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How to negotiate your divorce when your spouse is a bully

Bullies don't just populate schoolyards and high school hallways. They're everywhere. You may even be married to one.

If so, that makes negotiating your divorce particularly tricky. According to psychologists, however, there are some specific things you need to keep in mind when you're dealing with a bully:

Spend time figuring out what matters to you

Negotiation is fine as long as you don't let the bully force you into an agreement that's contrary to your needs. You gain power by knowing (and not disclosing to the bully) your actual "bottom line." Once you determine that for yourself, you can negotiate any agreement that doesn't cross that line. If the bully tries to push further and won't stop, you know it's time to give up on negotiations and move toward litigation.

Use a calm, detached demeanor

Bullies thrive on making other people react to them. Learn what you can about the "grey rock method" of dealing with people who are emotional manipulators. By learning to become emotionally non-responsive and detached, the other party gets less and less out of behaving like a bully. You won't meet your spouse's need to dominate or instill fear if you simply look removed and distant from the whole conversation. You also won't give your spouse any clues about how important any particular issue is to you.

Don't give into a rush (and don't be in one)

Bullies sometimes try to rush other people into decisions by making them feel that everything is a "limited-time offer." Don't fall for that trap. If an offer is genuine, it'll be there. By the same token, if you look rushed over a particular situation, you can expect your bully-spouse to slow the process down as much as possible or use your rush to force you into a bad deal.

High-conflict divorces are stressful. An experienced litigator can help put some necessary space between you and your spouse during this time.

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