Let’s face it – divorce can bring out the worst in people. A spouse who was once your closest friend and confidant can suddenly become mean, petty and unwilling to compromise. Thankfully, couples without children can largely go their separate ways once the divorce is finalized. The story is quite different, however, if you share custody of your children with your ex.

Constant arguing with your co-parent is unhealthy for your children and unhealthy for you. So what can you do if your ex insists on remaining petty and combative after the divorce? Two simple strategies may help you to remain in control and relatively undisturbed: putting almost all communication in writing and choosing not to respond to attempts at provocation.

In an office environment, we are warned that email can be dangerous when communicating about sensitive or important topics. This is because the reader receives the words but not important context clues like body language, vocal inflection and facial expressions. As such, face-to-face communication is generally the best way to avoid misunderstandings.

When it comes to dealing with a combative ex, the things that are usually considered a liability in a work-related context may actually be an asset. Communicating with your ex via email tends to be safer and more productive because:

  • You are forced to think carefully about what you say before you say it
  • Body language, aggressive tone and other disrespectful non-verbal responses will not be an issue for either the sender or receiver
  • You will have time to calm down before responding if your ex sends something that upsets you
  • The children will not hear or see their parents arguing if most disputes are handled in writing
  • There will be a written record of communication in case you ever need to go to court again or confer with your attorney

Please check back later this week as we continue the conversation. We’ll discuss how you can choose to take the high road when your ex tries to pull you into an argument.

Source: The Huffington Post, “10 Steps to Dealing With a Combative Ex: How to Protect Your Children,” Sherrie Campbell, April 21, 2014