Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesDon’t bash the miserable ex
Q: I grew up in a good Southern Baptist church where they taught us to turn the other cheek. However, I’ve had just about enough of my husband’s ex-wife’s abuse. For years now, I have employed all the healthy habits you promote and nothing seems to get better. It is very clear that his ex-wife finds me despicable, and she doesn’t even know me! I did not know her or my husband when they divorced, yet she seems to blame me for everything that went wrong in her life. Help!
A: Turning the other cheek doesn’t guarantee the perpetrator will stop trying to hurt you. It’s another way of saying, “Retaliating will just make things worse. You can’t control their behavior or thoughts. You can only control yours.” When people are unhappy, they often blame others for their unhappiness rather than take a good hard look at how their actions have contributed to the situation.
What you describe is quite common. Many in her position feel they might have had a second chance with the ex if he or she hadn’t moved on. So, in her mind, you just being around ruined her life. Bottom line: She’s miserable and wants you to be miserable too.
Unfortunately, all too often, kids are watching and they end up stuck in the middle as they go between houses. If you think about it, the only reason you have to talk to each other is because there are kids in the mix — and that’s really the only topic you must discuss and where you must coordinate efforts. Small talk and false niceties can blow up into huge arguments, so keep your conversations short and to the point.
If she’s openly bashing you in front of the children, the best response is to clarify by using the term “mistaken.” For example, let’s say she tells the kids it’s all your fault that she and daddy are not together. Try, “Your mother is mistaken,” and then clarify. “I met your father two years after the divorce.”
“Mistaken” just means she may not have all the facts. Do not editorialize retaliation. That’s when turning the other cheek really does come into play.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.” Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe’s ex-husband. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.