After many months of riding the divorce rollercoaster, your Judgment is finally signed and your divorce is over. You feel a sense of relief and are ready to move on with your life and put that exhausting experience behind you. Unfortunately, your former spouse is unhappy with the result or hasn’t been able to move on with life in an emotionally healthy way. As a result, you see a continuation of emotional conflict with your now former spouse even though the divorce has been over for weeks, months, or even years. An unreasonable former spouse, if motivated and intent, can cause post-divorce life for you and your children to be miserable. Not following the physical custody schedule, or failing to pay child support, refusing to agree to anything you suggest for the children’s extracurricular activities, or simply not following the Judgment are just a few methods an angry former spouse can use when it comes to prolonging conflict after divorce. You are unable to control their behavior, but you do control your response to that behavior. Taking the right approach in responding to an unreasonable former spouse will lower the stress brought on by any of his or her emotional manipulations. Below are 5 tips for you to avoid conflict with your former spouse after a divorce.
1. No response is the best response.
Do not engage in the conflict initiated by your ex-spouse. If you do engage in the conflict, it will only get worse. Your emotional response is what your ex-spouse wants and only feeds the conflict. If your former spouse makes demands or threatens you with ultimatums, don’t be lured in to defend yourself. If you do, you have been lured into the game being played by your ex and should expect the next round to be an escalation of the conflict. It is very difficult to ignore text or email threats of “I’m taking you back to court” or “you will never see the children again” or any other written threats that are made simply to cause you stress and anxiety. However, a no response from you will most likely end the conflict as your ex-spouse won’t have anyone to argue with.
2. Do not be afraid.
Expect the threats mentioned above to be personal. Why? Because it is your ex and he or she should know you very well. That knowledge provides your ex with the ability to say things that will hurt you and will provide them with an opportunity to use those words to instill fear in you. The emotion of fear is how your ex will try and get you to respond. If you don’t want to give your ex what he or she wants, then you cannot be afraid of what will be said to you. Instead, tell yourself that your ex is afraid that you and these words are being said to make you feel the opposite way. Stay strong, empower yourself, and continue to move forward in your life instead of returning to the same arguments that led to your divorce.
3. Ignore, Ignore, Ignore.
This is not easy to do. Those posts on social media are very difficult to look at. The photos and words posted can upset you emotionally. An unreasonable former spouse will use photos and words to tell anyone who will listen how awful you are as a person. You will want to respond and defend your character, especially when lies are being spread about you. However, think about what others may think when you respond to those lies. Think about whether your response will stop your ex from telling more lies or simply encourage more. Do you want to look like the rational ex or the scorned ex to the world? Do your best to ignore and not engage. If you must respond, then don’t respond with hate.
4. Don’t look back with revisionist history.
Experiencing the same conflict and emotions from the divorce after it is over can lead to you wanting to look back in time and revisit why you filed for the divorce. The comments made by a former spouse may even be directed to the divorce being your idea or your fault. If you believed that filing for divorce was in your best interest, don’t look back and second guess your decision. Also, don’t look back and change history because of the comments you keep hearing from your ex-spouse; rather, keep moving forward in your life. It isn’t easy to hear how a decision you made continues to hurt your former spouse. However, if you allow those comments regarding the past to affect your present, then you are doing exactly what your former spouse wants you to do – feel as miserable and angry as he or she does today. This keeps you engaged in a conflict-filled relationship that already ended in divorce. Again, don’t be pulled back into that conflict and remember why you decided that a divorce was in your best interest.
5. If all else fails, remember to stay calm.
If you realize that your former spouse will continue to try and make life miserable for you and possibly your kids after divorce, then you have the ability to simply stay calm before you react in any way toward their actions. Knowing that your ex-spouse may take you back to court should allow you to remain calm and not react when asked to engage in conflict. If you don’t remain calm and react in any negative way, your reaction may be recorded and used as evidence at that next court hearing. If you are unsure whether you can remain calm, then consider using Our Family Wizard for parent communications so you can do them through a computer or phone which would allow you time to think before hitting the send button. If you want to avoid verbal conflict at custody exchanges, consider exchanging at the children’s school, or a police station, or a busy public location with cameras. Having those safeguards in place should allow you to feel a sense of calm instead of anxiety over what may happen if no one is watching.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce, child custody, and modification attorney or have questions or concerns about your post-divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.