A common concern for divorced parents is what to do when their co-parent is deceitful and manipulative. You have to know when and how to respond to lies or accusation and when not to. Parent’s instincts can cause them to react defensively, rather than respond appropriately. Unfortunately, by getting defensive, you can make others believe that there is truth to what your evil ex is saying about you. The easiest thing to do is say, “That’s not true.” and move on. Most of the time, false accusations will not impact your parenting time, especially if you already have an agreed upon parenting time schedule or court ordered schedule in place. What can impact your parenting time is when you have extremely negative reactions to the lies and the games.
Professionals see these games all the time and for the most part, they do not simply take the word of one parent as gospel over the other. No matter what your ex says about you, do not let it change who you are or give them the reaction that they crave. Be confident in the truth and trust in professionals to see. It can sometimes take a while, but eventually they will see the truth. Remember, you were charmed or fooled by your ex when the two of you got together and over time, you found out who they really were. The professionals only get little glimpses into each of you so it may be hard for them to see. However, if you allow you ex enough rope, as they say, they will indeed hang themselves. You do not have to prepare the noose or grab the rope to show it to anyone. Leave your ex to falter with their own devices and do not take the low road that they do.
Truth stands the test of time; Lies are soon exposed ~ Proverbs 12:19
After divorce, some people play the victim. It garners them attention and sympathy from others and helps them explain, in their own mind, that they are not at fault for the divorce.
Oddly enough, even though all US states are no fault divorce states, it doesn’t seem to matter. Fault or no fault, divorce can be deeply wounding to one’s ego. In order to show the world that they are not a bad person (and make themselves feel better), they have to portray a false reality that their ex is to blame. They will accuse their ex of having an affair, being mentally ill or turn it around in some other way. They may tell others that they initiated the divorce instead of telling the truth, that it was their ex who initiated the process.
Typically, these individuals fear being alone and will enter into a new relationship quickly, long before they are ready. They have done nothing to come to terms with the divorce or take the time to heal. They grab hold of the first person who comes along and buys their story. It helps them show the world: Hey, I am OK. See? Someone loves me. That other person had something wrong with them. That’s all. I am not a bad person. See how quickly someone found me?
Their new relationship develops during their grieving process over the divorce. These quick rebound relationships can interfere with, and may even halt that grieving process all together. Because they met their new significant other during the grieving process, they probably shared an embellished story about how evil their ex spouse was, giving their new mate an exaggerated impression of the truth in order to explain their misery. The problem with embelleshed stories is that they will have to keep the story going for the duration of the new relationship so the new partner doesn’t learn the truth. This can make things very confusing to an ex spouse who has to try co-parenting with the person who is trying to keep a storyline going.
Some ex-spouses struggle to understand why their child’s other parent hates them so and cannot let go of it or move beyond divorce and into a co-parenting relationship. If you are the ex who is constantly lied about, you may become defensive. You may also be very hurt and feel guilty about the divorce when you see the way your children’s other parent carries on with so much anger and tells lies, while you try to take the high road. You may hope that your ex will come to terms with the divorce so that your co-parenting relationship will improve. Unfortunately, you cannot make things better because it really is not about you. This is all about your ex wanting to save face.
What does it mean to save face? To put it simply, to preserve one’s dignity. It has to do with how one sees him or herself and how he or she thinks the world sees them. If a person finds divorce to be a highly negative reflection of their self-worth, and is deeply wounded because their spouse, who promised to love, honor and cherish them no longer loves them, they often cannot see divorce as anything other than an acknowledgment that they are unlovable and a failure.
As the years go by, you may be shocked at how petty your co-parent is and stunned by their refusal to sit in the same room with you for the children’s extra curricular activities, doctor appointments and even mediation to settle a dispute about the children. Try not obsessing about changing the other parent, and do not make yourself a door mat and try to appease them in an effort to build a better relationship. If the other parent is saving face, nothing that you do will change the situation. It is all about keeping their secrets safe. Avoiding you, and making you out to be the bad guy, is the basis of their new relationship. They will move heaven and earth to keep the storyline going.
The avoiding parent lives in constant fear that if they start to repair the relationship with you, their new partner may start to see through all of the lies they’ve told over the years. They won’t risk being exposed as the liar they are. People who live a life based on lies will never risk a second breakup. The first one devastated them. Because they never took time to heal from that, another rejection would be unbearable. Eventually, the new partner may start to see that the story they have been told does not make sense, and your ex may possibly have to face their biggest fear, but again, you cannot change them, and it is not your responsibility to save them.
So what do you tell your kids when the other parent spreads lies and acts crazy? Tell your kids the truth. Tell them that you would like a better relationship with their mom/dad, and it is not possible right now. Tell your children that you do not understand why their other parent acts that way, but that you love them and will always be there for them no matter what. You may also want to tell them that you feel sorry for the other parent’s pain and hope that one day they will find a way to work through it. That is all you have to say. Then you must commit yourself to taking the high road and doing the best job of parenting that you can.
Hostile co-parenting relationships are not helped by seeking revenge or telling the other side what they need to do to make things better. You are the last person they will take advice from. Sometimes the best you can do is keep your own house in order and choose a healthier relationship for yourself, and leave your ex to battle their own demons.
