So many people have to deal with a difficult ex spouse. I’m sure none of us are the difficult ex spouse, no matter what he may say! Sometimes for reasons unknown to most rational people, an ex spouse will try to interfere with your new marriage, or manipulate you using your children, or personally attack you. What can you do that will not cause the problem to escalate? Due to the fact that you have children with this person, you need to tread lightly, just as what he does affects the children, how you respond affects them as well.
The first thing to remember is that when someone is acting this way it is because there is still a lot of pain associated with you and the divorce. When people are in pain they do things they would not normally do. Try to remember that and don’t take everything personally. Your ex has to work through his issues, don’t make them your own. Ultimately, the better your relationship with your ex the better your children will do. So bite your tongue, don’t engage, don’t argue and certainly don’t yell.
Your main responsibility is to protect your children. Do not bad mouth their other parent, and do not let them hear the two of you arguing. If all interactions with your ex are hostile, refuse to respond. Pick the kids up, drop them off, whatever you are doing, as quickly as possible. If you have to speak to him and you know it will be difficult, send him an email. Just be careful of the tone. It’s hard to judge someone’s intent in an email where there is no body language or tone of voice. If he responds rudely, delete it without responding.
Be nice to your ex. He may not deserve it but your kids need to see that adults are kind to each other, no matter what. This will go a long way in helping your kids learn how to treat other people. Lead by example. If your ex is setting a bad example they don’t need you to do it as well, give them another behavior option.
Make sure your boundaries are clear. When my ex and I first divorced he thought it was still appropriate to hug me hello and goodbye, he thought we were going to mend our fences. This was a manipulation tool and I had to put a stop to it. I also had to make it clear that the only thing we needed to talk about was Hailey. Let him know what is acceptable and what is not. You don’t have to say a word, respond when he is civil, don’t respond when he is rude. People can only treat you how you allow them to treat you.
If all else fails, seek counseling. Even if your ex won’t go it will be good for you and the children.