Sunday, April 12, 2009

Avoiding an Argument with the Ex!

This article was written some years ago by one of my most valued moderators of the interactive website I ran for about 5 years, The Step Stop. As its message is just as pertinent today as it was then, I decided to post it on this blog and am sure that you'll find it very helpful. Enjoy Liz's wisdom!

After reading the article, posted on the homepage of The Step Stop, I was prompted to share with you some suggestions of ways in which my husband & I have been able to minimize the arguments between us and the formidable “Ex”.

Minimize face to face contact with the Ex.

Don’t allow drop off time after contact weekends & holidays to be an excuse to start or participate in WW3. If you feel there is a need to update the Ex on matters that occurred during the kid’s time with you and you are aware it won’t be welcomed, perhaps write her a note or call the following day. We know that my husband’s Ex isn’t comfortable speaking to my husband face to face, so rather than antagonizing the situation he has realized that if it can wait it’s better to find a more appropriate time. Of course if it were urgent and more serious, then she would have been notified immediately at the time of the incident rather than us waiting till the end of contact.

Our children being 9 & 11 we don’t need us to walk them to the front door any longer and so prefer to say our good-byes at the car. We always watch to make sure they are safely inside before we leave and have found it a great way to end the weekend on a pleasant note.

If outside the Ex’s house is way too close park out the front of the neighbours instead. She will be far less likely  to embarrass herself on someone else’s property. If things are really insane, say 'bye' to the kids in the car first or perhaps organize a neutral spot locally to meet.

Caller ID – no need to answer the call – be prepared!

The invention of Caller ID has proven to be a valuable investment in our home, this service enables me to see when the Ex is calling. I can’t count how many times she has called our home during the day, knowing that my husband is at work, using the opportunity to try & discuss certain issues with me. I used to make myself available, however after several accusing & upsetting conversations I took back my control & am able to decide for myself (rather than respond to her agenda) if I do or don’t want to speak with her.

Don’t get caught in the middle.

Earlier on in our relationship, the Ex, unwilling to talk with my husband, preferred to use me as her messenger. Very soon it was clear that she felt as the kids' mother, she was under no obligation to discuss anything with my husband & only did so at her discretion. After years of trying to rectify the situation, I came to the conclusion that my attempts were futile and I was only giving her more opportunities to cause me pain and unnecessary stress. I have since taken a huge step backwards, making myself only available to discuss the kids with my husband. If the Ex calls, wanting to discuss something that clearly should involve my husband, I politely inform her that he is the one she needs to talk with. I won’t ask him questions on her behalf, explaining that the only message I will relay is the fact that she called & would like him to phone her back.

After putting this into practice for some time now I feel like I can breathe again. I know that the day to day responsibilities relating to the children fall to the Ex and my husband and although I’m supportive and interested, I don’t feel as though I’m bearing the scars of daily warfare anymore. I think the therapeutic part is also knowing that the Ex now faces the realization that I am no longer feeding her power and that she no longer consumes every waking moment of my life.

Don’t lower yourself to the Ex’s Standards

Regardless of how rude the Ex may be, always show how polite you are. Confidently greet her with a simple 'hello' or bid her 'goodbye' and use her Christian name. It shows how unperturbed you are by her presence and also displays wonderful principles and values to the children. It doesn’t take the kids long to work out who the rude family members are. If they ask you why their mother doesn’t say 'hi' to you or their dad, simply explain that you don’t know why & perhaps they should ask their mother.

Don’t be alone with the Ex!

Due to the fact I work for myself, I have many opportunities to be part of the events held at the children’s school. I used to only go if my husband went along, but as the kids have grown they have asked me several times to come along, even if their dad cannot come. When possible I take my mum along, or meet up with an old school friend whose daughter goes to the same school, but on occasion there have been times when it’s been just me & the Ex.

It’s only been in recent years that she has bothered to go to these events, up until then it was me who supported the kids from the sidelines. I respect her position and am mature enough to step back, allowing her the front seat, preferring to sit far enough away so we aren’t breathing down each others necks. If I feel myself becoming irritated by her glares I either change my position so I cannot see her or if things are really distressing I explain to the kids that I have another appointment and leave. You shouldn’t be worried about her thoughts of winning, the only thing that matters is how you feel and if it’s not working – remove yourself!

Telephone contact with the kids.

It’s easier all round, if my husband is the one who makes the initial telephone contact with the kids. This is one less opportunity for me to have to speak with his Ex or the boy’s stepfather who is equally as arrogant. I always have a chat to the kids but my conversation time is in the middle with my husband starting & finishing the chats. Normally if the Ex has something to say, she’ll make a point of answering the call or waiting until the kids are ready to hang up, it’s perfect this way as I never have to have 'the pleasure'.

Take back your control

If during a conversation with the Ex she becomes aggressive or raises her voice speak calmly, advising her that unless she changes her tone, you can no longer continue the conversation. After the warning, if the tone doesn’t change, then advise her politely that you are now hanging up. If the ex calls back, explain that you or your husband are willing to listen to what she has to say providing she doesn't yell and is polite. Once it took several times before the Ex realized that unless she was prepared to calm down & talk with my husband he would continually answer the call, go through the motions and then hang up – a bit like teaching a child really.

Let go of all expectations

Don’t expect anything from the Ex and you won’t be disappointed. How many times have I sat there in tears or so angry with the frustration of knowing how unnecessary and unwarranted the Ex’s behaviour or attitude is. Once you resign yourself to the fact that she is an unhappy, miserable and selfish individual and nothing you do or say will change that, you won’t be surprised by her abrasive tones and opinions.

“Easier said than done”? Initially it’s hard to break the addiction of having to be involved if up until now you have always been at the front line where all the action takes place. I used to feel that, to have my voice heard, I had to be involved & if I wasn’t my role as a parental figure wouldn’t be validated. Only now with years of putting into practice the above tips & suggestions I’ve come to realize that, whether I’m in the foreground or backstage, my role is just as important. Through these changes, I’ve improved my health, my marriage and my relationship with the kids. I’ve finally recognized my needs - I’m putting myself first and that makes me a better wife, mother and overall a happier person.

Most importantly don’t give up and if something isn’t working find a way to make it work.

Don’t give up
Cheers Liz
(aka wallyburger)

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