Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Is PESD* Influencing Your Divorce?

Acrimony is on the rise, but you can choose to diffuse discourse.

If you’re feeling a little more on edge lately, you’re not alone. A survey of  American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) released earlier this month found that 54 percent of attorneys have noticed an increase in contentious divorces. More than half (52 percent) has experienced spouses acting “more hostile.” What’s the cause for the increase in acrimony? Forty-one percent of attorneys attribute the rise in hostility to “the tone coming out of our nation’s capital.”

“All too often, estranged spouses will only focus on their differences and points of contention,” says John Slowiaczek, president of the AAML. “Unfortunately, the negative tone being generated from our nation’s capital further encourages this spiral of dysfunction.”

Apparently, contention is contagious.

Behavioral studies confirm that aggressive behavior is more prevalent among those who have experienced aggression. Given the political upheaval in the US (and the world) today, the recent uptick in negativity makes sense. Psychiatrist Thomas G. Plante believes it is part of our nation’s “Post-Election Stress Disorder (PESD)*.

But just because you're parting ways and don't see eye-to eye, doesn't mean you have to squabble like Republicans and Democrats over the new healthcare bill. Whether you’re divorcing or not, you can choose to defuse discord. Plante offers these suggestions in his recent Psychology Today article:

  1. Remember your core values. No matter how tense the circumstances, recalling the virtues you aspire to may help keep you out of the fray. “Try to organize and center yourself on the virtues and values that are most dear to you,” says Plante. “Use them like a mantra to help guide your thoughts and behaviors.”
  2. 2.Unplug. Your Facebook feed and the nightly news can become a constant source of negative banter and sensational stories, but you don’t have to consume it. Limit your exposure. Instead, fill your free time with more pleasant pursuits. (See suggestion 3.)
  3. Help others. Nothing places problems in perspective like reaching out to someone else in need. Join an outreach group at your work or church, or volunteer at your child’s school. Even small acts of kindness can make a difference, and are the perfect antidote to negativity.
  4. Nurture social support. “Surround yourself with those who care about you and with whom you can discuss you concerns with while doing the same for others,” says Plante. Disengage from gossips, naysayers or well-intentioned friends who seem to only fan the flames of drama and conflict. (For tips about how to build a positive social network, read Friend Me: How to reclaim relationships during and after divorce.)

Remember, you, your ex, and just about everyone these days is affected by the turbulent political mood. But you don’t have to enter into the fight. As they say, “It takes two to tango.” When you refuse to engage in arguments and resolve to let peace begin with you, you may be surprised at how the tenor of a contentious situation can change.

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