Dealing with divorce is never easy. In fact it is one of the most stressful and grueling experiences to go through. Whatever the issues are which ended the marriage, being divorced can be harder than it ever was being married, especially if you share children. When divorced couples share children there is no ending to the relationship which makes moving on difficult because the children bind ex’s together for life. We not only have to deal with our ex but we have to often deal solely with all the aspects of them that we tried to divorce. It is sometimes impossible not to react but there are ways to find that self-control in an effort to protect the emotions of the children.
10 Steps to Take with a Combative Ex
1. Brief and Factual Communication: Only communicate the necessary information to your ex regarding issues with the children. Do whatever you can NOT to communicate anything emotional in front of your children. Stick to the facts, stay brief and only engage in superficial communication.
2. Eliminate Money Talk: Get wages garnished to eliminate money games. Keep the financial parts of the divorce private and away from the children. These issues with money will only cause children stress, worry and heartache.
3. Privacy: Communicate as much as you can through writing with so you have a line of documentation if necessary to review with your legal team, and this also allows you to avoid all possibility of conflict being had in front of the children.
4. Self-Control: If your ex responds to your communication with attack, re-read what you sent and see if you communicated all the necessary information and if so, do not respond to the attack. If you receive a combative or manipulative text or email and your children are present, stay in control of your emotions. Their feelings are more important than what you cannot solve with your ex at that very moment.
5. Self-Awareness: Become aware of covert and overt manipulations used by your ex which get you unsettled and reactive. Educate yourself on how to strategize so you can prepare and avoid getting sucked in by reacting and bashing them in front of the children.
6. Respect the custodial schedule: Minimize asking favors from you ex like switching weekends as this will be held against you in the future as a way to create conflict. Consistency is best for your children so do as little switching as possible so they maintain their life of predictability.
7. Respect Custodial Time: When your children are with your ex limit your contact with them to one time daily. Respect their time with their other parent and support them in that relationship.
8. Eliminate Tensions for the Children: If your children have athletic practices or other extra-curricular activities during your ex’s custodial time do not attend them. Attend practices and activities on your time. Be sure, however, to attend all games and major events being respectful and non-combative with your ex when in person. Your children need to be able to focus on their events not the drama between their parents.
9. Have Integrity: Be cordial and socially warm when you see your ex to show your children you can be kind, mature and respectful to their other parent. This alleviates uncomfortable tensions and the creation of loyalty conflicts.
10. Worry about Your Own Life: Let your ex go to be free to be whoever he/she is going to be because there is no way to control this. Be yourself, mind your own business and respect the emotions of your children.
Focus on the best interest of your children and focus on the best interest of you. If your children ask you questions answer them honestly. It is in no one’s best interest to stay committed to negativity. Let go of the need to control, let go of the need to defend and let go of the need to fight. If your ex chooses to stay connected to you through hate (whether overtly or covertly) then so be it. Love unites and negativity divides. Stay cordial, mature and loving. This makes things safe for your children. Love your children by creating as little drama for them as possible. The truth of your ex will come to them in time and it is more beneficial for them to come to this truth on their own then to have you trying to make them see it.
Little Life Message: When we take good care of ourselves and our emotions we teach and model for our children to do the same.
Sherrie Campbell, PhD is a veteran, licensed Psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Yorba Linda, Irvine, Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea, California. In her private practice, she currently specializes in psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, including marriage and family therapy, grief counselling, childhood trauma, sexual issues, personality disorders, illness and more. She has helped individuals manage their highest high and survive their lowest low—from winning the lottery to the death of a child. Her interactive sessions are as unique and impactful as her new book, Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person.