Life boils down to your negotiation skills. And your skills are better than you think.
You negotiate with your boss at work, the car salesman, your children, your ex, your ex’s ex, the guy at the flea market, fruit stand or farmer’s market, your insurance agent, your credit card companies and a myriad of other places you spend money or barter your time for goods.
But, when it comes to your ex (and his ex!), life isn’t so simple. That’s because emotions get in the way of clear thinking . . . and suddenly you’re right back where you were before the divorce. All the old thoughts and anger are boiling through your brain.
You thought you had left it behind; but lo and behold, it appears once more.
We have all had that experience. No matter how amicable the divorce and easy going the relationship is, or is not, right now – he knows how to push your buttons and you know how to push his.
But, what if he’s just crazier than most? Or maybe he’s just crazier around you than he is around anyone else?
We all have relationships that bring out the worst in us. You may have felt like you failed, or that the other person created such a problem that the whole thing fell apart. You might just loathe the sight or sound of his voice after the divorce – or he feels the same way about you.
No matter what the circumstance, sometimes the ex just acts crazy. And sometimes you don’t know why and you don’t care – you just want the merry-go-round to stop.
My friend Maria is in that situation right now. Her ex lives in another part of the world, and she’s remarried. He likes to call the police in her home town and make allegations about child abuse, so there is a record at the local station and police come to her home at 6 am.
He likes to send threatening text messages to her cell phone, threatening memes to her email, and call outside the assigned times to communicate. In other words, she still drives him crazy and he can’t come to grips with the idea that they are divorced.
Dealing with your ex has unique issues – for him, for you and for your children. But, no matter what HIS issues are, YOU are the one who must keep a cool head and make clear decisions. Because when you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you must ensure that they are the fruits you desire.
Here are five techniques that work specifically with ex’s. You should definitely use these with the ex who doesn’t understand his boundaries, they just may save you the next time he wants to drag you into court.
- Document, document, document. The court won’t care who said what if one of you has concrete documentation. In other words, you want to move the situation from He Said/She Said, to she documented it and has proof.
Whether these are conversations, text messages, emails, visitations, payments or negotiations you MUST document each and every time. It can get tedious and time consuming. However, as in my friend’s case, she now has folder full of printed text messages (screen shots showing who from, date and time) that she can bring before the judge proving harassment. He can claim he never sent them, but someone was consistently using his cell phone for the last six months.
Keep a folder in your email client with all his communication, and print them out as you are able. Take screen shots of text conversations that get out of hand, get an app for your phone that records your phone calls (Call Recorder is free for Apple and Android), and keep a notebook of his visitation with the children with dates and times.
- Use written communication as much as possible. This is helpful because you can keep a record of the conversations and are less likely to respond immediately out of your own anger. Which brings up . . .
- Don’t respond immediately. Sometimes you just want to wring his neck. However, he may be keeping his own record of your conversations, and when you show a judge what he said, you’ll have to also show what you said. By responding more later than sooner you have a better chance of keeping your cool and giving a neutral response.
- Never respond to something meant only to push your buttons. If what he’s doing requires a response, make it as brief and business-like as possible. My friend Mandy’s ex is particularly difficult. He still believes the world revolves around his needs, wants and desires and he isn’t too concerned about his four children. Mandy, on the other hand, has functional sole responsibility for the children. When her ex texts, she responds with just the information he needs, no matter how nasty he gets.
Granted, that takes a lot of self-control and some understanding friends who can listen to her rant at them instead of him, but it has won her several battles in court.
- Warn your friends and family. Quite honestly, your friends and family should be there to support you and your needs, and not get into the middle of any disagreement you have with your ex. Ask them to stay out of any arguments and not give their opinions to your ex, even if he asks.
Your family includes everyone – your brothers, sisters, mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins and your children. Your ex may try to involve your children. It’s important that you give them the support and understanding they need to know that you love them, their father loves them, this was not their fault, and that their father is having a tough time right now and needs their love and understanding. Just like you help your children to respect your boundaries, they must help their father respect their boundaries. Teach them how they can respectfully ask their father to not put them in the middle between the two of you – and then you don’t put them there either.
Negotiating your way through this journey with your ex is something we all do. Some guys are better at accepting and moving on than others. Some men would prefer to keep some control over you and their children. Others just haven’t gotten past the idea of losing you – even if they were the ones that walked out. And, unfortunately, some men just want control . . . period.
Get past their behavior and realize that YOU have control over your own behavior. YOU have control over what you do and say. It’s time to exert that control. You might not get everything you want, but you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that you did your best to contain a bad situation.