My heart breaks as I am told of someone struggling within a similar situation as I have had. I don’t know this person; I have met her once. She is the best friend of someone I know. As she is living through her divorce, our mutual friend has shared with her something I shared years ago when I was in the midst of my divorce.
I don’t know all the answers. Perhaps I don’t know any of the answers. I can only share what I have experienced. However, I do know that any argument takes two people. I know that hate breeds hate. That negativity attracts negativity. I also know that in my situation, hurtful, negative comments were spewed at me to get a reaction out of me.
At first I fed right into it. Oh, I reacted, poorly much of the time. I responded, hatefully most of the time. And no matter how much I was in the right, I would end up in tears, hurt, confused and no better off.
It took me a long, okay, LONG time to realize that I needed to stop reacting/responding. There was nothing I was ever going to say or do that was going to change the mind of my ex, NOTHING. The only thing I was accomplishing was making myself feel worse.
It was not an easy task, but gradually I was able to force myself to let it go unanswered. As I have shared in previous posts, you must train yourself to pull out the important information, if there is any, from amidst all the nastiness. Only read that part, only hear that part, then most importantly, only react and or respond to that part. Leave your ex hanging onto the rest — it has nothing to do with you.
I know it is extremely difficult, but it does get easier.
It is like feeding a stray animal; the more you feed it, the more it comes around. Stop feeding it and it will find somewhere else to get food.
All of the arguing, the bickering, the name calling, the nastiness, and so on, only leaves you drained and allows our children to witness a life and a person we don’t want them to see.
So when you receive that text, email or phone call, or the most dreaded in-person approach, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and respond in a calm, even-toned manner, only addressing the important issues. Leave the rest for a later time, a vent session with your best friend, when the kids are not around. I went as far as sending my written responses to a trusted friend to read and edit, when necessary, before I would send them to my ex. Not a bad suggestion. Find someone you trust and allow them to read your responses, remove the hate and hurt and simply leave the response needed. Believe me, there are very few attacks, I mean, contacts, that require an immediate response. Oh, don’t misunderstand me: your ex will expect and even demand an immediate response. You are smart, use your judgement; I am sure you can take 15 minutes before responding.
Our children are exposed to so much already when living through their parents getting a divorce, they do not need to overhear or witness anything more. Remember, no matter what our ex says to us, does to us, or how we feel, that person is still the other parent to our children. Our children are smart, as well. They will learn what they need to learn and they will form their own opinions and ideas. Sometimes the things that we want to scream to the world about our exes, our children really already know. And later on, when time passes and we are healing, we realize what our children do know and we are saddened that they are feeling that way about a parent. As much as I dislike my ex, I do wish he was a better parent to our children. I try to encourage my children in their relationship with their father, even if at times all I can say is “I am sorry” when they share a disappointment. Even worse is when I encourage them and they are hurt by their father. Then I feel guilty for encouraging them. But I know deep down inside, they need their father. His love and a relationship with him is important, and my prayer is one day he will realize that, as well.
In the meantime, take my experience for what it is worth and slow time. Read or listen, then take a deep breath and pause. If it is really that bad, call in backup, a trusted friend and confidant (I am never more than an email away!) Bounce your response off that person, streamline it, and then hit send. You will feel better, and as time goes on, not only will it become easier, it will lessen or go away. You will see.