I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.
— Rorschach in Watchmen, by Alan Moore
Let’s get one thing straight from the start. You’re divorced. You have kids with the Ex. The truth of the matter in dealing with your Ex is this – YOU HAVE TO. It’s a necessary evil. You’re locked in to having to deal with your Ex. I realize you don’t want to. Neither did I. I get it. But, you’re going to have to deal with her about visitations, child support, alimony, kids activities, and any of a countless number of other things.
Locked In With the Ex
Your kids, like most kids in this nuclear world, are going to be involved in any number of outside activities, science fairs, dance, concerts, sports, plays, graduations. Most of these activities will be reason to run into the Ex, and may involve collaboration with the Ex. No matter how much you wish it NOT to be so, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.
Sorry to bring the stark fatalism into this article, but I’m just sayin’. You made babies with this woman, you’re gonna have endure some social functions as her Ex when the kids are involved. So, the best thing to do is swallow your pride, and make the best of what is surely a tough situation.
There are a few ways this can be achieved, of course. One of the easiest is to be on opposite sides of the space, whatever it is. If she sits stage left, sit stage right. At a basketball game, go to the other set of bleachers to cheer your daughter or son on. Just because you are in the same place, doesn’t mean you have to actively engage her. It’s probably going to happen, even if it’s just in passing. But there’s nothing that says you need to be locked in with each other as she or he delivers that Shakespearean soliloquy.
Another way is to come to an agreement beforehand – you want a few minutes to talk to him after the game (or she does, if you are the custodial parent), then you definitely should be allowed to, in peace. But don’t just walk up afterwards and usher your daughter away either without so much as a Hello. Work it out beforehand. Communication, as it turns out, does work wonders, even in the most hateful and contentious of breakups.
In fact, that is probably the best bet for most things regarding your kids – come to agreements. This will inevitably end up involving compromises, whether anyone likes it or not. Not everyone can get their own way all of the time. Not even the most virulent case of “affluenza” will achieve that goal. Sometimes, as much as you can say No, others will be telling you No as well. Learn when to say Yes.
And I know that sometimes, especially with big life-events such as graduations or weddings, it’s not going to be just your former spouse present. Chances are, your former in-laws will be there as well. If you’ve maintained great relationships with them, fantastic! If not… well, best be on your guard there, and then some. You can’t help how others will act. But you can help how you react to others’ poor behavior. Lashing out, especially at a public event centered around your children’s achievements, is always poor form, bar none.
It may be easy to say “take the high road,” but it’s a lot more difficult to actually do it. Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to get used to the idea. That’s why you’re here, right? We all could use a little leg up from time to time. I know I still do to this day.
All that said – whatever you do, don’t panic. Nobody ever died from being locked in the same room as their Ex. At least, not for that reason. Just remember one thing most important of all – the reasons you may be in the same place at the same time is for the kids. It’s their events, it’s their time to shine. Swallow your pride, and realize, ultimately, it’s them what matter during these times. Save the drama for… another time.