Sunday, March 9, 2008

Coping With a Hostile Ex-Wife, Part One

Note: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a counselor. Knowing what we have been through and talking with friends what have also been through this, these are my own personal suggestions for whatever they are worth.

1. Understand her motivation. Stop and think about what is driving your ex-wife's behavior. In the cases I have seen, the ex-wife is angry and bitter that the ex-husband stopped loving her and has, most likely, moved on with his life. NOTE: Understanding is not the same as excusing. There is no justification in the world for nasty behavior, no matter who hurt who. But if you can understand that her behavior is completely based on emotions and hurt, you will be better prepared to cope with it.

2. Deal with your own anger first. Your ex wife can no longer make you love her, but if she can still hurt you or make you angry, she is getting a little sense of victory over you. No matter what she has said, no matter what she has done, you have moved on with your life--why should anything she says about you matter? No matter what she says or does, do not react.

3. You will have to lose some battles to win the war. We've all been there--the ex is bad-mouthing you or your new spouse to the kid(s). It does hurt the kids, but a jealous & spiteful ex-wife generally cares more about hurting the ex-husband than about what she is truly doing to the children. (NOTE: This is not a generalization about ex-wives! Most are probably quite decent people who care a great deal about their children and their well-being. This is only about those who do not that we lucky people get to deal with). It can be really tempting to get angry, to badmouth the ex-wife in return, or to tell the child his/her mother is lying, but as our friend Dave says, you have to lose some battles to win the war. When his ex-wife told his daughters that his present wife , Sue, was horrible and mean, Dave asked them if they had ever known Sue to be anything but nice to them, they had to admit that she hadn't. He didn't tell them the ex-wife was lying to them, but eventually they were old enough to figure it out.

4. Document everything. A 9-1-1 call from a woman saying that her ex-husband is hitting her/kidnapping the kids/abusing the kids/whatever forces the police to respond--they do not have the choice. If that happens, make sure you are the one who is calm & rational. Keep copies of all correspondence with the ex-wife, as well as a log of her irrational behavior (making scenes during dropoffs, showing up at your house unexpectedly, calling you at work, contacting the children during your visitations, etc.) Judges aren't blind and if one of you shows a consistent, rational pattern that one is most likely to be believed in court.

5. Keep all communications brief & to the point. We have all received pages & pages & pages of letters & emails from the exes, everything from long drivel-filled love letters, to big long tirades about parenting choices, to bitter rants about the ex-husband's new "perfect life" and "perfect wife" (my personal favorite), to long tirades about what a terrible person the ex-husband is, to poetry. If it does not directly pertain to something specifically about medical issues, school, drop offs, or something else specifically about the kid(s), do not respond. In every case I've seen, the ex-wife makes a habit of being a martyr, and has learned that blaming others for everything gets sympathy for her and is often a way to control people. Stop responding. Even if you try to be nice, it will get you nowhere & is just acknowledging her behavior. Just stop responding.

6. Meet with the school separately. If you end up in a court battle with your ex-wife, your level of involvement with your child's education will matter. Do not rely on your ex to pass accurate information to you. Know what is happening in your child's life directly.

7. Let go of the past. No matter what happened in your marriage--good, bad, or otherwise--leave it in the past. If the divorce was more than one or two years ago and the ex-wife is still bitter and hostile, the odds are good that things are never going to get better. Our friend Mark has been dealing with this for 13 years, and Dave at least 12 and the hostility from the ex has never abated. Even if you have memories of a kind person, that person no longer exists and nothing you can do can change her--not even agreeing to her requests. She probably doesn't want you to have more time or less time with the children, or in our case one week you'll have too much time and the next week she'll be angry because you don't have enough time, so agreeing to change isn't going to make it better. She only wants to be angry with you. Let her.

8. Don't give in to hate. Let's be honest, a hostile ex-wife can make your life miserable and that is generally what she's after. There is nothing you can do to change your ex-wife's behavior, but you can change your reaction to her behavior. Find other dads going through the same thing, get an attorney who can help protect your rights--including helping you file a restraining order if necessary, find a counselor who handles divorce, be honest with your extended family about what you are going through and create a support system for yourself. While it might feel good to do, don't make it an "I hate my ex wife club." It isn't worth it, it takes a lot of energy to hate someone, and it gives your ex-wife power over you.

To be continued....

29 comments:

Lisa C. said...

