Coercive Ploys in Divorce

by Reflector

This week I’ve been reading an article entitled, “The Role of Coercion” by Barbara J. Lonsdorf. Lonsdorf writes that the same coercive dynamics that played themselves out in a dysfunctional marriage often repeat themselves in the procedures of separation, divorce and post-divorce. She says, “Just as coercive ploys can take physical, emotional or monetary forms in marriage, so ploys can take physical, emotional or monetary forms in negotiations depending on the supply and demand of resources of divorcing parties.”

Lonsdorf poses the following key questions: “What was the prior use of coercion in the marital relationship? What is the current social/emotional involvement with his divorcing spouse? Honestly answering these help more vulnerable spouses to understand the depth of their susceptibility to being coerced.

The more I have been investigating, the more aware I have become that I cannot rely upon my lawyer to come up with the divorce plan and the strategies that go with it. Only I can defend my interests. I’ve been apprehensive about my STBXS’ reaction when she will be served the divorce papers. Left up to her she will continue to postpone her job hunt as a way of getting me to continue carrying the majority of the monetary support.

According to Lonsdorf, it’s in the vulnerable spouse’s interest to enter the negotiation tables with a more active and cooperative stance rather than passive or reactive. If the tone set by one party is cooperative it may help break the vicious coercive pattern. This part of the article is correct yet it throws me into confusion, because one side can be cooperative while the other side continues to play dirty. How do you enter the negotiation tables with a cooperative spirit without yielding to unreasonable demands?

I know that for me coercion was part of my marital history and that negotiations happened to be quite antagonistic. I want to now make a shift — learning how to defend my economic position and establish firmer boundaries. Lonsdorf says that being aware of the coercive dynamics in some cases is enough to assist someone in overcoming coersive ploys.

The problem is that cooperation can be equivalent to giving in in to coercive demands, so the demands only increase and escalate. I need to not only deal with the exploitation, but also balance between too much cooperation on the one end and too much rigidity on the other.

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8 Responses to Coercive Ploys in Divorce

  1. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi Reflector, and welcome 🙂

    That’s a good thing to be aware of. If someone behaves a certain way in one circumstance, the likelihood they will handle another situation with the same attitude, using the same methods is great.

    So if your spouse is manipulative and exploitative in your marriage, they’re probably going to be like that in your divorce. Seems obvious, but I don’t know how many times partners of narcissists and other abusive personalities find ourselves absolutely stumped by the behavior of our ex’s in divorce and child custody arrangements.

    It’s like, okay, they were a jerk in marriage, but now in divorce they’re going to suddenly be mature and grown up about it?

    So thanks for reminding us to be more mindful.

    Seems to me you will want to take a good look at what “cooperation” means to you, and define that for yourself, because if you don’t, no doubt your STBX will be more than happy to use her definition for you, which will probably not apply to her!

    I think it’s great you’re taking the responsibility for looking out for your best interests. Your attorney may be helpful, but ultimately you know your situation best.

    Good luck! And again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Reflector says:

    Thank you Phoenix for commenting,

    I would like to respond with more depth later.

    I appreciate the welcome and look forward to sharing more with you.

    See you,

  3. Reflector says:

    Hi Phoenix,

    I think it’s fair to say that those who are more conscientious sometimes hook up with a pathological personality that lacks empathy. It’s also fair to say that those who are kind-hearted and nurturing assume people are going to think and act the way we would think and act, so that once we finally free ourselves from a PD, we believe they will finally leave us in peace.

    This conscienceness often seems like a disadvantage… as we feel guilt more easily; tend to be overly sensitive at times; often doubt our own judgments and also get far too down on ourselves whereas the pathological personality suffers from none of these things.

    Also, if we neglect to take of ourselves, we can suffer an array of maladies… and yet the good news is that we continue being the back bone of society, so that’s why it’s important to have the emotional support that kindred spirits like yourself offer.

  4. PhoenixRising says:

    Wow, Reflector, I think this is so true:

    I think it’s fair to say that those who are more conscientious sometimes hook up with a pathological personality that lacks empathy. It’s also fair to say that those who are kind-hearted and nurturing assume people are going to think and act the way we would think and act, so that once we finally free ourselves from a PD, we believe they will finally leave us in peace.

