How to Deal with Antagonizing Ex-Spouses

Marriage or intimate relationships can be wonderful thing. Having a special person in your life whom you love, care about and for whom you would do most anything to please enriches us and makes us who we are. Unfortunately, too many marriages end in divorce and many of those are filled with acrimony, feelings of betrayal or abandonment and a desire to punish or to obtain some degree of retribution, even after the divorce is final. These feelings often remain fixed in an ex-spouse and you will have to deal with it in some manner.

Regardless of what occurred in your marriage, you should strive to keep above the fray and to act reasonably toward your ex-spouse, especially if you have matters that will keep you in contact with him or her for the foreseeable future, such as children or support. One of you will be the primary custodian but the other will have time sharing or visitation rights and if you have joint legal custody, you will have to communicate with each other regarding the welfare of the children until they at least graduate from high school.

If you have to deal with an antagonistic ex-spouse, there are some things you can do to lessen the strain and perhaps change his or her attitude:

  1. Speak softly and respectfully: This is better said than done when dealing with someone who has nothing but contempt for you, but consciously keeping a steady and calm demeanor can often defuse a volatile situation and remind the other person that he or she is the one who is being unreasonable. Even if you lack any respect toward your ex, if you express respect toward them it may calm them down. The “battle” is just between you and your ex-spouse so swallow some of your pride and strive for peaceful communication in all of your contacts.
  1. Restraint is the best policy: An ex-spouse may use a public setting to speak harshly toward you and be accusatory, but if you restrain your anger and speak softly to your spouse while being harangued, you will come off as the reasonable party. This may become apparent to your ex-spouse who is only looking for a reaction and who may simply stalk off when you refuse to react as your spouse wanted. Once he or she sees that you are seemingly unaffected by the verbal onslaught, it should stop. Private communications by phone or text should also hopefully be more restrained. Keep in mind that you are creating a record in case your ex-spouse wishes to modify custody or time sharing.
  1. Do not stop communicating: Your children are the ones suffering if you are both hostile to one another, especially while in their presence. The antagonism will only sadden them and the effect on their own future relationship with a partner may well be adversely affected if the animus is constant. If you fail to keep communicating with your ex-spouse, then any exchange may only bring up feelings of resentment that have been repressed since the last time you spoke, 3 month ago. Remaining in communication over visitation including pick up times and the school, social and family activities that dominate a child’s life can only bring stability and leave your ex-spouse few excuses to continually express rage toward you. If your children see that you are at least talking sensibly and calmly to one another, it will ease their stress considerably.
  1. Never use the children against your ex-spouse: In many cases, ex-spouses express their frustration and antagonism about their ex-partners to their children to let them know what a horrible person their mother or father was to them. Children love both parents and this can often backfire against the parent who is trying to ally their children against the other parent. Unless the other parent was obviously abusive, engaged in domestic assault or other horrible conduct, most parents have some redeeming qualities that children love and appreciate. Your children may tell you that your ex-spouse is saying awful things about you, but if you remain respectful to your spouse and refuse to blame or accuse the other, then your ex may well realize that such an attitude serves no purpose.
  1. Move on with your lives: Talking to an angry ex-spouse is never easy but if you focus your conversations and contact with your ex on the children and refrain from discussing what led to the divorce, then your life and the life of your children will be that much better and all of you can move forward with life after divorce.