Take a look at "Joint Custody with a Jerk" by Julie A. Ross and Judy Corcoran. This is a terrific book that addresses the issue of trying to communicate/cooperate with someone who has no interest in communicating/cooperating with you. I admit that I bought it for the name but it ended up being invaluable when it came to dealing with the obsessed ex (DS1's father) but with other difficult people as well. Good luck.

reindeergal said...

My husband has one of "those" ex-wife. She is a real piece of work. We went on vacation and while there he started receiving calls on his cell phone with people who claimed he requested job training, loans, etc. When we got home his email was flooded with all kinds of things, credit cards that he had "applied" for, a music club that he signed up for (free cd was "sweet revenge"). She gave his SSN with the last number changed to the next number. It was a mess and we traced it to her by her ip address. Nothing happened to her.

Anonymous said...

THERE ARE OFTEN REASONS WHY ONE X DOES NOT WANT TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE OTHER AT ALL. when she resorts to name calling, a behavior I rejected in high school, I just give up. one of my kids lives with me full time, theother,1

Anonymous said...

My soon to be ex turned into a very trashy person, sleeping around, taking trips and sleeping with another man with our kids in an adjacent room, and she wonders why I'm hostile? Sometimes there are reasons.

Anonymous said...

Toni, thank you for sharing these thoughts. I am a father trying very hard to stay involved with my children's lives, but my ex has been making that increasingly difficult over the last 7 years. It's come down to being a control issue, and I need to learn to just ignore her manipulation and degrading comments and not fight every battle. The kids are old enough to start seeing thru this. Thank you, and hope to read more of your blogs on this subject.

Jeffro

Toni said...

Thanks, Jeffro. Believe me, we know the pain you have been going through. A friend of ours went through this for years with his daughter, and not only does she now know that it was all her mother's doing, she has actually done a film project on child abuse and parental alienation. It seems that in most cases, children do grow up and finally see through the hostile parent.

Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the thoughts Toni.. They will be most helpful since I am literally a month in to seperating from my ex. I ended thing with my ex because of her irrational behavior .. Since I ended it she's done everything under the sun to make life difficult . This includes withholding our 2 children making up stories and scenarios that she uses to create drama and conflict . And also sent an enslought of accusational text messages. All for the most part has been ignored, which only seems to fuel her fire.

Anonymous said...

What a breath of fresh air these words are. My partner's ex divorced him 9 years ago and I have been with him for 7 years. Your comments touched upon behaviours that I have not seen much of in articles on this subject, and that is the inconsistency of behaviour to try to get a reaction. One minute she is angry , the next she seems quite rational. Then you'll get abuse for not agreeing with her and then she'll play the martyr. After all these years, I now realise that she will not change and whatever we do to try and please her for the sake of the children will just generate further problems. I am hopeful that the children will make their own minds up about us eventually because we have been demonised frequently and that's how I found this site. I am still trying to make sense of it all. At this present moment in time, the abuse is directed at me as they were all 'fine' before I came along and unfortunately, my partner's 18 year old daughter also firmly believes this. Reading this article helps me realise that I have not been going mad and it's not all my fault ( I was actually considering ducking out every time the girls are around). Also, as a child from a broken marriage with an absent father, I would have loved to have had more influence in my life. I believe that children can gain so much from 4 loving parents. Is that so difficult to achieve?

Mogs Wa said...

This has been the best help yet. I also have spiteful ex who is making life hard and he has his reasons but its hard to ingnore the constant harassesment.

Anonymous said...

We have been dealing with my husbands ex for 18 years and it does not get any better. It is hard to believe that a person can still be filled with that much hate. Best thing we have found is not to respond to any correspondence unless we have to - it takes away her power.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post, and for notes from the commenters. It's just a relief to know I'm not alone!

Mark said...

Separated for 18 months and your descritpions and advice are spot on. Have you been stalking me too? For fresh newbies, dont just read this - put it into practice and behold! The guy knows his stuff.

Anonymous said...

I had to deal with my ex today. It began at 10 this morning and didn't end till 3 in the afternoon. She curses and insults me because I don't give her "enough" child support or what she "deserves" (and just some FYI, she receives 1200 a month) she has soul custody of our children and has made it virtually impossible for me to see the kids. I finally had to turn my phone off today. Good times

Anonymous said...