    That’s a lot to think about in one paragraph, but I do think it’s something we should all be mindful of.

    The question is how do we protect ourselves from PD’s, and yet, at the same time maintain those qualities of empathy and caring that really make life worth living with depth and richness.

    It’s a challenge, but one worth taking, I believe.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights here. Your support and courageous sharing is invaluable.

  5. Reflector says:

    Hi Phoenix,

    Your question has extensive implications and it could take a book the size of a telephone book to address it. However, maybe I can share one insight to start us off and maybe others could contribute other ideas along the way. It’s important to deal with PD thinking of internal issues and not just how we interact with them over the phone, etc.

    I need to back pedal a bit… The idea of introspection is meant to release empathetic persons like ourselves from the prison house of the PD past. However, I read this week that if our rumination leads to blaming (either ourselves or the PD), then we will remain stuck in the funk of our emotions. Doc Childr and Deborah Rozman state in their book, “Overcoming Emotional Chaos” the following key concept that I really appreciate and am seeking to implement:

    “One of the most important things to release is faultfinding or blame toward yourself or another. Blame keeps spirit in retreat. To bring in more of your spirit, you need to take full responsibility for yourself and realize that you have the power to release judgment, resentment, or hostility. You do it for your own health and well-being if not for any other reason.”

    Learning to keep blame in check is a hard lesson for me to retain as I did the blaming so automatically in the name of honesty and/or authenticity. Since I disliked folks who projected a pristine, I’ve-got-it-all-together persona, I didn’t want to fall into this phony category. So, I learned there are two extremes that need to be avoided: “Nicety” as well as blame.

    I think that may be a good beginning to protecting us internally at least…


  6. PhoenixRising says:

    That’s a fine line to walk, I think. You make some good points, thank you. 🙂

    It’s probably a good idea to be mindful about the pitfalls of both – blaming and being too nice.

    But I, also, think that depends on where you on in your escape/recovery, too.

    I spent so much time trying to be understanding and empathic, that when it was time for me to leave, to break those ties and not bounce back or let myself get reeled back in as was the habit for years, I found that a good amount of healthy rage was just what I needed.

    And for a while, making him accountable that I had protected him from for so long, did look like blame. But so what? I really needed to do it.

    Did I want to stay in that? No. But for the time I needed to do that, I did. There was always a part of me that did take full responsibility for my life though, so I lost no time in wallowing and did what I had to do to get on my feet and take care of my child.

    But I sure did need to take a while to look at the abusive dynamics with those rose colored glasses off, and take a good, good look at what was going on and acknowledge the verbal abuse and psychological abuse and usury that I suffered at his hands for a very, very long time.

  7. Reflector says:

    Hi Phoenix,
    You made some worthy points in your responses that I want to in turn reply to:
    “…that depends on where you on in your escape/recovery, too.”
    “And for a while, making him accountable that I had protected him from for so long, did look like blame. But so what? I really needed to do it.”
    Both of these statements underline a key principle for me. One, if you have to wait until you had to have waited to make your move in a balanced, moderate way you probably would never had gotten out. Yeah, that’s human nature – from one side of the pendulum to the other. Sometimes those of us who are the more conscientious types want to do it perfectly or not at all, so I fully agree.
    On the other side, there’s a part of me that needs to one day get balanced eventually, because blame is a corrosive sentiment to hold on to and leads to some pretty dismal health issues. I would even venture to say that anger and blame are not synonymous. While anger may lead to blame, anger doesn’t have to end in blame. Anger can be both constructive or destructive. Once we see the red flag, anger gives us the energy and determination to act and to place the necessary boundaries that were originally missing. However, if anger always leads us to blame, then we not only take the victim seat, but begin to take the persecutor role against the offender.
    I know one colleague that I have a hard time conversing with because all she does is blame others and this has made her a negative and bitter person to be around. I know that if and when I do take the time to talk to her, it will have a draining effect upon me after only a few minutes of listening to her. I guess this type of behaviour affects me more than most because my family of origin tended to blame everyone and everything. No matter how much they received, it wasn’t enough.
    Take care and hope to hear from you later,

  8. Reflector says:

    Oh I forgot… Can you please tell me what usury is? I’ve never heard of the term before in the context of relationships, just finances.


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