Divorce is messy, but there are some things that you can do to minimize the negative impact of a nasty divorce and create some distance between yourself and the difficult ex-wife drama you are dealing with.
Trust me I get it. There is nothing that can mess up a new relationship like the involvement of a toxic ex wife plus alimony and/or child support.
I think a lot of people (including myself) underestimate what it’s going to take and what it is going to be like trying to integrate 2 households especially when not everyone is singing from the same sheet of music.
This becomes even more annoying when there is a whole layer of pretense in between -the “say one thing do another” type of behavior.
Taking the high road isn’t easy, but an important thing to keep in the back of your mind is that when you make an attempt to be the bigger person today, it has the potential to pay major dividends in the future.
So let’s talk about how you can handle ex wife drama powerfully and effectively. While I’m not a lawyer or counselor, I’ve got a decade of experience to share.
Here’s the short answer.
How do you handle ex wife drama? As a general rule, you will need to set solid interpersonal boundaries, demonstrate a propensity towards absolute clarity, shield the new relationship and children from post-divorce toxicity, and prevent triangulation. Additionally, legal counsel and professional therapy may be beneficial.
Even though I’ll mainly be covering ex wife issues, I suppose it would apply equally for ex husband issues. After you read this, I think you will find that the best thing to do is create as much separation between the new relationship and the former spouse, otherwise, the ex-wife’s drama will become a new source of emotional abuse for everyone involved.
My goal is that you can avoid some of the landmines that I’ve dealt with, and you can preserve a sound relationship with your new partner.
Why is my ex wife causing problems? As a general rule, the ex-wife causes drama as retaliation for her own sense of loss. As she struggles to cope with shock, numbness, sadness, denial, despair, anxiety, anger, guilt, loneliness, depression, helplessness, craving relief, vindication, or yearning for connection to the lost relationship.
She is intent on making it known that she is not okay with the new situation.
Most of this is not a conscious decision on the part of the ex wife, rather, it is her own way of coping with the situation. Whether she knows it or not, she wants to make you pay, suffer, or both.
What better way is there than to create high-conflict situations. It can be anything with the sole purpose of killing your good mood.
Here are common issues you can probably relate to designed to make your new partner upset.
- Disruptive text messages
- Late phone calls
- Non-urgent needs that could be handled another way disguised with urgency (Dad really needs to handle the kids right now)
- Child support isn’t spent on the kids, and they are sent to you when they need something bought for them that should have been already taken care of.
This is why a good relationship with the ex is often off the table. Good luck trying to bridge that gap. While the pain lingers, the expanse is simply too big, and once the vicious cycle begins, it doesn’t easily stop.
The takeaway is regardless of how everybody got there, the ex has to grieve the situation. As is common with grieving, it’s going to involve:
- Acceptance (well maybe never)
Add some mental instability on top of that and you have a recipe for lots of ex-wife problems that become a great big deal. to contend with.
The Vindictive Ex Spouse Set Against Your New Relationship
Are you a spiteful person? I think that most of us have the potential at being vindictive and spiteful. But when ex wife drama runs rampant, it can hurt the kids.
I think this is the most tragic part of the equation. The kids carry a lot of the load. They are often caught in between.
When you see signs of a person acting out of any of these emotions be fair warned that the psycho-ex is about to come out.
Control, manipulation, emotional blackmail
I think now is a good time to mention some of the signs to look out for.
Signs of a Crazy Ex-Wife
1. She says 1 thing and does another
2. You receive phone calls or texts at odd times, or they always seem to be an emergency.
3. She comes up with emergencies when the kids are with her.
4. She pushes off responsibility to her ex-husband.
5. She is inconsistent in taking care of the kids (only when it serves her).
6. She is hostile (often covertly) against the new wife or new girlfriend.
7. She has a lack of boundaries and acts like she has a right to her ex-spouse.
8. If she is in a new relationship, she turns the new boyfriend against her ex-husband.
9. Her planning always has a payoff for herself. You get left with the bill.
10. She triangulates.
How to Handle Ex-Wife Drama The Right Way
When a new partner, new relationship, new girlfriend, or new wife comes on the scene in a situation where the husband’s ex wife is a control freak out for revenge, it becomes a massively difficult thing to deal with, and the negative feelings that come up can pretty much ruin the new relationship entirely.
What’s unfair about this, in my opinion, is that a relationship that most likely would have thrived is going to be immediately set at a disadvantage.
