Stepmothering is one of the most difficult tasks with stresses, challenges and difficulties that are rarely recognised, understood or appreciated by anyone aside from other stepmothers. This blog is especially for those courageous ladies who take on the stepmothering challenge. It is a place where stepmums can find helpful hints and is intedended to be a safe space for sharing, support and celebration. GO STEPMUMS!
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
How To Avoid Arguments With The Ex
I read somewhere that the Ex is the person a
stepparent loves to hate. Given the complex nature of stepfamily relationships
this is not surprising. Whilst some ex-partners are the accepting and
supportive type, the majority of them do not fit this category. As most couples
in step-situations just want to put the past behind and simply get on with making a new life for
themselves and their families, learning how to avoid arguments with the Ex is
high on the list of their priorities.
Liz, who was a much valued site assistant in the heydays of TheStepStop, shared in this post (which by now is a few years old, but equally pertinent today as it was then) how she and her husband succeeded in minimising areas of potential
conflict with the ex-partner. Thanks Liz for your valuable, tried and tested
ideas and suggestions!
ARGUMENTS WITH THE EX!
After reading an article posted on the homepage
of The Step Stop, I felt prompted to share with you some suggestions of ways in
which my husband and 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
and 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 that
this won’t be welcomed, you could perhaps write her a note or call her on the
following day. We know that my husband’s Ex isn’t comfortable speaking to him
face to face, so rather than antagonising the situation he has realised that,
if it can wait it is better to find a more appropriate time.Of course, if it were urgent or more serious we
would have notified her at the time of the incident rather than waiting till
the end of contact.
As our children who are 9 and 11don’t need us to
walk them to the front door any longer we 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.
parking outside the Ex’s house is way too close for your comfort, park in front of the neighbour’s house instead. The
Ex will be less likely to embarrass him or herself on someone else’s
property. If things are really insane, say
‘bye’ to the kids in the car first or perhaps organise a neutral handover
Caller ID – no
need to answer the phone – be prepared!
Caller ID has proven to be an invaluable
investment in our home as this service enables me to see whether it’s the Ex who
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 and discuss
certain issues with me. I used to make
myself available in the past, however, after several accusing and upsetting
conversations I now have taken back my control and am able to decide for myself
if I do or don’t want to speak with her.
Invest in caller ID.
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.It became clear very soon that she felt she
was under no obligation to discuss anything with my husband and only ever did
so at her own 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 backward and discuss the kids only 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 refuse to
ask him questions on her behalf, explaining that the only message I will relay
is the fact that she called and would like him to call 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 of the kids belong to the Ex and my
husband and although I’m supportive and interested, I no longer feel as though
I’m bearing the scars of daily warfare.I think the most therapeutic aspect of this is knowing that the Ex now
realises that I am no longer feeding her power and that she can no longer
consume every waking moment of my life.
be the go-between and don’t get caught in the middle.
Don’t lower yourself to the Ex’s Standards
Regardless of how rude the Ex may be, always demonstrate
how polite you are.Confidently greet him or her with a simple ‘hello’
or ‘goodbye’ and use their Christian name. It clearly shows how unperturbed you
are by their presence and role-models wonderful behaviour and values to the
children.It doesn’t take them long to
work out who the rude family members are. If they should ask you why their mum doesn’t
say ‘hi’ or ‘bye’ to you or their dad, simply explain that you don’t know but
that they could always ask them.
the high road and always remain polite!
alone with the Ex!
Due to the fact that I work for myself I have many
opportunities to be part of the events that are held at the children’s
school.I used to only go if my husband
came along, but as the kids have grown they have asked me several times to be
there even if their dad was unable to 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 it’s been just me and 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 way 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.
allow yourself to get worried about her thoughts of winning, the only thing
that matters is how you feel and if that’s not working, just remove yourself
from the situation!
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 boys’ stepfather who is
equally as arrogant. I always have a chat to the kids but my time is in the middle
with my husband starting and finishing all conversations.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.
wisdom in the way you maintain contact with your stepchildren.
Take back your control
If during a conversation with the Ex he or she
becomes aggressive or raises their voice, speak calmly, advising them that
unless they change their tone you can no longer continue the conversation.If their tone doesn’t change after your
warning, advise them that you are hanging up.If the ex calls back, explain that you and your husband are happy to
listen to what them providing they do not yell and they are polite.Once it took several times before the Ex
realized that unless she was prepared to calm down and talk sensibly with my husband,
he would answer the call, go through these motions and then hang up – a bit like teaching a child really.
what it takes to ensure the Ex understands your boundaries.
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 tone and her opinions.
Easier said than done?!Yes, initially it’s hard to break the
addiction of having to be involved, especially 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 and 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 and suggestions I’ve come to realise 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 the relationship
with my stepkids. I’ve finally recognised my
needs - I’m putting myself first and
that makes me a better wife, mother and overall a happier person.
that your first responsibility is the responsibility you have to yourself.
Unless you are happy, you can’t be a happy partner or an effective stepparent.
Be sure to fill your own tank first by making empowering changes in your way of
thinking and to your behaviour…and most importantly don’t give up. If something
isn’t working, find a way to make it work.