Two helpful articles recently written in the Huffington Post about avoiding (or perhaps more realistically minimizing) arguments during the divorce process are written from the perspectives of attorneys and a divorce coach. Bearing the advice from each in mind while speaking with your soon to be ex-spouse should provide you with some helpful tools.
The attorneys’ article is “Dealing with the Soon-to-be-Ex: You Can’t Win an Argument by Arguing” begins with the proposition that we are caught “off-guard” by our “pain and frustration” with the “erroneous thinking” of the soon-to-be-ex.
It may be counter intuitive to not tell them how wrong they are, but you may be better served by keeping this thinking to yourself. The attorneys support their position with three good reasons:
- “[N]o one has ever won an argument by arguing. Doing so just makes the other side dig in deeper.”
- “[P]eople are not inclined to open their thinking when they are dodging arrows.”
- “[I]t is truly impossible to change your soon-to-be ex’s mind, and don’t ever think you can. You will not be able to change their thinking any more than they will be able to change yours.”
I take some issue with the third premise not because one spouse can change another’s mind in an argument, but if approached without the argument as suggested in “The Art of Not Arguing”, there may be some movement toward resolution. The divorce coach was not finance savvy at the time of her divorce. Her husband proposed a settlement with terms she didn’t understand. Wisely, she consulted with a friend and found out that the laws had changed so that the proposal was not accurate. Three thoughts came to mind. Was he trying to intentionally bamboozle me? Did he truly not know that the laws had changed? Finally she realized that it didn’t matter why now she had the facts she needed. She presented the correct information matter of factly and there was no argument.
There is one piece to this puzzle that I believe is helpful to remember during this stressful time of transition and that is that you once loved this person enough to marry them and if they are the parent to your child, that is forever and is deserving of respect.
The attorneys argue that it is perspective that matters. I’m not sure what the difference is between perspective and position, but perhaps the below will shed light on your conflict management and issue resolution. I have highlighted the passage I believe bear emphasis.
“By definition, perspective is how we understand something. It’s our point of view. What we see is what we believe. Perspectives are involuntary, subjective, and extremely personal. They are formed over the years by our life experiences, they affect our thinking at every level, and they are impossible to change.
Once we have a perspective, anything we observe is seen with this perspective in mind. When we notice things that confirm the righteousness of our view, we accept them as evidence that our perspective is correct. When something does not confirm our view, we minimize or ignore it.
The more convinced we are of our view, the more we tend to filter out information that would lead us to question our underlying assumptions. Thus, the more entrenched our perspective, the more obvious it is to us that we are right and our partner is wrong. We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.
Our divorce courts are jammed with angry litigants who cannot understand why they cannot talk any sense into their partner. They are wasting their time trying to alter the other’s perspective. Instead, they should be using their energy trying to figure out a way around it.
The most useful (and least recognized) tool in divorce dispute resolution is accepting the fact that your partner sees things differently. We don’t have to agree with their thinking, we merely have to respect and validate their right to have an opposing position. And, it doesn’t cost us a penny to “allow” them to do so.
Skillfully dealing with differences in our perspectives is the real heart and soul of conflict management. We must accept that it is normal for our spouse to see the world in a way that favors their position, and it is our job to deal with what they see, and not with what we see.
The hardest mind to pry open is often our own. Does this mean our spouse is actually in the right? Not at all. It just means that we have to make room in our thinking for their thinking, if we hope to persuade them to do the same.
It is not necessary for us to accept their perspective. However, it is necessary for us to accept it as it is, and not what we wish it to be.
Why should we care about our partner’s perspective? Isn’t that the magic of divorce, the freedom not to care what they think? Not yet it isn’t. Not as long as we need their signature on a marital settlement agreement.