Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

More High Conflict Divorce Strategies

October 19, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
More High Conflict Divorce Strategies
Show Notes Transcript

Divorce Coach Karen McMahon is back,  bringing receipts with real-world high conflict divorce strategies. 

In this episode, Karen and Modern Divorce Podcast host Billie Tarascio, who are both seasoned pros when it comes to handling divorce drama, dive deep into a topic that hits home for many parents: how to talk to your kids about divorce when things are blowing up.

Billie and Karen break down the whole "high-conflict vs. amicable divorce" thing. They stress that when the fireworks are exploding, you've got to handle the kid conversation differently. Karen drops some wisdom about keeping things calm, not pointing fingers, and assuring your kids that both Mom and Dad will always be there for them. She even shares a personal story about how things can go south fast when parents don't lay that solid foundation of support during a divorce.

This special podcast covers a number of ways to put out the flareups of divorce so, whether you're dealing with a high-conflict split or just curious, this podcast will leave you with some lasting insights and a sense of how to handle it all with a little more grace.

For more ideas on how to survive your high conflict divorce, sign up for the free Divorce Summit Nov. 13-17, 2023, at

Announcer: [00:00:00] We hope you enjoy this episode of the Modern Divorce podcast, but first, an important message for our listeners. 

Karen McMahon: Divorce is hard, but a high conflict divorce, it's overwhelming. It involves battling not just emotional tolls, but endless court dates, hidden finances, and toxic personalities. This is your call to action.

Don't miss the Ultimate High Conflict Divorce Summit from November 13 17, 2023. Summit brings together an unparalleled lineup of experts featuring leading psychologists who demystify high conflict personalities, top financial advisors, revealing strategies to uncover hidden assets, esteemed legal minds to guide you toward a favorable settlement and renowned child experts who will arm you with the tools and tactics needed to fight effectively for custody. Act now and register for free to unlock an [00:01:00] exclusive bounty of gifts from all 20 experts, yours just for signing up. Take back control. Visit journeybeyonddivorce. com backslash Summit 2023. Register now and reclaim your future.

Billie Tarascio: Hello, and welcome back to the Modern Divorce podcast. I'm your host, Billie Tarascio, joined again by Karen McMahon, High Conflict Divorce Coach, one of our favorite guests. Welcome back to the show, Karen. 

Karen McMahon: Hi, how are you? Thanks for having me back. 

Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. Well, I have to say, your previous podcasts have been some of our most popular.

You talk about high conflict divorce, you own a divorce coaching company called Journey Beyond Divorce. Tell us a little bit about your company. 

Karen McMahon: Yeah, Journey Beyond Divorce, um, was started in 2010, and, uh, we help men and women, which is one of the things that makes us [00:02:00] unique. We've got about 30 percent male clients, and we help them in the English speaking world.

And over the last couple of years, we went from supporting everyone going through divorce to really... niching into high conflict divorce because it's so complex and there's so much support that's needed. And so we do one on one coaching as well as groups. And we're actually going to be launching online programs in 2024.

Billie Tarascio: That's fantastic. And you're right. High conflict divorce is different. It is different. And I want to talk about that because divorce is always hard. But when it's high conflict or you've got somebody with a personality disorder or somebody with an addiction, it's a whole nother level of complex. So one of the things that you talk about is how codependency Really leads to two disordered people.

So even, even if you're the good guy and your ex is the addict or the narcissist or the high [00:03:00] conflict person, you've got two disordered people. Can we talk about 

Karen McMahon: that? Yeah, and I think that I was in that situation. I was a raging codependent and all I could see was his faults because they were just so blaring, you know, and, and my intentions were so good.

Like, you know, yeah, I was controlling, but with good intentions and all of this, and I think what happens is the codependent is so starved for love. Like, we'll do anything. We'll tie ourselves into a pretzel, we'll be a doormat, we'll just, you know, we'll, one of the things I hear the most from my clients is like, I tried, I gave 200%, I gave 300%, and when I asked, well, what did you get?

Right. It's like you could hear a pin drop. It's like, oh, oh yeah, no, I hadn't even thought about that. And so that codependent magnet is your, your personality disorder, whether it's borderline narcissism or, you know, pathological through [00:04:00] alcoholism and addiction, that is a person who is taking, they're a taker.

Um, and the codependent is a giver. And so it's this perfect dance, uh, except everybody's not happy and it's just so complex. And then, you know, enter stage right, a couple of children. And so now we get to, um, raise yet another generation with trauma. And our desire at Journey Beyond Divorce is to break generational chains, start really helping people get healthy through.

the hellatious experience of high conflict divorce, and then to pay it forward to their children so they can be part of that breaking of generational chains. I love 

Billie Tarascio: that and the other, the other reason I, I just really like it because you're putting the growth opportunity on the codependent giver because this is a growth [00:05:00] opportunity.

