The process of ending a marriage is rarely, if ever, completely free from disagreements between the separating spouses. Divorce involves many important decisions that will have a significant impact on each person’s life and finances, and it is almost inevitable that the spouses’ interests will differ on a number of key points as they prepare to live separate lives. Added to this are the strong emotions that each spouse may be experiencing, from sadness at the failure of the marriage, to anger at each other, to fear of what comes next. When you consider all of these factors, it is hard to imagine many situations with more potential for conflict than a divorce.
That said, you should keep in mind that conflict is a natural part of life, and it can even be productive if the involved parties make an effort to work together and achieve a mutually beneficial solution. With the help of a Lombard divorce attorney, especially one who has mediation experience, you can reach an agreement that works for both you and your spouse, and possibly avoid the time, expenses, and stress of a prolonged court battle. However, your success may depend in large part on the way you personally approach conflict.
Social science researchers Thomas and Kilmann have established a model that has long been used to help people identify their conflict styles and understand how to better approach conflict in both their professional and personal lives. With some self-reflection, you can develop a better understanding of your own conflict style, how it might affect your divorce proceedings, and how you can adapt your style to have a better chance of reaching a satisfying resolution.
The 5 Styles of Conflict in Your Divorce
According to Thomas and Kilmann, the five common conflict styles are as follows:
- Avoiding – If your conflict style is avoiding, you tend to stay away from conflict and put off addressing it even when doing so is important. You may be unwilling to assert your own needs, and you are also unwilling to cooperate with the other party to reach a solution. In a divorce, this style may lead you to delay signing paperwork or avoid appearing for settlement negotiations, which can make for a long and frustrating process for everyone involved. You will also likely be unsatisfied with the ultimate outcome if you have not made the effort to clearly communicate your needs and preferences throughout the proceedings.
- Accommodating – If you have an accommodating conflict style, you often prioritize the needs of others over your own. Perhaps you feel guilty or responsible for the failure of your marriage and feel that the only way to make up for it is to let your spouse have what they want. Maybe you are worried that if you try to stand up for yourself, it will make it difficult for you and your spouse to maintain a civil relationship and co-parent after your divorce. You could also simply want others to continue to think of you as an agreeable person once the divorce is complete. Accommodators may choose to pursue an uncontested divorce because they believe it will lead to an easy agreement with their spouse, but they should be careful not to give up too much in the settlement that they will wish they had fought for later on.
- Competing – A competing conflict style means that you approach conflict with the goal of getting what you want and with little regard for the other person’s concerns. You may view your divorce as an all-out war in which you should attempt to punish your spouse and maximize positive outcomes for yourself. This attitude makes mediation and other collaborative approaches to divorce next to impossible, especially if both spouses adopt a competing style. You can likely expect a long, ugly trial with fierce litigation on behalf of both spouses, and the outcome may be less favorable for you than if you had been willing to cooperate.
- Compromising – If you take a compromising approach, you are willing to give up some of what you want in exchange for concessions on the part of the other party. In most divorces, some amount of compromise is necessary, as it may not be possible for both spouses to get everything they want. Reflecting on the terms that are most important to you and those that are less important can help you decide where you have room to bend. For example, you may be willing to cede your share of your spouse’s business assets if it means that you can keep the family home in your name.
- Collaborating – A collaborating conflict style means that you are invested in working through conflict to reach a resolution in which everyone gets what they want. For example, when creating a parenting plan, you would consider your children’s needs and schedules, your own work schedule and living situation, and that of your spouse, to arrive at a mutually agreeable outcome with sustainable terms that maintain everyone’s best interests. If you and your spouse are both willing to take a collaborative approach to your divorce, mediation guided by a trained, neutral third party can be a great option that ensures you both have input in the agreement and helps you avoid a trial.
Collaboration is always ideal, but it may not always be possible or realistic. However, if you tend to slip into a less productive style like avoiding, accommodating, or compromising, you should still make an effort to move toward collaboration as much as you can. Try to recognize that it is necessary to engage in some conflict to reach a resolution to your divorce. Make an effort to stand up for what is important to you, or work with a DuPage County divorce lawyer who can support you and fight for your interests. At the same time, remember to listen to your spouse’s perspective and look for openings that could lead to a solution that works for both of you. Even though conflict may be inevitable, with the right approach, endless pain, anger, and stress do not have to be.