But They’re Impossible!
If you have children with your ex-partner, and the relationship is still tense or antagonistic, it may seem like you are never able to come to an agreement. And with the default rule in Arizona being that parents should share joint legal decision making authority, it is highly likely that you will need to come to agreements to avoid the expensive and emotionally costly process of having a judge make decisions for you. How to do this?
You need to learn how to fight fair. Dr. Phillip Stahl, a well-respected psychologist here in Arizona has developed some rules for fighting, even with a person who is high-conflict, that can help you come to agreements. When it comes to dealing with the children, it pays to learn the Fair Fighting Rules:
Stay focused on the present. Bringing up the past isn’t fair
State the problem clearly – think through what your complaint is, make sure you have all the facts.
Avoid blaming the other parent.
Use an “I-message” to state how you feel. When the kids come back from spending time with you they are often hungry. I am worried that they aren’t getting enough to eat at your house.
Be willing to listen to what the other parent has to say. Summarize what you hear the other person saying. This is called paraphrasing or active listening.
Focus on the problem – not the person.
Brainstorm solutions. Be willing to compromise. Give a little to get a little.
Choose the best solution that will work for everybody – especially your kids.
Implement the solution. If it doesn’t work, schedule another time to talk and pick another solution.