• McKenzie Friend Australia

Neutralise a Difficult Ex-Spouse by Harnessing the Art of Verbal Aikido

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

Dealing with an ex-spouse after separation can be very difficult, especially when there are negative feelings involved. The situation is worse when you have kids with your ex, as the children’s best interests should always come first and you are the primary role model for your children. It is important to form an amicable relationship with your ex as co-parents, which is easier said than done. In some cases, amicability will never be achieved as one partner chooses to employ negative intimacy in an effort to control, manipulate and create drama focused on them in your life. Below are a few tips from a McKenzie Friend for managing conflict by taking your ex’s attack and neutralizing its effectiveness.

1. Avoid Negative Intimacy

A difficult ex-spouse knows how to press your buttons or cause drama. However, every time you get into a spat with your ex, you are giving them exactly what they want: your undivided attention. This unhealthy dynamic is often referred to as “negative intimacy.” The key to avoiding this relationship with your ex is learning to respond rather than react. In other words - don't do the dance with them. You do not need to be at your ex’s beck and call 24/7. When you receive that urgent voicemail or e-mail, don’t immediately react by shooting off a heated retort. Listen to what your ex has to say and then decide if the message deserves a response. You don’t need to swing at every pitch your ex throws.

2. Put the Children First

Never put the children in the middle of issues with your ex-spouse. Even when your kids express negative or angry feelings towards your ex, listen to their thoughts and help them explore their emotions. If you can’t make positive statements about your ex, at least offer neutral ones. Never openly criticize your ex in front of your kids. Remember, no child wants to compare their parents or choose one parent over the other. They just want permission to love both of you.

3. Know your Mind Set

Our belief systems and values play a large part in the actions that we take in our everyday life. Taking time out to check your beliefs and what you stand for is a key to achieving the results you desire.

4. Throw Down and Practice Conflict

Conflict can be awkward, make you feel nervous, uncertain and out of control of simple things in your life that you should be in control of. Hence during conflict you may feel a sense of anxiety or stress when dealing with it. The focus here is to act, to participant in it, with the intention of developing your skill set to manage conflict more effectively for your future trysts with your ex. As you start to act, you should become more calm, confident and in control of your destiny. I know it sounds weird to train for conflict. But, simply treating each time as a training and learning experience increases your conflict management skill set. Watching, observing and not participating will not help you obtain any kind of peace. It takes discipline, patience and logic to keep showing up every day in high levels of conflict for your kids. Just taking small aikido steps will all add up to being a skilled conflict practitioner with your ex.

5. Find your Centre

Conflict, drama, vexatious behaviour can all be unexpected. It can easily put you into the fight or flight syndrome. You may feel completely blindsided; leaving you off balance and reacting to the situation. Being centred will assist you in remaining calm. Having calmness will give you more approaches and choices to consider. You can respond appropriately and take the actions that will achieve the relationship you are aspiring towards.

6. Make all Interactions Impersonal and brief

Face-to-face contact with your ex has the most potential for conflict so where possible don't meet them. Out of sight, out of mind. Where possible, try to limit your communication to e-mails and voicemails. While phone conversations and in-person meetings are inevitable, keep your conversations brief and focused to the matter at hand. If you can write back in just 1 sentence, do that. When it’s within your power, don’t expose your children to negative interactions with your ex-spouse.

7. Never focus on your Ex, focus on you

Dealing with a difficult ex is undoubtedly frustrating and emotionally draining. But continuing to talk about your ex-spouse with friends or thinking up ways to retaliate only keeps your ex in the front of your mind – something your separation and divorce was meant to eliminate! Focus on you and your children, not your ex. This will infuriate them and hopefully they'll get the picture.

8. Grab yourself a Trainer

Having a coach especially when your ex is extremely difficult will assist in your continual development with positive conflict management and co-parenting. They are your trusted advisor who will support, encourage and challenge you to step up to be the best version of yourself. A good counsellor or therapist can help you gain clarity and emotionally disconnect from your ex-spouse’s drama.

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