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.
- Try keep the relationship as businesslike as possible. Avoid discussing emotive topics.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.