There is a bit of a silver lining, and if you can create some distance between your husband’s ex wife and your relationship you will be on to creating an awesome relationship.
It’s going to take a lot of unconditional love, and a ride-or-die mentality.
At the core of it, it’s going to take a sink or swim mentality when it comes to personal growth and having a healthy headspace in this environment.
Understand the Problem Everyone is Facing
The problem for the husband
- Guys might feel stuck in the middle. His new partner is upset, his ex is causing problems, and the kids are suffering. Add to that a dose of guilt, and he might wonder if he is the problem.
- With a cluttered mind and uncertainty, he most likely won’t take the course of actions that will satisfy his new partner, or be present for the kids.
The problem for the children
- The children are also stuck. They are at the effect of the new arrangement and have no control over the situation. They often blame themselves and feel helpless.
- Unfortunately, depending on the age of the child all sorts of acting out can happen.
- This only adds more fuel to the fire and frustrates everyone around them. It’s easy for the ex spouse to point out how unhappy the children are. This starts a vicious circle. It leads the husband to feel more guilty and the new partner more frustrated.
The problem for the ex wife:
She may be experiencing the following:
- Unresolved Emotions
- Vengeful Thoughts
- If the kids choose to accept their new stepmom, bio mom may feel threatened. I think it’s easy for an ex-wife to start to feel like she’s in competition with the new girlfriend or wife. This can lead to all sorts of manipulative play and attempts at establishing dominance.
The problem for the new girlfriend or new wife:
- The new girlfriend or wife will be involved in raising someone else’s children.
- YET, the childrens’ allegiance will likely remain to their bio mom.
- This can leave her feeling unappreciated and wondering why and how she even got herself into this.
- If the husband isn’t making clear decisions, and the new girlfriend or new wife is left to pick up the slack, setting rules, or disciplining, it can lead to resentment and apathy.
Disciplining someone else’s children appropriately is quite difficult.
Years ago, I spoke with a woman named Vicki who is one of my clients at a time. She told me that it was really rough at the beginning when she inherited a couple of children from her new husband’s previous marriage.
She said, “There is hope. Now the relationship she has with the kids is absolutely fantastic.”
I agree with Vicki. I’ve seen the same phenomenon work out in my own life.
The relationship between my sons my new wife Kat is unpredictably amazing, filled with respect and love.
A Good Way to See Your Role as a Step-Parent
I recently heard someone talking about an interesting choice, and I think it is applicable for you here:
Suppose you could choose between $1 Million now or 1 penny doubled for 30 days.
This is how I see it.
|Day 1:||$.01||$1 Million|
|Day 5:||$.16||$1 Million|
|Day 10:||$5.12||$1 Million|
|Day 15:||$163.84||$1 Million|
|Day 20:||$5,242.88||$1 Million|
|Day 25:||$167,772.16||$1 Million|
|Day 30:||$5,368,709.12||$1 Million|
It doesn’t look like much compared to the other person with $1 Million, but the compound effect at the end of thirty days is dramatic.
As a step-parent, it’s important to always choose to do the right thing and keep it the main thing for your step kids.
Your Best Response to a difficult ex-spouse is to create space between you and her.
Dealing with an unstable person (borderline personality disorder) is complicated because logic and emotion don’t mix. On the one hand, you are bound to see actions that don’t match up with her words. So the one thing that I have learned is that you have to look at behavior and actions rather than words.
The old saying that talk is cheap is important in the scenario. Pay close attention to what your husband’s ex-wife is doing rather than what she is saying. And at every turn when something is being done or said that is out of alignment with what you know has been said and needs to be done your job is to insist on clarity. This is easier said though because it may require you to stand up against your emotional bully. You’ll need to set healthy boundaries.
Setting Clear Boundaries with the Toxic Ex Wife
Generally speaking, I think that there are two types of people out there:
- Boundary Setters and
- Boundary Breakers
When you’re dealing with a crazy ex situation, boundaries will constantly be charged.
You’ll need to pay close attention that when you set a boundary not only should you expect that it will be charged and that she will try to break your boundary, but you will also need to hold the line particularly tightly.
You may have heard that we’re always teaching people how to treat us. If you set a boundary that is easily broken, you are training and teaching that person to try to break your boundaries in the future.
I realize it’s much more complicated when you add children to the mix because setting and keeping boundaries can sometimes seem cruel to your kids.
For instance, if you set clear visitation boundaries and bio-mom wants to pick up the kids for ice cream, and you say no, it will make you look like the bad guy.
