High conflict relationships with your ex by Stacey Lewis

We have received so many letters telling of difficult interactions with ex spouses and we have been inundated with questions in this regard.

Unfortunately, when you share children between you, there is no such things as a “clean break”. For as long as your common children are not self-supporting, there will always be a connection between you and your ex.  Many divorcees that have difficult relationships with their ex spouses often wish they were rather grieving a dead husband.

One reader submitted this humorous, yet telling poem about having an ex husband when there are common children:

If you happen to have offspring between you two
An ex is ubiquitous and perennial, like shit on your shoe
Try as you might to remove the dog faeces from the sole
It’s near impossible to remove the asshole
Like garlic repeating on you, days after a meal
He’s stuck in your life no matter how you feel
You can stand on your head, do push-ups and burpees
His presence is as incurable as genital herpes
An ex husband could be likened to a horrible rash
Although he’s not totally useless if he’s flush in cash
If this is the case, it may be worth some flattery
To get him to make you the beneficiary of his life policy

When women leave an abusive marriage, they often feel a sense of relief and hope that now that the marriage is over, the abuse will come to an end. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many women that leave an abusive husband are perpetually punished for doing so and the abuse often persists beyond the marriage. Many men punish financially, as they feel this is the only way that they have of maintaining control. In many cases, the cycle of abuse continues as women, in this case are often not financially independent. In an attempt to gain some control, many women may withhold access. It is important to note that if there is a maintenance agreement and a man withholds payment, this is illegal. Despite this fact, it is equally illegal to withhold access in retalliation.

Be aware of the fact that conversation should be limited to your common children and that you should attempt to keep the interaction as businesslike as possible.

Here are some tips to minimise conflict:

Try keep as much routine as possible. E-mail your children’s timetable to your ex husband and make sure to notify him of any changes. Be courteous and provide sufficent notice of any changes.

Make a regular time that you communicate about your children, their issues and their progress. If the relationship between you and your ex is tumultuous, limit the conversation to email.

Be aware of rules or boundaries you may insist on – you will be expected to keep to these too eg if you are difficult with regard to an au pair your ex may appoint and you make an issue of it, you need to be prepared to expect the same, should you appoint an au pair. If you are inflexible with visitation, don’t expect your ex to be flexible. Make sure that the rules that you enforce are ones that you will be happy with complying yourself.

Pick your battles. There are certain things that are worth fighting for – know what these are. For the rest of the time, steer away from unnecessary conflict. Avoid playing power games with your ex, just to prove a point.

Involve an external person when there are high conflict situations. There is a huge benefit to engaging post-divorce mediators. There are professionals who deal with this regularly. Alternatively, appoint a psychologist, social worker or trusted neutral party to intervene where necessary. Some divorce agreements make provision for these situations.

Avoid discussing issues with your ex in front of your children. Being a child of a divorce is stressful enough without being exposed to high conflict interactions between parents.

If you feel you are in a threatening abusive situation, do consult a professional. Sometimes legal intervention (such as obtaining a protection order) may be necessary, if you feel that you or your children are in danger.

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