When people feel attacked, they reply in 1 of 3 ways: they counterattack, they go into defensive mode or they withdraw. In most divorce cases, there is a lot of attacking going on from both sides. Counterattacks may feel good at the beginning, but they only add fuel to the fire and prolong the attack period. Defensiveness still adds fuel to the fire and only results in more feelings of resentment and anger. I don't need to tell you that those feelings will make people want to attack at a later time. While withdrawal is good to gather ourselves, it's after we withdraw that we have the decision to respond or react.
Responses are thought-based.
Reactions are emotion-based.
What do you think will help in these situations? When coaching co-parents, we talk about scenarios that have happened and start to come up with ways to reply to future scenarios, as well. My clients get tired of my asking, "Is that a reaction or a response?" When we take that 30 seconds or 30 minutes to walk away from the heat of a situation and come up with a though-based response to the scenario, it will work to propel the co-parents into better working conditions for the children involved.
Do you want to feel attacked on a day-to-day basis? The easiest way to ensure these attacks stop is to not respond in like. If you and your co-parent are sending attacks back and forth, if you're both reacting to negativity instead of responding, isn't this a constant cycle of attacks? No one wants to live like this and you have the power to put an end to it.
Karen Becker is an author, speaker and personal growth coach. She has a Master's Degree in Counseling and applies these skills when coaching clients. She has years of experience coaching clients in all areas of life: parenting, co-parenting after divorce and in personal growth/wellness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.