It doesn't matter if your ex is saintly or the devil incarnate: you've got to learn how to navigate divorce the classy way. Not for his sake but for everyone's sake, especially yours and your kids. If you're divorcing with children, you won't be free of this guy, ever. No one wants an ugly divorce, but it does happen sometimes. This doesn't mean, however, that you've got to bare your claws or let the drama hang out for everyone to witness as you cope with divorce and the divorce process. You can navigate any divorce with class and keep your composure when your ex is around. Save the meltdowns for when you're with loved ones that don't include your kids. This isn't to say that you can't cry around your kids or be sad. That's not realistic. You can't be Pollyanna 24/7 while dealing with a divorce, but you can restrain the waterworks and drama, so your kids don't feel burdened with your emotions. They're your kids — not your therapists, plus remember that kids are dealing with their own unique emotions regarding the divorce, so don't give them your emotions to handle. Ladies and mothers: fix your crown, straighten that posture, and take these tips on how to kill your ex with kindness in order to keep things cool and classy!
If the two of you start to fight whenever you are on the phone or face to face, say, "Cut!" Say, "It's time to go now," or offer to talk later when you both cool down. If it's face to face, walk away and say, "We can talk when we're both calm." If the two of you are never calm, you need to consider this and bring to up to the court. They may appoint you a parent-child coordinator, which would reduce the contact between the two of you.
2. Is It Worth It?
Does your ex say things to egg you on? Does he try to hurt you intentionally? Start to pay attention to the things he says that trigger you. That's when you need to remind yourself, before you get upset: is it worth it? Is it worth getting yourself upset?
He may tell you you're a bad parent or a bitch. He may tell you all about his new girlfriend. Whatever the case, ask yourself, "Is this worth my time and energy?" Most of the time, it's not worth getting upset over. If you have a toxic ex, he's going to try to hurt you, and you need to learn to ignore it for your own sanity.
3. Treat Him as You Want to Be Treated
I'm not suggesting you kiss his butt, but that you treat him how you would like to be treated. If you want notice when he needs to switch days or if something great happens with the kids or you snap a great shot of them, share when you need to switch days in a reasonable amount of time, share a great thing that happened with the kids, and send photos to your ex. It's easy to ask for something when you give the same in return. I ask for photos of my daughter, reminding my ex of how I always send him photos, and he typically then sends them to me. Set the stage for the tone of the coparenting relationship.
4. How You Really Feel Is No One's Business
Do you hate your ex's new girlfriend? Can't stand his parents or friends? Zip it. Your kids don't need to hear it. Tell a friend. Always stay neutral if you can't wax poetic about something regarding or surrounding your ex. Kids will sense if you're lying, but if you stay neutral and positive, you are letting your kids decide how they feel about a parent, a parent's new spouse, or other scenarios, rather than you telling them how to feel, which is very unfair. Remember, that girlfriend or friend may be wonderful to your kids, but not wonderful to you. Bite your tongue. If the person does happen to be bad toward your child, you won't need to say anything as your child will decide for himself or herself how to feel.
5. Keep Him Informed
Whether you're on speaking terms or only speaking via email with your ex, keep him abreast of necessary behavioral issues, regular school updates, and health issues continuously. This allows you to say that you have never withheld anything from him and that you keep an open dialogue involving the kids. This sets the tone!
6. If He's Nasty
If your ex is nasty, do these things:
- Restrict phone calls. Get emails — everything in writing. If you must talk, record the calls.
- Block any and all of his friends and family on social media, and if the two of you have joint friends, be very careful about what you say to them.
- Request help from the courts. Courts are not always helpful, but if your ex is particularly vicious, a parent-child coordinator or other measures may be necessary.
- Document: if your ex threatens you in any way, shape, or form, document. If it gets ugly, call the police.
No matter what, remember the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that your ex is not your husband anymore, and you are a free and single woman, and let go of matters you can't control when it comes to him. Try to offer understanding that he, too, is navigating life as a single parent (if he has custody or visitation) and that he is experience a learning curve, just as you are. Divorce is probably not easy for him, either, so try to offer empathy, but never allow yourself to be a doormat. It's about being respectful and commanding respect as well!