Communication 101 with a High Conflict ex
Updated: May 31, 2022
Communication during and after divorce is tough at the best of times, as emotions tend to run high, and ego and fear tend to take over our abilities to be rational and reasonable. It is THAT much harder when you’re divorcing a narcissist, a high conflict person, an abuser.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, then you are most likely aware that your conversations tend to be circular, passive aggressive, aggressive, exhausting, and leave you with more doubt, questions, shame, guilt, discord, anxiety, and uncertainty than when you started.
Even having to engage with them might create so much anxiety for you. You have been conditioned to avoid conversing with them, with questioning them, with going against them. You have learnt that you simply never win, that your needs are ignored and often criticized for being too much, too demanding, too crazy, etc. There is never any resolution, unless you end up acquiescing to their requests, demands, insinuations, and the least fun trips, their guilt trips.
“There is no winning with a narcissist. They have a tendency to twist intent, context, meaning, and words to suit their narrative, which is always centered around this premise: they can do no wrong. They are the victim. You are in fact to blame for anything that goes wrong. So why do you keep engaging with them? This is what you have to ask yourself.”
So you need to become familiar with these two amazingly empowering acronyms:
1•BIFF (created by Bill Eddy)
The former acronym stands for:
The latter stands for:
These are two theoretically simple communication techniques that create a firm boundary around your time, mental and emotional energy and minimize the dreaded back and forth communicating with your ex has become. But they take a lot of practice and time to master.
Treat all Communication as a Business Transaction
Keep emotions out of all interactions with your ex. Keep your tone professional and treat each engagement as a business transaction. So hard to do when your ex knows you so well, knows your triggers, and your pain points and USES all this gathered intel to HURT you. But for you to create a new peaceful existence, you have to learn to detach emotionally from them and communicate on your terms devoid of any and all emotions. They love attention of any kind: do you really want to give them more of what they want and crave and need? I didn’t think so. Remember this every time you're baited and goaded into engaging emotionally.
You control when and how you respond.
Just because they text, email or call you, doesn’t mean you have to answer. In fact, I highly recommend you don’t. Not every text requires a response- learn when to respond, and how, and you’ve created the best boundary around your new life.
Learn to respond and not react. If you’re triggered, give yourself the space and grace to cool down, and only answer when you are able to do so calmly without emotions.
Last little nugget:
Keep all communication to writing, either text or email.
This is for two reasons:
1• for you to be able to refer back to what was said, as you’ve been gaslit into believing their recollection of events. Being able to refer back to your written conversations, gives you so much clarity and reassurance that you’re not crazy, and that your memory is not bad.
2•for legal records. Keeping written records of your conversations safeguards you in the eventuality that you need to present your facts to a judge or in court.
Speaking of which, before ever pressing send on an email or a text, would you feel comfortable reading it in front of a judge? This is called the bench test. If you wouldn't feel comfortable standing in front of a judge and reading it directly to them, then give yourself some more time and space for clarity. Do not press send.
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