I Am Dealing With 2 Ex Wives Who Are Controlling, Spiteful, Money Greedy Drama Queens. To Top That Off Both Lie And Exaggerate. They Emotionally Abused Their Children In Hopes Of getting Their Father back. I Don't See Any Light AEnd Of The Tunnel As The First has Been Am Ex For 19 Years And The Second For 10 Years. I Have Been Reputation Trashed By Both, Which Has Not made A Difference With Me Or My Family And
Friends. They Are Sad Women.Who Are Too Old To Cling To An Unrealistic Hope. I Still Hold Hope Of Them Moving On, But They Have Not Found Someone To them. I Come OutAs The Bigger Person Knowing I Am better Parent And Wife.

Mickey Freeman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This is spot on! My ex has played the victim to the hilt, and I learned over time her anger was a way to drive me to financially support her through guilt. She was 50% responsible for the failure of our marriage, but wants it 100% to be me so others feel sorry for her and help her. My favorite quotes from her: "I'm not slumming it in some $200,000 ranch", "I don't reconcile with men I divorce" (wait, I divorced you, silly girl), and " I shouldn't have to work" (from the woman who didn't work a day of our marriage but complained every day that we never had enough cash...even though we lived in a $600k house and I made $200k/year). Move on, dump her, ignore her, pray for your children...

Anonymous said...

Excellent information! I wish I'd come across it 8 years ago when I filed for divorce....for the 2nd time in the 10 years we were married. We are, once again, in a court battle. Due to my ex's anger and bad-mouthing my new husband and me, he has not been court-ordered to supervised visitation only. Yet, he STILL continues with the nasty emails/texts...over very petty issues. NOT responding has been the best thing for me. I wish I had known that it was OK for me not to respond. I always felt obligated and needed to "defend" myself, but no more. Who cares what he thinks?

Anonymous said...

Oops - that is he has NOW been ordered to supervised-visitation only.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, just reading this has been a great relief to me today, just knowing there are other people going through the same. I've been with my partner for around two years and he has a three year old from a marriage which broke down before I knew him. His ex was physically and mentally abusive during the marriage and since has been a nightmare. He still only gets to see his daughter once a week for around 4-6 hours. We kept our relationship mostly a secret so as it wouldn't affect his access which I found tough at times, but somehow just accepted. We have moved into a house now so it was only right to tell her but now he is getting texts all night, abusing him, demanding he goes round, saying she has details about me from an ex of mine(?!) This happened last night and I don't think I dealt with it very well, I got upset and angry and we fell out over it. I felt it was always me who had to just 'deal' with it and he was upset because he felt she was attacking him and now I was having a go... If anyone has any advice on how I can deal with this and not take it out on my partner please let me know. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My partner left his X almost 2 years ago. We got together just before Christmas.
I agree that when the X keeps gunning and gunning, even after 2 years it becomes stressful and can come between you both. That’s what they want, to destroy their partner. There is no reasoning and no logic, just hate that drives them. His X has over £3,500 per month coming in, is fiddling her accounts and plays hard done by. She has never worked through choice, how lucky she is. They have 3 children (14, 16 & 18) who she totally controls and will not let him see other than his alternate weekends. How can you reason with someone who is driven by hate. I split from my husband over 7 years ago and financial settlement was amicable ie 50/50. My parents divorced and my mum never bad mouthed my dad, we worked it out for ourselves when we was old enough. Our only hope is that the children eventually work it out for themselves. In the meantime, if we argue between ourselves, she has won! Don’t let that happen.

Anonymous said...

To all those new girlfriends/wives who can't stand the ex-wife, your arrogance makes me sick. You think butter wouldn't melt in the mouth of your new man, but you need to face the fact that the man you love isn't perfect... it wasn't all the ex wife/girlfriend's fault no matter what bullshit he's fed you. It's takes two to tango, and the man you're with now is the one who made the ex-wife what she is today... you think you're the only woman your man ever *really* loved. Get real. It could be you who's angry, bitter and jaded one day, and then suddenly you might just understand the ex-wife a little better then!

Toni said...

Any adult who blames others for his or her behavior obviously has issues of their own. "It wasn't my fault" didn't work for the Nazis--it doesn't work for anyone here. There are choices to be made, and no one can blame anyone else for who they choose to be, the behavior they choose, and how they choose to respond to situations in live.

Anonymous said...

Something I discovered during marriage counselling: borderline personality disorder. I forget sometimes, but when she flairs up after not taking her meds, it can ruin your day even after getting the divorce. One minute I'm her best friend the next I'm the root of all evil. With kids, its hard to avoid, but knowing how to deal with someone with BPD is priceless.

Anonymous said...