If you want the truth to be shown, do not interfere. When someone is digging themselves a deep hole, let them! This is a hard concept for many divorced parents, but it is a myth to believe that any of it is within your control. It isn’t. Do what you are supposed to be doing and stop worrying about your ex. They will do whatever it is they are going to do. Trying to make them do what they won’t is a never-ending source of misery. Protecting them from their own nonsense is no longer your role. Protect the children as much as you can, but when you ex is acting a fool, let them. If you think they are acting a fool, it is highly likely that other people will see it that way, too. Don’t get yourself in the mix!
You may also enjoy a video from Coach Susan called, “Just Get Outta the Way!” . You can view it here.
When you devote much of your day in fear of your ex, or thinking about what your ex is doing, you are allowing them to live rent free in your head. It is completely understandable that if you have had many negative experiences with your ex and experienced a prolonged, bitter custody battle, you would become afraid of having to deal with them in the future. Still, the best thing to do is to get them out of your head and out of your life as much as possible.
I do not want to make light of the situation. I hope to help people move forward and stop giving their ex more attention than they deserve. If you have become overwhelmed with thoughts and fears about your ex, you have to work on changing your thinking. It is not going to happen over night, but it can be done. You will have to work hard at it and things may get worse before they get better. What I mean by that is the controlling, abusive, meddling ex will do their best to make you fail in your quest for freedom. That is reason enough why you must do it. When you start paying less and less attention to them and no longer cower in fear of them, they are going to get in your face a little more before they slither away and the fact remains, they may never slither away completely. You see, the problem is not with you. It is with them.
Your ex has been masterful at turning the tables on you and keeping you off balance. Because their behavior is not normal, you may be confused about why they are behaving the way they are. Worse, you may also be confused by the realization that in the real world, people view your ex as very nice, smart, thoughtful, etc., and they may have a new relationship that seems just peachy which makes you wonder if you really are the problem. Trust me, you are not the problem.
Keep in mind that most people in the real world only get a glimpse of who your ex really is and when your ex wants to, he or she can really turn on the charm. The same goes for the new relationship. They must make their new partner see you as a crazy person. It helps them ensure that you will never go near their new partner and that they will steer clear of you as well. No one can talk to each other that way. The angry ex’s secrets do not get divulged. This keeps their new love in the dark about who they really are and it helps keep you wondering what the heck is going on…and they LOVE that. Remember how they treated you early on and how wonderful you thought they were. The new partner will also be charmed.
They LOVE having you fear them. They LOVE living in your head rent free. They don’t even have to do anything to control you because you fear them so much and try to anticipate what they will do next, you are putting them in control. They don’t have to put any energy into it. You are doing the work for them! It feeds their ego to know that they are always on your mind.
So how do you go about changing things?
First things first, you have to put your fear behind you. You may even need to get angry. You also need to retrain your brain to stop any and all thoughts of your ex whenever they crop up.
Second, have a diversion. If you are overwhelmed thinking about what your ex may or may not do about any given issue, have a friend or a hobby or even look for a new love interest and whenever you just cannot shake the evil ex thoughts, call on that person or take some time to work on your new activity. If you choose a hobby, make sure that it is something that will keep you busy. Reading sometimes will not work because if your mind keeps wandering, you will not really be reading. Try exercise, too, and some stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, mediation or swinging your arms back and forth for 10 minutes. Trust me, it works.
Third, carve out “ex free” time. When you have the luxury of your child spending time at the other parent’s house or with grandma and grandpa or their friends, carve it out. Announce to yourself that you will not give your ex anymore time than they have already taken from you.
This can be done, trust me, I have done it. It takes some time and some practice, but once you master retraining your brain, the less you will think about your ex or care about your ex. It will become habit to you and you will be well on your way to a new and happier life. One last thing, it is natural to want to put your life on hold for fear that your ex will ruin anything that makes you happy, but that is just giving them more control over your life. You do NOT want to do that. Write down on a piece of paper in big letters the following:
NOT ONE MORE DAY. MY EX WILL NOT GET ONE MORE DAY OF MY LIFE. MY EX HAS BEEN LIVING RENT FREE IN MY HEAD FOR YEARS AND TODAY IS HIS EVICTION NOTICE. HE/SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD AND OUT OF MY THOUGHTS AND OUT OF MY LIFE STARTING RIGHT NOW. I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED THE WAY I AM BEING TREATED. I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.
And then go live it. If you want to find a new love, seek them out. Your ex may try to meddle and he/she may try to make things difficult for you in unimaginable ways, but you are stronger than he or she is. Much stronger. They have a sickness that they probably cannot escape, but you will choose to get healthier. You will take steps to ensure that you never choose the same kind of psychopath as a partner again, and you won’t. Your new love will love you and because they love you so much, they will see what your ex is doing and they will stand by you no matter what.
When you see it, you will believe it and achieve it!
When your ex is acting the fool, just get outta their way! Professionals will never see what is going on when you tell them. Let them see for themselves! In our latest video, Susan will explain more about getting out of the way and allowing your ex to act a fool. Remember, just because they may be acting the fool doesn’t mean that you have to do it, too. In fact, your chance for successfully navigating family court greatly increase when you do not let your ex rattle you. Check it out!