You do have the ability to come out, even though you were the good guy, to come out healthier, setting healthier boundaries, teaching your children how to set healthy boundaries so that you're not just repeating the same patterns. I love that. How do you help people do that? 

Karen McMahon: Well, we have a number of different steps that we take.

I mean, one of the, one of my favorite sayings is every upset is a setup. And it kind of puts front and center, like, you are going to have oodles of opportunity to be upset. So you can kick and scream and complain to your friends about the soon to be ex or you can look at every upset and say what's my trigger and what's my pattern and how do I like how I'm reacting and can I find a way to just respond and so what we do is first we get people just slowing it down enough.

causing enough to notice what's going on in their body, what their [00:06:00] triggers are and what their behavior is because I know I hated myself and so many of my clients like I am like my worst self right now. So there's the opportunity to use that to find your way back to your authentic self and then to refine that authentic self to the person that you really want to be in the world.

So that's step one. And then step two is how do you begin to protect yourself even before you've made the decision to leave? Right. Once you start, once you step out of the delusion that he or she They said something nice to me last night. Maybe this is the beginning of something new. No, it's not. No, it's not.

Um, and so when you step out of that delusion and you start looking at your own stuff, number one, you have to do that with self compassion and not self condemnation, or you just push yourself further down. And then you need protection, and the protection is boundaries. And what I've learned, [00:07:00] um, Billie, is that neither the personality disordered individual nor the codependent was raised in a household with boundaries.

And it's kind of like, if you were raised in a household where no one spoke a foreign language, chances are you wouldn't do a very good job of it. Sure. 

Billie Tarascio: Yeah, I think that's so right. And another thing you said is that usually starts to occur before the actual divorce. Absolutely. 100%. So regardless of where you're at in your journey, let's say you're wondering whether or not you're going to get a divorce, whether or not it's um, you should think about and start setting healthy boundaries and either The two of you will adapt to those boundaries, right?

And grow into healthy, or you know you're headed for divorce. So how can someone start recognizing what a healthy boundary would be and start setting them? 

Karen McMahon: So, you know, at its basic form, just like a [00:08:00] fence around your property, a boundary is not meant to be a steel wall. It's meant to be almost more like a garden gate.

So you get to decide who comes in and who doesn't. And the first boundary and this is I teach boundaries all the time, I have a five day boundary challenge. And the first boundary is always an internal one. So a lot of people, myself included, will say. He made me feel so bad. I only did that because he did.

So it's like, okay, so now he or she is making you feel and making you do. We know this is not true. In fact, I raised kids. I thought like after 15, 16, I had very little authority over any human being other than myself. And so the first boundary is an internal one, which is, can you own your feelings? Can you trust that a person can behave a certain way, and if there were three individuals standing in front of that person, they would have different reactions based on their family of origin, their life [00:09:00] experience.

So if you can own that, I feel this way, I am triggered, and now I'm scared, or now I'm angry, or now I'm apoplectic, whatever it is, So that's the first thing, and then own your behavior, because your feelings are never wrong, but what you do with them can be very unhealthy, and so on a base level, we teach people to begin to notice your thoughts.

Your feelings, your behaviors, and start seeing what you like and what you don't like, that's a great place to begin and simply attempting to own it. And you'll have a debate going on in your head, but that's a great starting point. And then once you start working on that, the next thing is, how do I use this thing called boundary as protection?

And so, with healthy, if you have a healthy family, uh, the wife might say to the husband, uh, you know, my days are really hectic, I know you work at home, when I come [00:10:00] home I really need a half hour to throw on my running shoes and let off steam, and then I'm all in and you can tag out. Um, and a, a Requests like that in a healthy situation would be like, okay, maybe not on Wednesdays because of x, y, and z, but otherwise I could do that.

That is a boundary that's set. I need some space and it's received and honored. Right. Okay. Now let's look at the, the high conflict household. Are you kidding me? You know, I'm here all the, and this full thing, and you don't, and you always, and so. What you end up doing is making a request and then defending yourself.

And so the boundary is making the request. The boundary is very clear. This is what I'm asking for. This is why I'm asking for it. When the other person either can't hear you or who just goes into the attack or blame mode, what most people do wrong, Billie, is they say it over and over again, [00:11:00] or they say it louder and louder, or they start yelling it.

as if that's somehow going to uphold the boundary. Right. And the, the mistake that people make is if I, Karen, set a boundary with Billie, then in order to uphold it, I have to get Billie to do something different. Right. And the simple answer is no, you have to do something different. You have to be fully responsible for upholding your boundary.

