Ever heard of the saying “people can’t drive you crazy unless you give them the keys?” What if the keys are your kids?
When you meet divorcing couples who don’t share children it is fairly easy to cut ties, walk away and gain complete control back into your lives. However, everyone who has children knows that the saying above is utter non-sense, and really impossible if you are co-parenting with a difficult ex. When you are dealing with that kind of reality you are giving those keys over to the person who drives you the most crazy about 50% of every single week.
To add insult to injury, you will come across lovely and well-meaning friends and family members repeatedly giving their golden nuggets of advice. I remember being told:
“You need to stop letting him control you.”
“When will you stop giving him so much power?”
“Nothing he or anyone says should matter once you have learned to trust and honor yourself.”
“Why don’t you put a stop to it?”
What all these well-meaning friends don’t realize, is that it’s quite hard not to give power over to an ex-husband that keeps on threatening to take you to court for full custody. It is also really challenging not to care and be effected by what your ex-spouse says about you to your children. For me these things seemed completely impossible to deal with and really overwhelmed me at the beginning of my journey.
It took a lot of time and inner mental re-wiring for me to get to a sane place and learn how to handle confrontation and challenging situations with my ex and gain some sense of control. It is this hard-earned work that I would like to share with you in the hopes that it will help you in moments when your sanity will be challenged.
Let’s jump right into it:
- Respond don’t react:
We live in a world where most things happen instantaneously, simply because technology offers us so many ways and opportunities to respond immediately and if we need or want to. Just because you co-parent and share children with your ex doesn’t mean that you have to jump at his/her beck and call 24/7. When you get a text or an email you don’t have to react on impulse and reply right away. Learn to wait and respond after you have thought about the issue and are in a super Zen and calm state of mind. Most of the time it is NOT AN EMERGENCY, and unless it is one there is no need to respond immediately. Remember you don’t need to swing at every pitch your ex tosses your way. Before you respond to any message or email be sure to go through the following steps:
- Calm your thoughts and think ….
- What is the question or issue at hand?
- How do I want to respond?
- How SHOULD I really respond
- Be consistent
Be who you are at your BEST all the time. If you have an ex that is unpredictable and can be nice one day and nasty the next, do you VERY best to make your interactions consistent, in-spite of his instability. Regardless of what and how your ex acts remember to stay true to yourself and be YOU all the time.
- Memorize this phrase: “It’s not about me.”
More often than not, when your ex calls you a name, accuses you of poor parenting, or puts you down in any other manner, that negative behavior is coming from something going on inside of their own psyche that has nothing at all to do with you. If you feel hurt please STOP and remember the following “This is not about me, this is most likely a projection of his/her feelings.” Knowing this will help you avoid any reactions and help you understand not to internalize the hurtful remarks.
Another thing that happens when your ex talks about you is the fear that others may believe what he says. As you already know you cannot control or stop what your ex is doing or saying. Rather then worry about what others may believe remind yourself that facts are FACTS, and that truth prevails. Have a notebook where you make brief notes for yourself reminding yourself of the truth. Then move on. and Explain to your children that people have different perceptions on reality and teach them to believe their own truth.
- It won’t get better overnight
You know how bullies get tired when you don’t react to them? it’s pretty much the same concept. When you repeatedly refuse to take the bait and don’t react, chances are your ex with up his ante. Do everything you can not to respond to situations that come up. Over time as you continue to hold your ground chances are your ex’s confrontational behavior will become less frequent and intense. He/she will get tired and realize that you are not the right candidate to push.
- Recognize that your ex’s behavior is NOT surprising.
I love when I hear my divorcing clients say this all the time — “I can’t believe that he/she….!” Let’s be honest. You have chosen to divorce this person because the two of you did not treat each other the way either or both of you want to be treated. The behavior displayed by your ex is highly unlikely not to be behavior he or she displayed during your marriage, even if it was directed more often towards someone else, or if it was managed in a slightly better way. At this point nothing should come to you as a surprise.
When you hear yourself begin a thought or sentence about your ex with “I can’t believe,” take a moment to ask yourself, “Wait, can I believe it?” When you remove the shock and awe factor that you have imposed on yourself, you reduce the overall impact of their words or actions quite powerfully. It is amazing how our self-talk impacts us, and after all you DO believe it and already know to expect it.
- Find the keys to your calm.
Everyone has their own was to their calm and de-stressing coping mechanism. For some it is meditation, for others humor. Some need to exercise, smash a punching bag, go for a long walk, or binge on reality TV. For me, yoga and writing does the trick and helps me re-center and ground myself. There is also a terrific app called iChill that walks you through brief audio and written grounding exercises. Another thing I discovered while I was helping my husband recover after his stroke, were these cool adult coloring books. They really helped me get my pain and frustration out and where very healing and soothing. Regardless what your calm is, find it and use it as much as possible.
- Remind yourself that it’s a disagreement, the threat is just to instill fear.
An unfortunate reality for many co-parents is a continued threat of impending litigation. Even though a very large amount of cases are settled outside of a courtroom, there is a seductive quality about the ability to exercise the threat of taking the other parent “back to court” that some people just cannot resist. I dare anyone to stand at the receiving end of such a statement without a sinking fear unlike any other.
That said, the vast majority of the time these threats are empty ones. If your divorce is final and your custody arrangement established, the best thing you can do when faced with these words is to walk through all the strategies above and respond to the issue at hand in the manner you feel best serves your children’s needs, rather than to the threat and fear of it’s actualization.
Don’t forget even if your ex threatens to file for full custody it is far from simple to attain and he/she would have to prove that you are truly an unfit parent that is incapable to care for your child/ren. So take a deep breath, de-stress and think things through calmly and objectively. Most of the time full custody threats are just that “Threats”.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: remember THIS is the reason why you got divorced in the first place, so tap yourself on yourself on your back and give yourself a round of applause for having made it this far!!
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.
Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com