How to Deal with An Impossible Ex

Posted by on Aug 31, 2016 in Healthy Separation and/or Divorce Counseling | Comments Off on How to Deal with An Impossible Ex

The majority of divorces are civil and reasonable. Yet, even when a divorce goes smoothly, people regress. You may do and say things you would not normally do and say under normal circumstances. Often this occurs as a result of trying to cope with all the stress, fear, and uncertainty that accompanies such a major life change.

Some people, unfortunately, cope with that stress in more corrupt or malignant ways.

Ex-partners with malignant tendencies will say and do things that undermine everyone around them. They want to win at all costs. They often take advantage of a difficult situation and their former partner’s sense of fair play. Some people do this intentionally and quite consciously, while others aren’t really aware of their behavior. Either way, their actions tend to be extremely damaging. Unfortunately, too, these types of behaviors are much more common than most of us would like to think.

When these malignant behaviors are present they can have a wide variety of outcomes. Like cancer. Sometimes people can resolve a malignant divorce successfully. With time and effort, things will settle down. Some are truly dangerous. That makes for a completely different set  of circumstances. And sometimes, all you can really do is try to manage the situation.

Having to deal with an ex who essentially undermines and belittles your efforts can be difficult, to say the least. This is even more frustrating when children are involved.

Here are few things you can do to deal with a difficult or impossible ex:

1. Acceptance.

Come to terms with the fact that you are dealing with someone who is not responding in a way that most people do when divorcing or separating. Your spouse may see him or herself as a victim, is extremely controlling, is generally very self-centered and self-serving, or wants to avenge something that happened in your previous relationship.

Dealing with someone who has these characteristics or behaviors may feel surreal. You may feel trapped and uncertain about what to do next. Sitting back and hoping that your ex will change, or that things will get better on their own, is likely not the best course of action. Coming to terms with the fact that this is the way your ex is choosing to behave will give you some freedom to move forward proactively.

2. Grieve what you have lost.

Grieve not only the loss of the marriage but the hope that you’ll be able to resolve your marriage amicably. Grieve even the idea that the world is fair and just. You can’t short-circuit the grieving process, but neither can you let it disable you from taking positive action.

3. Keep safety at the forefront.

Post-divorce domestic violence rarely happens out of the blue. There is usually some sort of warning sign, a history of verbal abuse, or situational violence is common between you. The problem may be that having endured some measure of abuse in the relationship, you have become somewhat desensitized to the dangers of interacting with your ex. It’s hard to see the potential risks. If you feel threatened or unsafe, you need to take precautions or avoid interaction altogether. It will be best to keep communication brief and as professional as possible. Arrange to meet in public places, away from your home. Also, consult with a therapist or domestic violence hotline for more information on how to keep yourself safe. It is important not to underestimate your ex and err on the side of caution.

4. Act with integrity.

Remember, your actions have consequences. There is a lot of pressure in these situations. Think twice before you react. If your ex is behaving badly, try not to sink to that level. Learn to recognize how you’re being triggered by your ex’s actions and take steps to prevent a response that you’ll regret later. It’s important to recognize that if you lose your composure and meltdown in response to your ex’s provocation, you will likely be the one to get into trouble.

Furthermore, if children are involved, they need at least one healthy parent who is willing to put their best interests first. They need you to be a role model able to help them adjust and move forward successfully.

When interacting with your ex, make a point of knowing what you want, clearly making your point or requests. Avoid any attempt to score points or seek his or her approval. Try to establish as business-like a relationship as possible.

5. Maintain good limits.

Limits are critical. Naturally, limits and boundaries will vary from relationship to relationship, but it’s important for you to know when it’s time to hang up, stop texting, walk away, contact your lawyer, or even call the police.

Your attempts to set limits may not always go the way you want them to. Still, it’s important to be as consistent as you can.

6. Get professional help for yourself.

Dealing with an impossible ex can be draining. Having professional support is absolutely crucial. It makes a difference to have someone in your corner helping you sort out the challenges mentioned above, such as maintaining safety, integrity, and limits. Not to mention the more personal work of dealing with your own issues.

Modeling good self-care for your kids and demonstrating strength, stability, and confidence is key. They will come to appreciate your efforts more and more as they age.

7. Seek help for your children too.

In a malignant situation, kids need a safe place and an adult ally to talk to.

While you can and should be there for your kids, sometimes they just need to discuss what’s happening on both sides of the situation.

In therapy, your child or children can safely work through the issues and challenges that come with having a malignant parent.

Online Therapy Available NowRead More