But, it’s important to hold the line. In essence, you have to train your ex on how she is to deal with you. It preserves not only your peace of mind but also the peace of mind of your new relationship.
Don’t expect your new partner to hold the line for you; in my experience, what you’ll end up with is two angry people on both sides of the equation. I don’t feel like one of those situations where it’s impossible to please anyone. Your kids will be unhappy, your new relationship will be unhappy, and your ex-wife while your ex-wife will be your ex-wife.
Separate The Ex-Wife Drama Bite from the Bark
A lot of what makes dealing with a difficult Ex hard is that your reputation and how others see you is going to be or can be dragged through the mud.
At the end of the day, you end up looking like the bad guy. For a very long time, it was important for me not to feel like the bad guy, and so the guilt became a trap.
At the end of the day, what is your ex spouse going to really do to you? Yes, Parental Alienation Vero Beach it’s a possibility, and she can also take you back to court. However, you’ve made your choice.
You are with your new partner. I remember asking a friend to contact someone he knew so I could rent property from him. Upon hearing my name, my friend’s contact said, “Oh, I know that guy. He’s the one who walked out on his family!”
It’s funny how word gets around and how stories are twisted. I’m sure you understand that I didn’t walk out on my family, but that was the story that was spun. You may have to give up on your reputation at least temporarily to hold your boundaries steadfast.
That doesn’t mean that it has to be forever. It won’t be forever. That is the interesting part about this whole scenario. The time clock is ticking, and it will be over at one point. When I say it will be over at one point, I mean that the reach of the ex partner is going to be limited once the children are grown.
Man or Marshmallow – Growing A Spine to Handle the Post-Divorce Custody/Co-Parenting New Norm
At the time of this writing, my children are nearly fully grown. Looking back over the past decade, in my estimation, I’ve learned to be a real man. The one thing that I wish that I had known is that I have one role.
That role is to be self-sacrificing for the greater good of the situation.
It’s hard not to take things personally when they are said about you. And it’s even harder to understand the impact that how are you behave will affect your kids.
I’ve learned that a time will come to share what you have been through with your children. However, it’s a slippery slope.
For the kids, they will always most likely want to defend their biological mother. Your best hope is that you and your new relationship can model a good relationship so that they are not destined to repeat the same mistakes you have made and choose a partner who is in the negative for controlling.
The role the guy must play in the scenario is best described in a word picture. Imagine you are in turbulent seas and there’s a storm.
Your job is to hold the rope tied around the mast to keep the sail from tearing. You have to hold on and try to keep your wits about you. If it starts as a bumpy ride, it’ll tend to stay a bumpy ride.
The role of the new partner is to proceed with caution. I think it is easier for the new partner or a stepmom to feel the responsibility to fill the gaps for the manipulative ex-wife. However, when you do this, you will be opening up yourself to be quite vulnerable.
If you see that the children still prefer their biological mother over you, especially after all you have done, dealt with, and absorbed, resentment can build.
I remember my wife Kat going on strike.
She realized that the resentment was getting to be too much. Every time she picked up after the kids or did something for them as a favor, and they showed no appreciation, it became more and more difficult.
Try to avoid this trap as much as you can. I recognize that it’s nearly impossible, but guard your own heart against the resentment that might build.
How Can You Preserve the Peace (New Partner Vs. Old Partner)
Depending on how complex your specific situation is, I believe you may have a tough time preserving the peace. There is too much mudslinging, name-calling that can go on to remain completely neutral. If you’re generally a nice guy with an excellent new partner, then be forewarned.
If you’re dealing with a hard bargainer like a crazy ex spouse who is unstable and may have some narcissistic personality disorder, then the idea of fairness and equity is a pipe dream.
You’ll have to get good at creating new boundaries that stick and by drawing a hard line in the sand. I think this becomes quite difficult if you were married to someone who tends to be harsh in general.
If their nature was the disciplinarian, for instance, maybe you compensated by being overly nurturing.
It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you have to set right the wrongs and balance out the toxicity of the situation with your children. This creates the Disney dad effect.
Try to resist the urge to be overly nurturing or look good because, in my experience, it backfires. Instead, stay strong, be bold, create a safe place for your new partner, and bear the weight of the situation as much as possible.
Don’t Drink Too Much to Cope with Ex Wife Drama
These were the words that were given to me by a wise older man when I was going through my divorce. With the amount of drama, toxicity, and no happy ending in sight, it’s easy to turn to substances to try to find some sense of relief and escape.