And so that might be, if my spouse is going to give me a hard time, I'm going to bring my running sneakers, I'm going to pull around the corner, throw my running clothes on before I leave the office, and I'm going to go for the run, and come home a half hour late, and he or she may yell at me. But I needed the time and I took it.

So upholding a boundary is about stating it clearly, explaining why, if you can negotiate something, by all means, this is not about being rigid, but then taking care of your need by [00:12:00] changing your behavior so that you can do so. 

Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Makes, makes a lot of sense. I think that's just such a good example, such a good example.

One of the other things you talk about is how you talk to children about divorce when things are high conflict. And you have explained that it is a different exercise than the, um, amicable or normal range conflict 

Karen McMahon: divorce. Yeah, the rule of thumb if you do any research, you're going to see, you know, that there's a couple of things that are great for everyone, right, which is, um, tell them how much you love them, don't give them too much information, tell them that much.

you're both going to always be there for them. The rule of thumb is agree to sit down together and not blame each other if there's infidelity, if that's not, that's not talked about, and just present it as, um, [00:13:00] calmly and lovingly as you can. And so I've had so many high conflict people who it's like, my, my wife said if I don't do that x, y, and z, and so I'm going to do it, and they end up taking care of it.

the high conflict personality rather than the children. So what happens? I'll tell you, in my household, I told my kids, and I knew exactly what was going to happen, I told them by myself, they were four and six years old. I can remember it till today, it was heartbreaking. But when dad told them, he was sobbing on my four year old's daughter's lap.

He was telling them how mommy, um, destroyed the family. She's crushing all of us. She's devastating us. When these two little kids, had I not poured a solid foundation of that, this is my choice, and daddy's really upset, he could say things that sound scary. I want you to know we're going to be okay. Like, had I not poured that [00:14:00] foundation, And they still had a really hard time because dad was like really having a hard time, but the rule is you do what's best for your children.

That's what you want to think about. If, if my soon to be ex can hold it together, and some can, and, and leave all that conflict just for me, then maybe we can tell them together. But if you know that that's not the case, if you know you're going to get thrown under the bus, I'm not saying it because you shouldn't get thrown under the bus.

I'm saying it because if you're thrown under the bus, those kids are going to be getting a very scary message. Now, they're going to get it either way, but if the person who is making the decision is number one willing to own that they're making the decision, and secondly just pour that we're going to be okay, there'll be two bedrooms, there'll be two holidays, two birthdays, but we both love you, this kind of a thing, then when the other [00:15:00] parent comes with their catastrophic reaction to it, they at least have a foundation to stand on.

Billie Tarascio: Yeah, I really like that. That, and I just want to highlight one of the things you said, you always do whatever is best for your children. So if ideal is mom and dad giving you the same message at the same time on repeat, yes, we love that. If it's not possible, what's the next best thing? 

Karen McMahon: Yeah. And that's where, and I say two things actually, especially with high conflict.

Um, if you have a 13 year old, a seven year old and a three year old, You know, they talk about sitting down and telling everyone together, the 13 year old who's already dealing with hormonal changes now has to be this big strong person to be, you know, for their little siblings. And so I also suggest that We really should talk this through, like when I'm coaching someone, what makes the most sense?

You know your children best, so [00:16:00] maybe mom tells them or dad tells them, but maybe you don't also tell them all at once. Maybe if you've got three different age ranges, the 13 year old is going to have questions that the three year old needs to know very little bit, right? Like it's so When you sit down, rather than listening to the rule of thumb, you really need to look at what you know about your children, what you know about your soon to be ex.

Right. And bottom line, what is best for the kids? What's the best way to deliver this information to the kids? 

Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. Like any parenting advice, There's nuggets of wisdom that have to be pulled out and then applied to your situation and the only person who can apply it to your situation is you. So that's just great.

So this is the type of thing that you do when you're coaching, right? You're helping people through these types of decisions. 

Karen McMahon: Absolutely. Yeah, everything [00:17:00] from should I stay or should I go and how do I make that decision and that's a lot of when we have those earlier conversations. It's like, stay, try and mend, work on your boundaries, work on owning your own reactivity.

And you'll see, it'll become very obvious to you once you start opening your eyes and stepping out of the delusion that, you know, this, this isn't really as bad as, It is. Mm hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: Um, so there is a summit coming up that I want to talk about. Tell me about the summit. 

Karen McMahon: Yeah, we're having, uh, our first annual Ultimate High Conflict Divorce Summit, and it's going to be November 13th through 17th.

