Shouting Man

Strategies for dealing with a difficult ex husband by Susan Simmons

So many divorcees that have common children with a difficult ex spouse have remarked to me that in some ways, they would have preferred it if their ex husband had died. So many women who experience ongoing power struggles with a difficult ex report feeling as if their suffering is ongoing, as if their ex is constantly “in your face” and that there is never a time that resolution is found.

So, based on my own experience and the reports of so many women that have come to me for assistance, here are my recommendations for minimising stress and avoiding power struggles with a difficult ex.

  1. Try keep the relationship as businesslike as possible. Avoid discussing emotive topics.
  2. Always remain focused. Your only interaction with your ex husband needs to be as a co-parent. Keep this in mind always. Limit your discussion to the children.
  3. Keep a copy of your divorce agreement handy and make sure you are aware of your and your children’s rights as well as your obligations, according to the agreement. Always be aware that you cannot expect your ex to adhere to the agreement if you do not. Remember, if you always drop off your children at your ex later than the agreed-upon time, you have no business being angry with him if he does not adhere to times.
  4. If the relationship is an explosive one, rather limit communication to text messages (Whatsapp is preferable as you can email yourself the conversation, should you require it at a later stage) and emails. That way, you will also have everything in writing, should you need to refer to it at a later stage.
  5. Always make sure that you prioritise your children. Make sure that your love for your children is always stronger than your dislike for your ex husband. Never use your children as pawns in an argument against your ex and don’t withhold visitation as a punishment to your ex – you will only be punishing your children.
  6. If there are legitimate concerns and your ex is a repeat “offender” – arriving late / not arriving / not paying maintenance or paying late, keep meticulous records so that you have sufficient proof, should you require an outside party to intervene.
  7. Avoid exposing your children to conflict. If you and your ex cannot be in each other’s company without fighting, avoid being in the same room or area together. Let your ex drop off the children in the driveway when he brings them home, so you don’t have to enter into a hostile conflict situation.
  8. However angry you may be with your ex’s behaviour at certain times, avoid name-calling and insulting him. Keep reminding yourself that your children’s happiness comes first and act accordingly.
  9. If your ex infringes upon your rights, becomes violent or does not adhere to the divorce agreement, make sure you have proof and do not be scared to take the necessary action required. If you legitimately fear for your children’s safety when they are with your ex, go and consult with an expert who will advise you on the best way forward.
  10. Remember that although you may have negative feelings towards your ex husband, he is still the father of your children. If you express outward negative opinions about him, they will see this as a rejection as a part of themselves, for they are composed of parts of him. Try keep negative feelings about your ex husband away from your children, as much as is possible.


  1. Adele

    Also remember that a protection order can also be implemented for emotional abuse , harassment and intimidating behaviour on the part of your ex

  2. Vyvyan Sayers-Boyd

    Always remember, your children will be parents one day.Leave them a good legacy in the divorce that portrays how you handle love amidst the difficult Divorce situation.Maintain Respect and Dignity on both sides.Children never benefit from how to be conduct a nasty distasteful relationships with the ex. Vyvyan Sayers-Boyd

  3. Nandipa Mophethe

    Good afternoon ladies

    I am a 32 year old mother of a 3 year old daughter, after 3 years of emotional, financial and physical abuse I finally decided to divorce my husband. When we met, I had a good job earning a comfortable salary. Three months after meeting my soon to be ex husband we got married. He promised me heaven and earth but immediately after marriage he changed into a monster. He is a Senior Pastor of a big congregation and convinced me that I needed to help him on his ministry and resign as he was able to take care of me. I resigned immediately after getting married and things changed. It is now 5 years later and I have been struggling with the divorce. I have a lawyer helping me but I have now realised my case is just another file in his office that he wants to get over with. So much has happened but I will get to the bottom line. My lawyer successfully applied for an interim maintenance for me and my daughter which is a total of R8 500, installments for my car, water and electricity, gardening services, pool services and helper. The R8 500 should be paid direct to my account on the 1st day of each month and the rest my husband he needs to pay and for each item there is an amount attached. It has been now 8 months and my husband has only been paying g R3000 into my account and nothing else. I then told my lawyer who applied and they attached my husbands paid up second car and sold it on an auction. An amount of R43 000 was made from the sale of the car but they only have me R12 000 and paid themselves with the remainder. Even after all this my husband did not pay the money and even the R43000 from the car sale was not enough to cover what he owes. Last week we met for round table settlement and I am not happy at all. My lawyer told me that the money owed by my husband now forms part of the estate and was trying to convince me to settle…please advice …is there a way to recover the money he owes before settlement? I am not happen even with his proposal settlement

  4. Mien van Rooyen

    My former husband divorced me when my daughter was 14 months old. I believed all the nonsense, also preached in this article, that it would be ”in the best interest of the child” to have my daughter visit my former husband regularly. So off she went, every Sunday, for a visit. From the age of eight, however, my daughter became more and more unwilling to go and visit my former husband and his new wife and son. It was a continual battle. She didn’t want to go. I forced her. She went to see them on Sundays, and on Mondays she very often was exhausted, ill, and refused to go to school. This had consequences. She was then bullied by the children at school, because of her unhappiness, and because of her regular absences.

    Please note that my former husband and his wife were never physically abusive. He was, however, a very negative person who very seldom had something nice to say about another person, the weather, politics, the lot. When my daughter was thirteen years old, she reduced the number of visits to a minimum. Then she was in a better position simply to tell her dad that she had homework, or tests, or activities at school, and was unable to visit them. Well, she’s 32 years today. Her one great regret and recrimination against me is that I forced her to go to her father against her will. If she had had her own way, she would not ever have gone to see him once. It would not have been a loss.

    My daughter’s father died some years ago. To this day, my daughter says that his death was the greatest relief of her life. At last, finally she could begin to live, without being dragged down continuously, and become the happy person she always knew she could be.

    It is a fantasy to think that men who are dreadful husbands and inadequate fathers will all of a sudden be essential to a child’s happiness once the parents have divorced. Some dads are much better not seen, and not known.

  5. gail

    Nandipha you are more than welcome to call me. I am sure I can help. 079 226 0137. SMS your details and I will contact you. I have been thru similar also was married to a pastor I’m now defending myself. I’m willing to assist you FREE of charge

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