Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: How to Negotiate With a Jerk
I do not have any magic potions or incantations to drive the bully out of your life. Nor do I have any tips on how to make the unreasonable co-parent more reasonable. The main goal of the advice here is to try to help you control the damage you do to yourself and your children when you are engaged in a problem-solving effort with a co-parent who pulls you into high-conflict communications.
First, are you sure the co-parent is as big a jerk as you think he is? Of course you are sure. You couldn't be more sure, right? You are emotionally involved, though, so you should look elsewhere for validation. Your friends and relatives do not necessarily count if they are the type who tell you everything you want to hear just to make you feel better. The reason for seeking outside validation is that once you are convinced that the co-parent you are dealing with is hopeless and unreasonable, you will probably stop trying to do all of the things that produce good results when people are reasonable.
When you are certain that the co-parent is a genuine jerk and almost everyone who has an opinion agrees, there are certain facts you must accept.
True Facts About Jerks
You don't have to like these facts, but you do have to accept them.
- Even the most reasonable, settlement-oriented professionals cannot control clients who are jerks. Jerks do not listen to anyone, even their lawyers, because jerks know it all. That is part of what makes them, you know, the j-word.
- Jerks will often get more than they deserve because they are stubborn.
- There is no guarantee that the jerk will get punished for her jerky behavior. Sometimes jerks demand what is impractical but within their right to demand. In essence, jerks can't be punished for exercising their constitutional right to act like a jerk.
- Jerks are entertained and amused by things non-jerks would like to avoid. Jerks like to argue, and they enjoy being in a place where they can tell judges and anyone who will listen how victimized they are. They like to return to court whenever possible, even if it is a waste of money, just because they know it bothers you.
Practical Tips for Negotiating with a Jerk
In practical terms, when forced to negotiate with a jerk, keep the following in mind.
- Giving up a little more than you normally would to a jerk is not selling out. If giving up a little more means putting an end to this round of aggravation, do it.
- Don't withhold visitation from a jerk. Unless there is physical danger to a child, don't object to the jerk being around the children. First, while you might think the co-parent is a jerk, the children might not. Second, it is not written in any law that a co-parent you think is a jerk is not entitled to share time with the children. By withholding visitation you may be giving the jerk something reasonable and toothy to complain about. You can get in big trouble for that. Third, it is often true that for children, having a relationship with a parent who is a jerk is better than having no relationship at all.
- Keep detailed notes and records of every aspect of you vs. jerk negotiations. Should negotiations break down, you will find yourself in front of a judge. While settlement negotiations are not supposed to be considered at a trial, judges often discover what offers went to the negotiation table and who rejected them before things fell apart.
- Grit your teeth and kill with kindness. If you smile and remain polite and respectful, the jerky characteristics will come to the forefront and turn off even the jerk's own representatives. Make the jerk's lawyer wish you were his client.
- Stop calling the jerk a jerk. Your perceptions and expectations will enhance all of the behavior that displeases you most. If you continue to call the jerk a jerk, you will not notice positive change or a softening of positions in your co-parent, and you have made her your enemy. Sometimes people cope with failed relationships by turning the co-parent they once loved into something repulsive and objectionable. It would be easier and more effective to turn your energy and attention to yourself, to stop punishing yourself for making a poor choice, and to avoid engaging in petty scorekeeping for the sole purpose of thwarting someone else's efforts.
The goal of negotiating any type of deal with any type of co-parent is to create a peaceful and equitable ending to the negotiation. You can do this by giving away small points, whether they be a few days of contact with your children here and there or some minor expenses on the financial front.
There can be something oddly comforting about focusing your attention on a co-parent who has become your enemy. It gives you an excuse to avoid other responsibilities in life. After all, almost everyone can be sympathetic to someone who is going through a rough divorce, especially where children are involved. But be forewarned: this coupon has an expiration date.
The unfortunate part about concentrating on your personal battle with the co-parent and putting everything else on hold is that doing so restricts you from bringing yourself into contact with positive change, new adventures, and a form of happiness and relaxation you probably haven't experienced in a very long time.
Finally, the more you refer to the other parent as a jerk, the more likely it is that your kids will hear you and repeat it. That will bring you even more unwanted trouble than you deserve, so don't do it.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes