Busting Myths: Conflict Is Unhealthy
There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.
Conflict Is Unhealthy
This myth is common. You hear that it is better for the kids to not be in around constant fighting. That disagreement is bad for parenting. When there is a lot of conflict, abuse is likely coming. The myth is based on the idea that as couples divorce, the conflict is exposed, because its not hidden behind closed doors. The kids have to live in the middle of a battle zone, and can be the unwitting victims of the constant fighting of the couple. The home with conflict is simply a powder keg ready to explode. Divorce is justified because of conflict. If divorce were not easily granted, then all of these wives are soon going to be the victims of domestic violence.
The divorced couple also has a conflict myth. This is the myth that if two parents don’t agree on things, that the children will be poorly taken care of. They will not have their needs met, and that it is the courts job to limit the conflict. The court will make decisions to give one parent the decision making power to limit conflict. This is all done to protect and care for the kids.
Conflict is a normal part of life. People’s decisions are made better when there is conflict, and they have to think it through. The lack of conflict in a relationship is likely the better indicator of a failing relationship. Yes when people cannot resolve conflict, there is a problem, but its no bigger a problem than avoiding conflict. No one agrees all of the time.
Most couples are not fighting all the time. The ones who are, rarely are heading for divorce. Most couples just start putting space between each other. They fight less as they head to divorce. Its the actual divorce process that increases conflict. If the courts stayed out of it, and lawyers were not involved, it would just be a tougher breakup like everyone had with a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past. Kids add to the issues, but again the court increases conflict, because there is advantage to be won or lost through the process.
The idea that parents in conflict cannot parent well drives a lot of custody decisions. I can’t remember a time that there wasn’t some conflict in our parenting, so it is easy to demonstrate that conflict exists. The myth says that parents in separate households can only parent together if they are on the same page about things, and if they are not on the same page, then one parent needs the decision making power. The truth is that the conflict sharpens your thinking on issues and the children will benefit by both parents working through the conflict, even if they never reach a full resolution on most issues. There are only a few things that require both parents to truly agree on for the kids to be healthy. Those are school decisions and medical decisions.
The courtroom is based on conflict. Its how it resolves issues. The courtroom is the wrong place to resolve a divorce. I honestly would like an official who could handle signing off on the final agreement, and have the power to liquidate assets that the couple cannot agree on, and divide the cash between them. Give them the necessary means to obtain a court order to unhinder protected assets like retirement plans. I would think that a court order like this could be obtained in a similar manner as to how the police get warrants for investigations. It wouldn’t have to go to a specific judge. Most of the conflict will dissolve as emotions cool down in this type of system. There simply isn’t much advantage to be gained, and if there is something that one person really cares about, then they will be willing to offset it with cash or other items. Sure there could be some conflict over certain things, like a family pet, but for most people this process would work out pretty quick once the emotional storm is over.
The courts are involved, because lawyers want it that way. Most people don’t realize that the majority of divorce research is done by groups of lawyers or is commissioned by lawyers who are looking for ways to make more and more money off of divorce. Divorce is one of the biggest profit centers for most law firms, and is a profitable place for even nominal lawyers to make a good living. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and a large majority of these are first time marriages. This means that the customers are almost all newcomers. Criminal lawyers want the repeat business. They are going to do their best to have you come back when you slide to the wrong side of the law again. It is to their advantage to do a good job at a fair price. This just isn’t true for family lawyers. They need to extract as much as possible right now. Most of their clients that divorce again have far fewer assets available to extract from them. Me and my ex had around $100K in assets and my legal bills have crept very close to $20K including the GAL. This means she spent something similar. The lawyers will have taken half our wealth, and very little has changed from what we would have agreed on before regarding assets.
Understand that while the judge, experts, self-help resources, and even your own lawyer warn against conflict while going through divorce, they are continually taking actions that will increase discontentment and increase the desire for conflict. This will drive up the costs all of the way. Now taking away the slow spigot of dealing with conflict as it rises, our system is increasing the amount of “powder keg explosions” that result in divorce. Sadly these “powder keg explosions” are used as excuses for so many of the actions that are taken, but in truth the vast majority of them would be handled at the time to little consequence. There are a large number of things that just wouldn’t have been issues in my case, if they could have been dealt with without her lawyer telling her to hang on to them, and then doing the adult version of tattling to the judge. I know lawyers think its normal to live your life in the shadow of a great overlord in a black robe, but to most of us this is an authority that we don’t want in our lives.