Chronically angry exes have trouble seeing their part in the demise of the marriage. They blame the other person as a way to avoid looking at their own problems and role in the divorce. High-conflict people usually don’t “get over it” and will seek targets of blame (i.e., you) instead of seeking help.
One way of understanding this is to think of your high conflict ex as an addict: he or she is addicted to anger. They need to stay mad at you in order to keep grief and shame at bay.
So how do you keep from losing your marbles when you have to interact with a perpetually angry ex?
- Accept that you can’t control or change your ex. Normal divorce advice and conventional co-parenting strategies don’t apply to high-conflict divorce. Employing these techniques can frustrate you and make you feel that you’ve failed because you can’t turn your bad divorce into an amicable one. Accept that you’re dealing with someone who causes drama and let go of the fantasy that you can change them.
- Practice detachment. Once you truly accept that you can’t control what your ex does, you can start to detach from the outcome of any interaction the two of you have. Detachment doesn’t mean being passive or becoming a doormat; it means that you let go of the emotional turmoil that comes from trying – and failing — to get your ex to do or say what you want.
- Examine your role in the conflict. You’ve accepted that your ex is an anger addict and you’ve begun to practice emotional detachment. Now it’s time to shine the spotlight on yourself and figure out what you may be doing to inflame conflict. Are your emails laced with sarcasm or defensiveness? Do you offer unsolicited parenting advice? Are you visibly emotional when you talk to your ex in person? Don’t get so focused on your ex’s overtly aggressive behavior that you stop taking accountability for your own. Stop doing whatever you do that heightens the drama. This is the only way to manage the conflict and quell your own emotional reactivity.
- Set boundaries. Even though it feels uncomfortable, you must break your people-pleasing, conflict-avoidant habits. Unless it’s written in the court order, you don’t have to do what your ex tells you to do. And if your ex violates the court order, notify your attorney; you need to let your former spouse know that there are consequences for not respecting rules and limits.
- Use high–conflict communication strategies. Angry exes love to fire off volatile emails and texts – especially if you respond with emotion and defensiveness. Resist the urge to give as good as you got by leaving your feelings and opinions out of electronic communication. Wait until you’ve calmed down to write back. Then stick to the facts, be concise, and stay neutral in tone. After awhile, your ex will be less inclined to spew cyber-venom at you if he doesn’t get the pleasure of knowing he’s yanked your chain.
- Consider Parallel Parenting. Using conventional co-parenting strategies with an angry ex often inflames the conflict because it requires healthy communication skills and an ability to put the children’s needs first – not a high-conflict person’s strong suits! Employ a parallel parenting strategy instead. This means that you stop trying to synchronize parenting styles and house rules, and limit contact as much as possible.
If your angry ex is making your life unmanageable, it’s time to take your power back. Stop obsessing about what lousy things your ex has done, is doing, or might do in the future. Start managing your own thoughts and emotions so you can make conscious and appropriate choices. Then, shift your focus to what’s going well so you can enjoy life again.
Are you embroiled in a divorce battle with a bitter ex? We can help lower the conflict and find positive solutions that put your peace of mind first. Safeguard your future and get in touch to schedule your initial consultation with a trusted family law attorney. Call us at 888-888-0919 or click the button below.