Being in a relationship with a high-conflict person can be challenging enough. Sharing kids with this high-conflict person? Even harder. And yet– it’s not impossible. The key to managing the ‘relationship’ is to focus on effective communication and conscious showing up, as well as keeping your sanity. Here are some top tips:
- Listen actively: When communicating with a high-conflict co-parent, it’s important to listen actively. This means paying attention to what they’re saying and trying to understand their perspective–no matter the topic or how absurd it is. Avoid interrupting or dismissing their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Interrupting or disregarding in an obvious, argumentative manner only puts them in defense mode- and amps up their conflict.
- Remain calm: High-conflict people can be easily triggered by emotional responses, especially high-conflict co-parents when it entails their children. Try to remain calm and objective during conversations. Take a break if necessary to avoid escalating the conflict. Remaining calm will be your best friend so you don’t get caught up in the chaos.
- Validate their feelings: Even if you don’t agree with the other person’s perspective, it’s important to validate their feelings. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid, even if you don’t share in them. Again, it is about maintaining a conversation rather than fueling an argument.
- Descale conflict: When conflict arises, try to descale it rather than engage in it. Put the issue into perspective. This means lowering the emotional intensity of the conversation and focusing on finding a solution rather than placing blame.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries in the relationship, such as what behaviors are acceptable and what consequences will occur if those boundaries are crossed.
- Practice self-care: Dealing with a high-conflict co-parent can be emotionally draining. Make sure to take care of yourself by engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends. Get the support of those who understand what you’re going through.
And remember, you are never alone in this. Join our private Facebook group of other parents in similar situations. Invest in the support of someone who can guide you toward strategic solutions for your co-parenting relationship. There are so many modalities to get you on the path to better managing a high-conflict co-parenting relationship. And if you are not working towards it, who will?