognizing it didn’t work out and it’s time to move on, a divorce is instead too commonly used as a battleground to play out the emotional drama and hurt feelings of a broken marriage. That leads to one or both parties “acting out” and “playing hardball” in divorce negotiations. This manifests itself in the form of the angry spouse being unreasonable and engaging in verbal and sometimes physical abuse.
It’s not uncommon for one spouse to be more dominant than the other in a relationship. This is also true in divorce negotiations. That’s why, if you don’t have an attorney to negotiate on your behalf, you need to (and can) learn the tools to fairly negotiate yourself.
When I say dominant, I don’t mean physically dominant. There are plenty of small men out there who pack quite the verbal punch. Sort of like small dogs, they seem to always have the loudest bark and are willing to take on the big dogs in a fight. (Doesn’t the Chihuahua realize he can get squashed by the German Shepherd?)
While this type of behavior is not productive and only produces more bile to digest and unnecessary drama, use these tactics to even the playing field when you negotiate with your angry spouse.
1. React with reason, not more anger.
This takes skill to learn, but once you master this technique it can have powerful effects in your favor. It goes something like this: Your spouse is giving you a hard time with something you two are trying to resolve, but he is being verbally abusive and/or unreasonable. It happens all the time, so unfortunately you’re not alone.
The first step is to not react in kind to the verbal abuse. Obviously, this is the hard part. Train yourself to take a breath and think before you respond. Respond calmly and with a reasoned suggestion. One of two things will happen. He will also react with a reasoned response and you two can communicate like adults. Or, he will continue to act unreasonably, at which point you have to try another tactic. If that’s the case, don’t give up and keep trying to respond in a calm, reasoned manner.
It may take a few attempts, but odds are your spouse acts that way because he is trying to push your buttons. If you show him it’s not working, he will probably change his tactics too!
Whatever you do, don’t sink down to his level and become nasty yourself. I guarantee that will not work.
2. If money motivates him, use it as a motivating factor.
Money is a major motivating factor in a divorce. What I mean is that people don’t want to spend a lot of money to get divorced and people definitely don’t want to spend a lot of money on an attorney to get divorced. That’s why many people choose to go through the divorce process without an attorney. To save money.
If that’s the situation and your spouse does not want to spend a lot, you can tell him that by being unreasonable and difficult in negotiations, he’s spending more money. Simply put, if you choose to litigate and go through the courts, the process will take longer and cost both parties more money. If the difficult spouse truly wants to preserve his financial resources, he will decide it makes sense to amicably get divorced.
3. Suggest alternative methods to resolve the divorce.
Litigation is the most costly and time-consuming method to use to get divorced. Suggest your spouse look into mediation or collaborative divorce. If your spouse doesn’t want you to choose the mediator, (Maybe he is paranoid that you and the mediator know each other and will conspire against him.) let him select three different names and then the two of you agree on one. The mediator should be experienced and well respected. Other than that it doesn’t really matter who it is.
4. Let negotiations go for now. Bring it up later and try again.
If negotiations aren’t going well, try ceasing the conversation and coming back to it another time. Like any argument, if you approach it when the other person is calmer and not on the offensive, you might find you get different results. Of course, there is no guarantee, but it’s worth a shot. What do you have to lose?
5. If there is domestic violence, call the police and protect yourself.
This is a serious subject. Many people associate domestic violence with physical abuse. While this is true, verbal abuse also may be considered domestic violence and should not be easily dismissed. Keep logs and details of the verbal abuse. If it happens regularly and prevents you from communicating like adults or living safely, you may want to think about filing for a restraining order. If you are the victim of domestic violence, you need to take it seriously. Call the police as soon as it happens and have a plan to protect your safety. Nothing else is more important.
6. Consult an attorney.
Odds are, you can’t afford an attorney. If you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. (Although this advice is just as valuable if you do have an attorney). Many attorneys still give free consultations. While you typically get what you pay for in life, you have nothing to lose but some time by having a free consultation. If you tell your spouse you are consulting with an attorney because they refuse to be reasonable and negotiate fairly, it might light a fire under his you know what to reconsider the approach. If nothing else, you may be able to get some advice on how to proceed and make some headway in future negotiations.
Jason Levoy is an attorney who teaches people without an attorney how to represent themselves in court and navigate the divorce process. He regularly provides free content to people who need it via his blog, the VIP member newsletter, and his free private Divorce Facebook Group. You can find him at http://jasonlevoy.com.
Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. PCC
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About Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D, PCC
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I’m the proud owner of Smart Women Inspired Lives, where I help overwhelmed and exhausted women move from the feeling of being “stuck” into a life filled with calm, confidence, and joy. In addition to the posts and articles I write, I offer individual and group life coaching sessions, classes and speaking engagement opportunities.
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|Changing Our Voice||Selfless or Selfish: Are these our only two choices?|
|Changing Our Voice|
|Selfless or Selfish: Are these our only two choices?|