Albert Einstein (a fairly smart fellow) said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  In that respect, it’s fairly simple to self-diagnose!  If you’ve been doing the same things over and over and still expect to see different results, you might be insane … or, you might be giving a conditioned response.

Insanity needs attention from someone trained in psychiatry.  (Not my gig.)

Conditioned responses need attention from you, because the only cure for the conditioned response is awareness and a willingness to change.  So what does this have to do with family law?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  You see, if you are repeatedly responding in an unhealthy way to conflicts or issues with your co-parent, expecting THEM to change, you’re probably going to be disappointed (at the very least).

Here’s an example of conditioned responses (CR):

You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily.
Them (Pushing Your Button):  I told you that I needed to leave at 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all.
You (CR):  You didn’t tell me that.  Besides, the orders say 6 and that’s when I’ll be there.
Them (CR):  You heard me.  5:30 or don’t bother.
You (CR):  I have to work for a living, so I’ll be there at 6.
Them (CR):  Don’t bother because we won’t be here.
You (CR):  Fine. I just won’t bother following court orders, but I’ll be calling my lawyer in the morning.
Them (CR):  Fine.  Go ahead. But you still won’t see the kids tonight.
You (CR):  Screw you!
Them (CR):  No, screw you!

If this is your pattern of communicating, you’re living with a lot more conflict than you have to.  Obviously, this is simplistic and there might be other forces at work, such as mental health issues or substance abuse, but assuming those are not a problem, here’s an example of changing your approach to avoid the conditioned response.

You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily.
Them:  I told you that I needed to leave before 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all.
You (Changing Your Approach):  Uh-oh!  I must have missed that.  What’s going on?
Them:  I have traffic school and it starts at 6:30, so I have to leave before 6.
You:  I can’t leave work early and I can’t count on traffic to be smooth, so how can I make this work?
Them:  Well, you can get here by 5:30 so I don’t have to worry about it.  
You:  Okay, I can’t get there, but I bet a cab can.  How about if I send a cab to pick up the kids in 15 minutes and bring them to my office?
Them:  I don’t feel comfortable having them in a cab by themselves.
You:  When they get in the cab, Andrew can call me on his cell phone and I’ll stay on the phone with them until they arrive.  How’s that?  
Them:  Fine, we’ll try it this time.

The only real difference in these exchanges is your response.  The next time you’re feeling like maybe you’re going insane, try changing your approach to avoid the conditioned response and see what happens!

I am honored to work with many wonderful mental health professionals who can help you learn this type of communication technique and many others, which will make your co-parenting life a lot more productive and much less stressful for everyone.  Call my office if you would like a referral.

Choose Peace (it’s more sane!)