If you have children, preserving a relationship with dignity and mutual respect after separation is important for the healthy development of your children.
The most harmful part of separation for children is conflict among the parents and other care-takers.
A coupleship ends with a “separation” whether married or have lived together as domestic partners. Separation usually means one partner has moved out of the home. Sometimes couples will “separate” while continuing to live under the same roof — one has ended intimate relations and has moved to a separate bedroom.
A couple usually separate because one or both feel that their needs are not being met.
It can be helpful to have a clear understanding of what needs are not being met. It is normal for a person to be angry and frustrated when their needs are not met. How you handle your emotions of anger, frustration, or other negative feelings is important for you and your children.
Disagreements and conflicts are a normal part of having intimate relationships. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with disagreements and conflicts. Your children will learn how to handle disagreements and conflicts by watching how their parents do it. Be a good teacher for your children. Learn healthy ways to deal with disagreements and conflicts.
What do social psychologist have to say about disagreements and conflicts?
Disagreements happen when two or more people in a relationship have differences in their point view or perspective about reality. Most people tend to believe that they see the world around them objectively. Consequently, if someone disagrees with us we tend to think they must be uninformed, irrational, or biased, in other words, we tend to think “I’m right and your are wrong.” Some call this the “I’m right and your are wrong.” trap. Learn to avoid this trap.
We humans have a common belief that our perception of reality is objective; psychologist call this naïve realism. Experiments have show that in fact all perception is subjective. This means that whatever point view we have is in someway incomplete, inaccurate, and biased. This is true for all of us humans and we cannot help it. So, how do you avoid the “I’m right and your are wrong.” trap? The answer is: LISTEN to the other person’s point of view with an open mind and suspend judgment. Be open to the possibility that they might see or experience something that is in your blind spot.
Be an active listener.
This means give your full attention to the other person while they are talking without interruption. The attempt repeat to them what you think they said, and ask: “Did I get is all. Did I get it right.” Then ask the other person to do the same for you.
Communications are tricky. Words have meanings and the meaning the other person gets from what you say is important. Sometimes the other person will hear a “sub-text” to your words. This means the other person is getting a hidden message that gives them a negative emotion.
There are five core concerns that everyone has. If the other person perceives — rightly or wrongly — that you are saying or doing something to ignore one of these concerns, then they will have a negative emotion. If either one has a negative emotion, then you cannot get to agreement on the other side of disagreement.
The five core concerns are:
(1) Appreciation (feeling devalued),
(2) Affiliation (treated as adversary, at arms length),
(3) Autonomy (freedom to make decisions is impinged),
(4) Status (feel treated as an inferior), and
(5) Role (current role and its activities are not personally fulfilling).
Read Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, by Fisher and Shapiro (2005) for more information and how to avoid triggering negative emotions in your partner.
What if your partner is stuck in their “I’m right and your are wrong.” trap? Your best defense is to learn four key skills:
(1) Manage your emotions (give yourself encouraging statements),
(2) Flexible thinking (make realistic proposals and responses),
(3) Moderate behaviors (use BIFF responses — see below),
(4) Check yourself (avoid blaming others).
What is a BIFF response?
BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. Buy the book: BIFF: Quick Responses To High Conflict People…, by Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD. Order from the High Conflict Institute on line. Use these skills when giving written responses to the other person — especially if their message was hurtful and had “blame-speak”. You can also use these skills with verbal responses.
Learning to use these skills in communications will be good for your children and could save you a lot of legal expenses — and maybe repair your relationship so you could stay together.