We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions. But we judge others by the impact of their actions on us. When the impact of the other’s actions proves hurtful to us, we tend to consider those intentions as malicious. It’s called the conflict trap, where we attribute the best to our own motives and the worst to the other's. It’s an easy trap to fall into — and remain trapped within — during divorce.
The way out of the conflict trap is to allow the people in conflict to communicate directly. When people in conflict are allowed to communicate, they give themselves an opportunity to be understood. Once they feel understood, they are more likely to listen to and understand the other side. At that point, the two sides may understand that the other side’s intentions are not malicious and that their individual viewpoints don’t necessarily cancel one another out. At that point, the trap is opened and resolution — even a win-win — is a possibility.
Unfortunately, when a divorce is handled by attorneys in court, direct communication is discouraged and conflicts intensify. The result is that the people actually going through the divorce cannot collaborate and will lose control over their divorce and their future. They will need others to talk for them, make decisions for them, or use threats and fear to motivate decision making.
By encouraging direct communication we give our clients the ability to stay in control over their divorce and the future of their family. Staying in control leads to better decision making and better outcomes. Research indicates that the experience of control over the divorce process has a positive effect on a person’s adjustment to divorce — and a parent’s own adjustment to divorce is the best predictor of the children’s adjustment to divorce.
For families, encouraging direct communication and facilitating collaboration is also important because it can reduce and resolve conflict. Research has established that, after basic financial needs are met, the greatest risk to children of many serious and on-going problems for children is prolonged conflict between their parents. Therefore, parents who choose a divorce process that allows them to resolve conflict through collaboration are protecting their children from the harm of divorce. Learn more about options for out-of-court divorce.