My ex wife cheated on me off and on for 15 years. She could never be happy with anybody or anything. Always had to have more and more. The last time she cheated she ask for divorce I Gladly said yes. She got what she wanted and then I guess after she got what she wanted and she didn't want that anymore and try to reunite with me. I totally refused and my life has been a living hell every day since. She has put me in the poor house and has drew every free dollar she could get off the government and still is telling the kids im a sorry farther when I can hardly make my bills each month from paying child support to the max on my 2 kids. She has went to school 5 times and still the government lets her keep spongeing. There is nothing right with the laws on divorce. It sickens me to see how the women of today can do this and still be able to sleep at night. The lady at the child support office told me she saw how these women do and that it was not right but the law allows it. My youngest is 16 so I only have 2 more years in hell til I can be freed from her once and for all. I feel for anyone who has had to go threw this. My youngest is starting to see the truth. He is always bringing up how he has seen the things that was told to him wasn't true. I thought the day would never come when they would figure out the truth.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like most exwives are about the same no matter the previous situation. My exwife is a drama queen ,martyr and according to herself - mother of the year nominee for the 21st year in a row . Our divorce agreement ended up with me not only signing over my half of the house , paying for her car, and paying child support, I also got stuck paying for a credit card debt I had no clue was even in existence since it was taken out solely in her name. I pay 20% of my paycheck whether its an overtime check or unemployment for child support(our son is 17 y/o) . She finds things for the kids to do when they could or should be spending time with me,then says how I never spend time with them. When I do finally get time , she always always finds a reason my time has to end early or brings some kind of unnecessary drama into my life . I paid off her car and now shes asking for the title asap...she still has a family heirloom of mine and I want it back just asap too. I know if I hand her what she wants,my heirloom will never get back to me. She threatens me with taking me to court if I don't give it (title)to her. Uses the kids as leverage as much as possible. Claims they said things to her about me and I find out later in fact they didn't. too many other things to list.Guilt trips, pity parties,etc. Glad i'm not alone on this but sad to see how many other are getting the same bull handed to them while the courts do nothing at all. Us guys get screwed all around. Never heard of a man who came out of divorce on an even ending.

Anonymous said...

Well Well Well! And there was me thinking I had the monopoly on misery with my ex-wife. 9 Years married, 1 wonderful 12 year old boy. 6 Years divorced. I moved on after divorce and found a new wife and have 2 lovely childeren with her. So 6 years of all the bitter behaviour decribed in other posts above. I adopted a policy of non-response to all the diatribe about 4 years ago, it seems to work for me as I just hiot the delete button on all the scathing emails. But it does not seem to work for my Ex.
Punchline.. reason for divorce.. caught her in our bed with another man. Her behaviour over the last 6 years might suggest that it was me that did the dirty.
If you have children, have faith in their ability to see the light when they are old enough. As adults we find it easy to determine the truth of things.. sure enough, your kids will be adults one day.

Anonymous said...

My name is Steve

Anonymous said...

I have lived with my ex for 13 years and she abused our older children, cursed, threw things at them. Punched them dragged them by their hair. Ripped the clothes of my son who was sick at the time. Slapped me, punched me and hit me with a pole and had an affair. Now she's mad at me for having an affair and wanting to leave her? I have 2 little girls still at the house living with her and I'm trying to get custody but I'm affraid the courts are going to rule in her favour because I left the house? The judge made me pay for the house payment and bills and CS until this is over. It leaves me with no money to get a place to live so I've had to move in with a friend. This hinders me from being able to take my kids for over nights, I've had to take them to hotels...etc. They are very unhappy with me because she has ridiculed me to them and they don't trust me NOW. I don't know what to do or what's going to happen I need support for sure.

Anonymous said...

I have ex-wife dramas from HELL - My husband and I have been together now for 4 years and now have full custody of his 3 children - she has been a nightmare from the get go = and no surprises, she still has no one in her life. Nor would I approve of a guy that big noted himself about ripping a women off after a divorce!! Not cool, however, This has been her life - every minute is spent raging a war of revenge. She hates her ex husband, but she hates me more, because I was what stood between her and maybe "another chance". I swear if my husband turned up with a ring tomorrow on her doorstep she'd go back in a heartbeat. She learnt the hard way that Tom Cruise wasn't going to turn up on her doorstep. Now because of her on-going behaviour and dragging us to court over anything, she has no children living with her, and her eldest hasn't spoken to her in over 2.5 years! Heart breaking what revenge is worth to some. It just doesn't have to be like that. Very sad