Whether you are in the midst of a separation or have been divorced for years, dealing with retaliatory behaviors from your child’s other parent can be incredibly stressful.
People act in vindictive ways for a wide variety of reasons. Some may have a misguided desire to keep you in their life somehow, even in a negative way. Others may think the parenting plan was unfair and seek revenge by harming your relationship with your child.
Most parents can put aside their pain and focus on their children’s needs after a separation or divorce. But unfortunately, there are a significant number of people who find it difficult to forge a friendly co-parenting relationship for the good of the children. Those who cannot or will not move past their pain can strike out against their ex in a number of ways. Some act mildly passive-aggressive, while others are more directly vindictive.
Today we discuss what you can do if your ex acts in a harmful or retaliatory way that interferes with co-parenting.
One effective way to nip such problems in the bud is to include language that addresses bad parental behavior in your parenting plan before it is finalized. Typically, people know if their co-parent has a mean or vengeful streak. If you know that you may be in for some issues down the road, speak to your attorney. They can include a provision that requires co-parenting therapy or mediation if issues arise in the future. This gives your ex a warning right from the beginning that if they behave badly, there will be consequences. It also allows you to address future issues without the expense of returning to court.
Accept What Is
The first thing you must accept is that you cannot change someone else no matter how badly you want to. This may seem obvious, but when your child is involved, emotions run high and your logic can suffer.
When your child’s other parent is emotionally unhealthy, it is normal to fret over how that might negatively impact your child. You may find yourself feeling more and more desperate to convince your co-parent to change for your child’s sake. You may end up in endless arguments where you try to convince your co-parent to get counseling for their issues and learn to put your child first. However, the odds of that happening are practically non-existent if they have no genuine desire to change.
The sooner you accept this, the better. You simply cannot change someone else. Once you truly accept that your ex will never change unless they decide they want to, you can let yourself off the hook. It is not your job to convince them to become better. You can only control your own reactions and focus on your own parenting decisions. This can alleviate a tremendous amount of stress and empower you to remain calm and take the high road, regardless of what your ex is doing. It also helps you resist your ex’s attempts to pull you down into a cesspool of anger and resentment that doesn’t benefit anyone—especially your children.
Some people have high-conflict personalities and seem to thrive on creating friction. These people love to cross boundaries, especially when they are only sketched in pencil. Set clear boundaries for your interactions with your ex, and politely express those boundaries. If and when your ex crosses those boundaries, do your best not to respond emotionally. Incorporate some practices that help you distance yourself from emotional reactions to any attempts to rile you.
Don’t Take It Personally
High-conflict people generally have emotional issues. They also tend to project their issues onto those closest to them and people they perceive as having hurt them. The very best strategy is to disengage from all conflict with such people. Realize that it is their issue, it is futile to enter into conflict with them, and it is a supreme waste of time and energy to let their words marinate in your mind and twist you into knots.
For example, if your ex attacks your parenting, do not engage in a debate. You don’t have to prove yourself to them as long as you follow the parenting agreement. Nurture a network of supportive people like family, friends, or a therapist with whom you can confide if your ex’s words strike a nerve. They will give you the support you need, without the hidden harmful agenda.
Techniques for Dealing With Retaliatory Behaviors
Here are some techniques that can help you maintain your emotional distance from a toxic ex and ultimately foster a better environment for your kids.
Keep Correspondence to a Minimum
As previously discussed, it is best to set clear boundaries when dealing with retaliatory behaviors from your child’s co-parent. One of those boundaries should be that the two of you do not communicate except about essential information relating to your children. Let them know that opinions and narratives are not welcome and that you will not respond to them if sent.
Co-parenting is really a term used when a couple can work together to parent their child. When one parent is vindictive, true co-parenting is impossible. Instead, focus on parallel parenting, where you conduct your own parenting with very little contact or input from your ex. This gives them little opportunity to act vengefully.
Communicate in Writing and Always Be Polite
Create a record by always communicating with your ex in writing, whether it is in texts or emails. And no matter what happens, keep your communications with your ex polite and business-like. You may have to go back to court to modify your parenting plan at some point. If you do, the judge looks at both parents and assesses which one is more responsible and reasonable. Remaining polite and cool-headed while your ex is ranting puts you in the best possible light. It may very likely tip the scales of justice in your favor.
The legal team at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., know how painful dealing with retaliatory behaviors from a co-parent can be. If you are concerned about how your vengeful ex is impacting your relationship with your child, you can talk to one of our knowledgeable and caring lawyers. We can assess the circumstances and advise you as to your next best move. So call us directly or contact us online today for an initial consultation.