It’s been a while since I’ve written anything personal. I suppose it always comes down to that personal and professional line. As a therapist going through this process, I try to keep at least part of my personal life private. But today I had a conversation with an old friend where I saw again how little others really appreciate the nature of a high-conflict divorce.
Why Nobody Really understands a high conflict divorce
I started my divorce process over three years ago, and at first I was innocent enough to believe it was going to be a relatively simple, if somewhat painful experience, but ultimately, when two adults had their child’s best interests, remember that it would be negotiated and finalized as soon as possible.
That was then and that is now and of course I know much better now. I wear the battle scars.
I have been in court more times than I want to mention and every decision had to be forced on my ex-husband rather than negotiating an agreement. After watching the courts seem powerless, he ignored court order after court order. We had to deal with the trauma our son experienced in this financial limbo. Every day seems to be another battle for money, time, work, and my sanity. Unfortunately, I can now say that I know much better.
I was naive at the beginning of this process. Indeed, it might be fair to accuse me of starry-eyed idealism. I had had a relatively blessed life, I had a high level of education and well, things had always been, if not great, certainly not terrible.
My marriage, of course, was a different matter; a relentless story of loneliness, depression and sometimes terror. Somehow, my happy disposition seemed to lead me to ignore the cold, casual cruelty I lived with. However, the divorce process paid off, bringing the frightening reality I was married to to the fore.
I spent 3 years in this foreign country with my young son, with limited practical support from family and friends, and I held on to my fingernails. And that seemed to annoy my friend – my reluctance to return to my country. Your solution to my problems was simple, go home and everything would be fine.
Now being able to return to my mother tongue, and yes, even the opportunity to find work, could make life a lot easier. So what would I trade sunshine for rain, was that really that big of a deal?
Well the truth is if those were the only issues I would consider the move right away. But you see where I am geographically is not the problem. The problem is, I’m dealing with an ex-partner of Covert Aggressive (C-Agg). The type of man who could sit without opening an eyelid while his son told him he gave me his birthday money so I could buy food while I was getting a salary of 20,000 a month.
You see, a C-agg person is all about winning.
They will do anything to make you feel like you have won. Even if it is a devastating price to an outsider. Even if what they are doing is against all common sense and morality. Even if what they do violates every existing social and legal code. A C-Agg will fight to the bitter end, because for them every moment is THE BATTLE. There is no overall plan, there is no strategy, there is no exit; Resolution is not important, just overall victory, right here, right now, every single moment.
And that truth gets me stuck here. The divorce process is here; The child protection issues are here. Oh yes, admittedly he hid all the money in the UK, but if I tried a trial in the UK the cost of legal assistance would be around 80,000 by now. In Spain there are around 8 thousand. Not to mention the cost of flights and hotels for hearings. And believe me, in a high-conflict divorce there are many hearings.
So while my boyfriend was telling me stories of men he’d met who got ripped off by their ex-wives and left them nothing; I have little doubt that these men reached their settlements to protect their children. Yes, they can be bitter. They may not have resolved their anger and disappointment over their failed relationship – divorce is not pleasant at best – but at least they have the satisfaction of knowing their children were fed, warm, and clothed. This type of normal divorce lasts an average of 6 months to a year.
I am in the third year.
I have proposed an agreement several times. I offered to sell the house we shared. I tried to reach an agreement to make sure our son was happy and safe. My ex has never shown a desire to negotiate, not once. You see, I’m not the problem. I want this to be over and for it to be a fair and just breakup. I don’t feel like taking more than I’m entitled to. I even offered to take less than I was entitled to. But then I really don’t care if I win. I just want to move on and my son wants to feel safe. With the utmost respect for my boyfriend, who I am sure is from a place of serious concern, the rules of a normal divorce do not apply here. Otherwise, this process would have been completed a few months after the breakup.
However, he is not alone in his ignorance of this process. His information comes from common people talking about their experiences in the pub, and as a good, caring father, he cannot even comprehend that a father would care so little about his son’s well-being. But I work with the confused high-conflict divorce victims who suffer and find to their horror that the legal system operates on the same uncritically scrutinized assumptions as my friend, that is, that both parties have the child’s best interests first and both parties seek a solution.
Unfortunately, if either party in the divorce process is a C-agg person, those assumptions are wrong. These premises cause nothing but additional suffering for the other party in the divorce process and, as a result, for all children involved. So the truth is that while running home and taking cover is appealing, the reality is that I have to stand my ground and fight where the legal process is taking place to protect my child’s interests.