Still getting in screaming battles with your ex, long after the divorce is over? Do you keep telling yourself this has got to stop? While I can’t answer the age old question of why we do this, I’m happy to offer some strategies for halting the battle of the exes, so you can stop wasting so much time being ticked off.
The Battle of the Exes Is a Vicious Cycle
“That is so totally like her.”
“She always does this. Always.”
“I knew she was going to do this. I just knew it.”
How often has your ex behaved exactly the way you expected her to? She did the thing that you knew she would and now you are unbelievably angry at her. You’re actually fuming. Thank goodness she’s not in the same room because you couldn’t be held responsible for your actions.
What is going on here?
You’re Expecting Consistency
You’ve probably got that one friend who is always happy. That’s the person you call when you need a boost because he can always be relied on to make you laugh.
There is value in the consistency of relationships, and we look for that in our friends.
Your ex is also consistent, just not in the way you want.
Your ex is behaving exactly like that happy friend and you’re reacting to her the same way, too. You know that she always behaves this way, you know exactly what’s about to happen, you’re expecting it.
So why are you so angry when it does? It’s not like this is a new thing. You said you knew this was coming. The battle rages on!
It’s a total pain that you react the way you do, but the good news is that you aren’t alone. We all do it.
Someone we like (a happy friend) behaves exactly the way we’re expecting, and we praise them for it. Someone we don’t like (the ex) behaves exactly the way we’re expecting and we go crazy. We scream, we shout, we cry.
Pick Your Battles
It can be tempting to bait your ex, just because you can, but it’s time to start resisting that urge.
Although there are a lot of issues you’d like to raise with her, for your own sake you need to be selective about what you bring up with your ex. It’s entirely possible that the reason she always seems so defensive or combative is because she constantly feels under attack.
Even if you aren’t attacking her, raising every issue that’s on your mind can create an atmosphere of tension and aggression between you. If every time she picks up your call she’s steeling herself for battle, there is absolutely no chance you’re going to get through to her.
That expectation thing goes both ways in the battle of the exes!
Your ex always reacts the way you’re expecting, and her reaction always makes you angry. Being less angry at her can be as simple as not antagonizing her as often.
Of course, you can’t let everything slide, that’s not good for anybody. When there are key issues that need to be discussed or resolved, you need to act.
Just make sure you don’t act too soon.
Plan Your Attack
You know your ex very well. Start putting that knowledge to good use.
Imagine that you need to speak to your ex about an upcoming vacation you want to take with the kids. Or, maybe you need to discuss your finances with her. Are you already cringing or diving for cover?
There’s no need for that. You already know how she’s going to react right?
Now it’s time to plan your attack according to her inevitable reaction. If you know that your ex will immediately come up with 100 excuses for why you can’t take the kids on vacation, plan for it.
Write out a speech, or prepare a PowerPoint in which you predict each of her arguments and counter it (I’ve done this and it works). Maybe you need to talk through it with her over the phone before you send the document. Or maybe you need to send it, give her a day to review it, and then start the conversation.
You know your ex better than anybody else, so use that knowledge to make your life a little easier.
Lose the Battle To Win the War
Never forget that you are playing the long game. If your children are young, remember that this woman is part of your daily life until they turn 18. If your children are older, don’t forget that there will be weddings, christenings and grandchildren’s recitals where you will probably see each other again.
Sometimes, no matter how important a particular topic seems, it’s not worth derailing the entire relationship over it. If your discussion is spiraling out of control, leave. Or get off the phone. Calmly explain that you both need a break. Revisit the issue with her in a few days.
If a few days later you are still not getting anywhere, consider abandoning this particular argument.
Think Like a Boss
In business, you shut down if your debt is too large or you lose passion for your work. Start applying the hard logic of business to the raw emotion of divorce. Be the boss of your anger. Not everything will go your way. Stop to consider that maybe it’s time for compromise on this issue, so you can make progress on another one.
Dismiss the Idea of Fairness or Justice
This is the hardest part of learning how to stop the battle of the exes. Choosing your battles, planning your attack, knowing when to retreat – that all makes sense. Those are rational, strategic steps to getting the outcome you want.
The problem arises when emotions come creeping in. From the time we’re kids we are obsessed with the idea of fairness and justice. We want our fair share.
It’s not fair that she gets to have the kids all week. It’s not fair that she is taking the kids on vacation to another country but she won’t let you take them out of state.
The best thing you can do for your sanity and general happiness is dismiss the idea of fairness and justice right now. Life is not fair.
Bide Your Time
Instead, embrace the idea of karma. Things might not be going your way at the moment. Maybe your ex is winning the battle, maybe she’s being so stubborn that you’re running out of energy to fight. Whatever the case, your time will come.
Remember, what goes around comes around.
Easier said than done?
Absolutely! Like most valuable advice, all of this information is easy to read but significantly more difficult to live.
You will not get this right the first time. You may start a battle you later regret. You may plan your attack only to realize you missed a key element.
That’s okay. These methods of coping with your ex are not immediate solutions. Instead, you will learn from each battle, your strategy will improve and in time you’ll find yourself laughing at your ex’s predictable behavior instead of being angered by it.
Are you fully involved in a battle of the exes? Or have you already won the war? Tell us your battle stories in the comments below!
Sooner or later, you are going to have to be somewhere with your ex. Alicia Mejia comes to the rescue with A Gentleman’s Guide to Attending Your First Public Function Together… But Apart.