Um, We're going to have four experts a day. Billie, you're going to be one of our key experts and we're looking, we're speaking to people on the legal front. We've got psychologists explaining personality disorders and codependence. We've got financial people. [00:18:00] We've got a financial forensic because there's often nefarious business going on with money.

I'm talking to an attorney for the children and parent coordinators. So, We're really looking at touching on the whole gamut, and every one of these individuals works in and is schooled in the high conflict divorce area, and so I was thinking about this, if someone, you know, when, when you go through a high conflict divorce, you don't just hire an attorney.

you'll have a divorce coach, you'll have a therapist, you may have an attorney for the children, you may have, um, you may have a psychological forensic, you may need a parent coordinator afterwards, you may need a financial forensic, like things get so complex that there's a bigger team and so this summit is a way where you get to almost consult with every one of these experts without paying the thousands of dollars it would cost you and, um, and have all of that information at your hands.[00:19:00] 

Billie Tarascio: That is so exciting. So November 13th through the 17th, it is virtual, correct? Yes, it is. And what if somebody can't make the the sessions live? 

Karen McMahon: Yeah, so we're gonna have a certain amount of time. I don't have the exact amount of time where you can continue to listen to all the presentations. And then we're gonna have a VIP option, which one of the things that you're gonna get is a lifetime of access to these 20 interviews, which Given that high conflict divorce tends to last, I don't know, six months is really fast, six years sometimes doesn't do it.

So it's, it's a big span. So it's great to have those. And then we're going to have other bonuses for people who sign up for the VIP as 

Billie Tarascio: well. Fantastic. That's so exciting. Um, are we ready to talk about pricing? Pricing 

Karen McMahon: on the, the V IP For the summit? For the summit, yeah. The, the, the summit's free. The summit is free for everybody.

Fantastic. The VIP and the V I P is $97. Amazing. So for [00:20:00] $97, you have 2020 interviews with all of these high conflict experts for the rest of your life. Oh, that 

Billie Tarascio: is absolutely unbelievable. I had no idea it was free. That's fantastic. 

Karen McMahon: Yeah. And, and Billy, um, we were talking earlier, but the fact that you support people who can't afford attorneys.

I was saying this offline, it's probably one of my most heartbreaking situations because I just, I didn't know what was out there and so I've, when I have to say to someone, I've got nothing. That feels really terrible, and when you started showing up in my inbox, I had to have you on the summit because it's, it's the missing piece for so many of these people.

Billie Tarascio: Mm hmm. So Karen, you're talking about When Without Law School, and When Without Law School is the, um, it's a company that another lawyer and I created to help people who are representing themselves. So, we teach them how to... Be a [00:21:00] lawyer, how to legally analyze their case, how to draft documents, how to gather evidence, how to, what to expect in court.

It's our best work at a crash course in law school, but also ongoing coaching. So while your lawyer is your representative at Women Without Law School, we're coaching you, which is similar, you know, to what you're doing as a divorce coach. You know, you're not in there speaking on their behalf, but you're helping them grow both.

to set boundaries themselves instead of setting boundaries for them. 

Karen McMahon: Exactly. Yeah. And there are, there are so many people who either they're, you know, they're just so socioeconomically not in a position to pay anything or I have a lot of clients where all of the funds have been pulled from them.

They've used whatever they could in court, and now they have no choice but to figure out how to represent themselves. And [00:22:00] I am so deeply appreciative of you starting that platform, and I think that it's just got to be helping so many, and I'm so excited to have you on the summit to talk about it. I am 

Billie Tarascio: so excited to be there.

We will make sure that this link is available to people. Thank you once again for coming on. The show, if you all have enjoyed this episode of the Modern Divorce podcast, make sure to like it, leave a review, download it, send it to your friends, and definitely go check out Journey Beyond Divorce with Karen.

Thank you so much, Karen. 

Karen McMahon: Thanks, Billie.

Billie Tarascio: One consistent theme you'll hear from me, Billie Tarascio, is that we do not believe in a one size fits all solution. That's why at Modern Law, you can find anything you need for your family law case. For the highest stakes litigation cases, we've got experienced family law attorneys who can offer you representation.

We also have embraced newly licensed legal paraprofessionals who can offer you [00:23:00] legal representation for less. And if you just need your documents prepared, we can offer certified legal document preparers as well. If that's not for you, and instead you are representing yourself, congratulations. You are like one of the 70 percent of people out there doing it on your own, and our newest offering, Win Without Law School, can help.

For more information about Win Without Law School, go to To get representation options, go to mymodernlaw. com.