My recommendation is to take up something like jogging or exercise rather than starting to drink too much alcohol to cope. It will undermine everything you are trying to do and make you weaker as a father and husband.
The Cavalry Isn’t Coming
You are going to have to take control of your life in the best manner possible. All of the toxic behavior you are dealing with will never be understood by anyone who hasn’t lived it. You are the only person that can do something about your situation.
It’s odd when I look back now. I remember thinking surely someone will see that I’m a good dad, doing my best, but I think that was just wishful thinking. It’s war, and I hate to say this, but no one is coming to the rescue. You and your new partner will have to pull together to make each others’ lives work.
It’s really tough on the new girlfriend or wife to deal with the partner’s ex drama because it is nearly inescapable, and it is tough for the guy to know how to shield her from the drama.
But if you are committed, it can work out so well for you; it’s almost unimaginable.
So many nights I went to sleep wondering how any of it could work, but it did. Years down the road, everything is different. In many ways, as painful as it was for everyone involved, I can truly say that we are better for it as far as I can tell.
Being Present As a Parent Regardless of the Chaos
One of the tough issues, especially when parental alienation is at play, is being present as a parent or step-parent. It is easy to start to associate the kids with the ex-wife’s drama and all of the stress. The best way to snap out of this trap and sense of suffering is to remember that each moment is fleeting.
Now that my kids are grown, I’m only now clear on how much I missed.
One of my sons told me that I had come to the most important football game to date for him, and while I was there physically, he could tell I was only there physically and not mentally. He made some great plays.
As we drove away from the game, he noticed that Kat and I just carried on as nothing significant had happened.
I blew it. I was so busy with my stuff that I let the most significant people in my life feel unimportant.
Documentation Beats Conversation – Keep Track of What’s Happening
Don’t be afraid to dictate; use google voice to call and leave yourself messages, or activate Do Not Disturb.
When you’re dealing with ex-wife drama, you need to get into the habit of documenting the important stuff. It would be best if you DON’T document everything, and you have to make sure that you’re not paying attention or looking for problems when there aren’t any problems.
However, in extreme cases, it’s helpful to use an app that can record and timestamp something going on or that has just happened. If you’re anything like me, you might not remember what you had for breakfast.
When you use technology to make sure that you have a good set of documents in place should you ever need it, you’re more likely to be able to present your case if it comes to that appropriately.
There may be times where you also need to take the documentation that you’ve created and forward a copy to your attorney to keep on file.
When I did this, I didn’t encounter any legal fees, but you might want to ask your attorney if there is any cost to add a document to your file (just in case).
For instance, if you are accused of abuse or had the sense that something being done or said creates a trap for you, make sure you document it and forward it over to your attorney to keep on file.
I’m not a big fan of documenting everything because sometimes, whatever you focus on will grow and get bigger.
One helpful way to distinguish between what you need to report and what you shouldn’t bother worrying about is by asking yourself the following question:
Could what is happening right now be misconstrued or misinterpreted and potentially affect child custody, parenting, or child support?
If the answer is yes, those are the negative things and events I’d made a note about.
Lean on Legal When Things Get Out of Hand
In the case mentioned above, you will want to lean on your legal team for assistance. I understand that not everybody has deep pockets, and the idea of asking your attorney to be involved can be expensive.
That’s why I recommend keeping information on file just in case, but if it comes to that legal battle situation, remember that part of what you’re paying the attorney for is for peace of mind for yourself.
Find good representation and lean heavily on them to represent you.
Keep your documentation in order and make sure you have proof of any messages or situations that I’ve gotten out of hand.
Child Custody and High Conflict Situations
The most important thing to look out for is making sure that your portion of child custody remains intact.
Ex-wife drama can lead to your being in a situation where she is trying to use the kids against you or weaponize the kids against you and threatens to take them away.
This ploy is designed to hurt you and create a lot of stress in the home. By default, it works because its threat creates a lot of chaos in the home and can create a high conflict situation between you and your new partner.
For sanity’s sake, try to keep your new partner protected and shielded from all of this. It’s nearly empty possible to do, but it’s vital for your long-term relationship.
Remember, the clock is ticking, and this will all be over at some point in the future.
Therapy Can Be Helpful
You may need to make a professional therapist part of your life. It is in your best interest to discuss such things as what is going on in your own life from your unique perspective with a counselor, who can help you see things that you won’t be able to see on your own.
