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We blog about helping Long Island families to resolve conflicts in the most productive ways possible.

Jun 13, 2016BY: Neil Cahn
IN: After the Divorce, Conduct and Communications, Emotions and the Family Specialist

Learn (How) To Complain During Your Divorce (if you didn’t during your marriage).

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Litigation may be the worst way to successfully transition from an intact family to a divorced family. Very often during litigation, there is minimal interaction between the spouses (and they are probably very happy about that); leaving negotiations, or more adversarial procedures to the attorneys and the judge.

As difficult as it may be, bringing the couple into the process may pave the way for a “successful” divorce; one that leaves the parties able to face, deal with, and work with each other after the Judgment of Divorce comes through. Collaborative Divorce can make that happen.

The most successful couples are the ones that don’t let anything go unnoticed and allow each other some room to complain.

In her TED talk on the Mathematics of Love, “complexity theorist” Hannah Fry, Ph.D., talks about what makes for a successful marriage; one unlikely to end in divorce. Based on the work of psychologist, John Gottman, she reports that one of the most important predictors for whether or not a couple is going to get divorced is how positive or negative each partner is being in the conversation. Couples who are probably going to get divorced find themselves getting into a spiral of negativity. (Gottman and his group were able to predict whether a given couple was going to get divorced with 90 percent accuracy.)

When Gottman teamed up with a mathematician, James Murray, they learned what causes these negativity spirals and how they occur. An important factor is something called the negativity threshold. Says Dr. Fry, you can think of the negativity threshold “as how annoying the husband can be before the wife starts to get really pissed off, and vice versa.” Dr. Fry goes on:

Now, I always thought that good marriages were about compromise and understanding and allowing the person to have the space to be themselves. So I would have thought that perhaps the most successful relationships were ones where there was a really high negativity threshold. Where couples let things go and only brought things up if they really were a big deal. But actually, the mathematics and subsequent findings by the team have shown the exact opposite is true. The best couples, or the most successful couples, are the ones with a really low negativity threshold. These are the couples that don’t let anything go unnoticed and allow each other some room to complain. These are the couples that are continually trying to repair their own relationship, that have a much more positive outlook on their marriage. Couples that don’t let things go and couples that don’t let trivial things end up being a really big deal.

As much as some parties may want it, divorce just isn’t the end of the road. Most often when there are children involved, but also when there are post-divorce financial or social entanglements, the couple must still deal with each other.

However, if they have gotten divorced, one may presume the couple has not learned how to complain; and how work out those complaints.

Getting the couple to tell each other their interests; to raise and deal with problems that arise as the divorce process progresses; and work out the kinks of separation is what only the Collaborative Process of divorce is designed to promote. Attorney Charles McEvily notes Collaborative Professionals are specifically trained to have “difficult conversations” with each other, with the parties, and to enable the couple to have them with each other.

Indeed, that may be the primary role of the Family Specialist; the specially-trained mental health professional who actively assists in an interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce. The Family Specialist, sometimes called the coach, can facilitate the parties’ ability to express themselves and also to hear each other. Whether working out the parenting plan, gathering needed information, or considering financial options, if the divorce is going to be “successful,” the parties must be able to tell each other what’s bothering them about life at home, dealing with the children, and the road ahead.

As noted by Roxane Polak, Family Specialist, “conflict is important to the health of a relationship.” Divorcing couples (as well as married couples) need to learn how to resolve their conflict; how to complain to each other and work things out. Bothersome issues of physical, financial and emotional separation should not go unnoticed; they should be brought into the light, resolved, and let go. Odds are that is not a skill that the divorcing couple has. The Collaborative Divorce may be the last available place to get it.

See, Dr. Fry’s TED book, The Mathematics of Love. See, the book by John Mordechai Gottman, James D. Murray, and three others, The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models.

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