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  • Heather Tannenbaum

3 Tips to Act Well When Your Ex Doesn’t


When you’re separated or divorced, you hear expressions like, “take the high road” and “do right by your kids” a lot.

We all want our kids to thrive and none of us want our kids to suffer the effects of our choices. So how do you ensure that you can always take the high road? How can you be sure that you’re putting your feelings on hold so that you can give your kids the best of you and what they need?

This can be a challenging task in the best of circumstances. The divorce process and all that comes with it is a trying time no matter how amicable or collaborative your process. There will be good days and bad and we’re all too well aware of how this effects our mood, coping abilities and spirit.

The task is made even more difficult when we’re faced with an angry, spiteful ex. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, then you’ve likely read and re-read articles on “Handling Your Narcissistic Ex” and “How to Co-Parent with a Narcissist”. Whether your ex is in fact a narcissist, or simply operating on anger and hurt, you’re likely facing more obstacles to peace and calm than you anticipated. There are a lot of labels that you can affix to this behaviour, but does it really matter what you call it? It is what it is, and you needn’t spend your time and energy worrying about labeling your ex.


Here are 3 tips to help you choose the right path, despite how wrong your ex behaves:


1. Don’t Let His/Her Actions Dictate Yours

However your ex chooses to behave, should not in any way dictate your behaviour. While this is obviously easier said than done, it’s actually a wonderful and necessary skill to master. What does this mean and how can you do this? Firstly, you need to be overly mindful of your actions and reactions. In the beginning, while you’re honing this skill, you need to always be cognizant of your actions and reactions. If for example, your ex doesn’t return the children on time and he/she knows that you’re on a tight timeframe, you need breathe, remain calm and simply wait. After the fact, you may wish to send a matter-of-fact email to your ex kindly requesting that next time he/she be on time and why. Free from emotion. Stick to the facts.


2. 24 Hour Rule

Emotions can run high, particularly when things are fresh and wounds are still open. It’s important to recognize that we don’t always act our best when our buttons have been pushed. It’s important to take a step back when we receive a potentially upsetting email, phone call or other type of correspondence. I have implemented the 24 hour rule for myself, whereby I don’t respond or do anything at all for at least 24 hours. Things look very different (and often more calm) when we let things sit and we give ourselves time to process and respond. This will likely reduce conflict by avoiding the knee-jerk emotional reactions that happen initially. Allow time for this to pass.



Take the high road, regardless of how your ex behaves.

3. Think Before You Speak


This, like the 24 hour rule is key to allowing yourself the time you need to clearly, calmly and effectively collect your thoughts. Think about why you’re being triggered. Think too about what you would like to see happen and then consider ways to achieve your objective. Once all these questions have been answered by you to you, are you in a position to speak and/or respond.

I grant you that it’s not always easy to keep our emotions and reactions in check, but when your co-parent is high conflict and thrives on fuelling the fire, it is on you to decide whether you allow him/her to get the better or you or whether you wish to simply stick to the facts, work as best you can to obtain your goals and function with less conflict than you would otherwise have. We can never control our ex’s but we can (with practice) control how we react to them. It’s at that point that we have gained the power to change our conversation.

Good luck!

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