In my experience, when we confide in our new partner on a daily basis regarding all of the drama, the relationship suffers. Finding a good counselor may require you to go outside of your comfort zone, but I recommend it if you are suffering.
Give Yourself an Outlet
You can’t keep all this kind of drama in. Eventually, it’s going to eat you alive.
I still remember stopping by a Dollar General, buying some brooms and bags of ice, and finding an empty warehouse parking lot with a concrete building remnant. I put the bags of ice on the concrete block and beat the tar out of it with the broomstick.
Then, I took pieces of ice and threw them at a tree.
Give yourself a physical outlet for your inevitable anger. I remember it helped, even if it was just a little bit.
Avoid the Triangulation Trap in Post Divorce Drama
In my experience, triangulation is one of the most damaging problems in trying to co-parent. If you’re not familiar with how triangulation works, it essentially works as follows: imagine a triangle at the top of the triangle is you at the right-hand corner is your ex-partner and at the left-hand corner is a child.
For the sake of ease, let’s give each person a name in the equation.
Melissa, Tom, and Melanie.
Suppose that the relationship between Tom and Melanie is strained.
Melissa exploits this problem by telling Tom one thing and Melanie something different.
Knowing that Tom and Melanie don’t communicate very often or well, she supposes that Tom and Melanie will never compare notes on what was said.
I hope you get the picture.
The best way to circumvent this problem and prevent it for good is to get all interested parties on the phone at once. Have a conference call and make sure that you cover each point with everyone involved.
Inevitably there will be a “he said” “she said” moment. You’ll have to pay close attention to make sure that clarity is brought to that specific part of the situation. You will have to draw the triangulator out like a sniper into open ground. Expose the triangulation.
It’s Not a Competition to See Which Parent is Better
When all of the drama is dialed up, it is easy to get stuck in trying to be “the good parent.” It’s easy to get trapped in the idea that you need to do something to fix it since you look bad.
You can quickly turn into the Disney dad situation and your guilt could be exploited by your Ex.
I’m talking to the men here. As long as your guilt manipulates you, you will be at a massive disadvantage in fathering well.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
It’s important to remember that in the end things will improve. In my personal experience, a 50-50 shared custody scenario turned out to be important. It is challenging for children to go back and forth between two homes that operate on entirely different rules under rules and where the value system is different.
Over time, it was important to be consistent and have a relationship with my kids to really influence how their lives turned out as they mature that they become wise to the differences between the households.
It is an incredible opportunity for your children to become better individuals. They will see the contrast between the two homes, and they can adopt the best strategies that give them an advantage in life.
That’s why I say all of these things end up working out in favor of the children if they have at least one parent who is mindful about the experiences that they are learning.
Don’t Sugarcoat the Truth but Protect Your Childrens’ Hearts Against Your Own Anger
It’s important not to get caught up in the game he said she said, but it is equally important to make sure that the facts are presented in truthful and honest ways.
I still remember conversing with my kids about some of the things that have gone on between the household.
They were shocked. But being nearly adults, they were able to understand aspects about it though we’re not available to them when they were younger.
When you notice the lightbulb moment in your kids’ life when you share details with them, it can be easy to end up turning into the malicious parent because you will see the opportunity to turn their hearts against the crazy ex-wife.
However, restrain yourself here because if you choose to do that, you become the other side of the same coin.
You essentially become the same level of decay as you have been fighting.
I realized long ago that it is my job to guard my children’s hearts the best I can and sharpen their minds to prepare them to deal with human nature.
Avoid the temptation to fight back and be destructive. While it feels great at the moment, these things can have lasting effects and eventually set you up for failure.
Final Thoughts About Coping With Your Partner Ex-Spouse’s Problems
In summary, it’s essential to be mindful at all times. Dealing with ex-wife drama is a pressure cooker for everyone involved.
The only way you will get through it is by implementing a marathons runner’s mentality of endurance.
Accept that it will seem like a living hell at times, but joint custody is worth it. Keep yourself healthy mentally as much as possible and do the best you can.
Others have fought the same fight and been in the battle where you are. They have come through, and the experiences have proven to sharpen and propel for all involved.
A mentor told me that 40 years after his divorce, something happened he never thought could. His crazy ex and his new family have spent Christmas holidays together under the same roof, and they all had a fantastic time.
A thoroughly blended family seemed impossible in the early days, but it is interesting how time can set right so many obstacles and problems.