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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top Ten Tips For Coping with a Troublesome Ex


In a conversation with a woman the other day, she indicated that she had been divorced a long time, and what she needed was my next book.  When I told her it was at the publishers, and explained some of the topics in it, like hope and rebuilding, she told me that what she needed was a book specifically about how to deal with a troublesome ex.  Don’t know that I care to write a book like that (although it IS discussed in places in both volumes), but thought I could at least throw some thoughts into the blog, because I bet she isn’t the only one, right?

I have heard and had lots of ideas in this area.  Sometimes it seems like a better legal arrangement ought to be that when a couple divorces, one HAS to move to another country.  Some folks actually say they are better friends AFTER their divorce than they were during their marriage!  Other individuals think in terms of acquiring hit men.  I don’t know that I will have all the answers, in fact, I can guarantee you by experience that I do NOT.  But I can throw out some thoughts that might be helpful.  And I think I will put most of it in a top ten list format, with a few preliminary comments.

The comments are simple.  First, it is what it is…divorce is messy, and you just have to deal with the realities it creates the best way you can.  You may think it would be easier to not have your ex involved with your children’s lives, and you may be right.  However, I have known several where that is the case, and those parents were heartbroken at the pain their children experienced with the absent parent, so it is a mixed blessing at best.  Dealing with an ex is, of course, the most difficult when the children are minors and the resulting entanglements ongoing, so if you are in that situation, realize that it will reduce as the children mature. 

The other thing I would highlight is that dealing with an ex is, unfortunately, a good test of your faith and commitment to the Lord.  There are so many scriptures that apply which seem so good in theory, but you get to learn they are not so easy to put into practice.  If you are struggling with an ex, I encourage you especially to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 where topics are addressed such as forgiveness (6:14), being treated poorly (5:11-12), revenge (5:38-40), responding to evildoers (5:44, 7:12) and focusing on your own actions (7:1-5).   You learn how hard Paul’s advice is to never return evil for evil, but good instead (Romans 12), and as you grow in your understanding of God’s love for us and through us, understand the depth of living out God’s love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.  Perhaps reading something like Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place can help you as you struggle with injustice.

With that as my introduction, how about the top ten suggestions:

1)  Technically, you should probably feel complimented…after all, it means you and your life are so much more interesting than your ex’s that he/she simply won’t move on!

2)  Don’t let yourself sink to their level or become hard and bitter.  A friend of mine once said that the trouble with getting into a spitting match with a skunk is you both end up smelling like skunks.  Just stick to the facts, avoid counterattacks and unnecessary       explanations and defensiveness.

3)    Set appropriate boundaries, and don’t be afraid to stand up for them.  Enabling poor behavior benefits no one.  Sometimes you can state or write your desires in a clear and non-confrontational manner with good results, but not always. 

4)  Pray for them!  Maybe not the prayers you FEEL like praying, but prayers you can imagine Jesus praying.  Prayers like, “God, help him/her submit to You. Help her/him realize how what they do affects the kids.”

5)  The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a good guide to use….treat others (your ex) the way you want them to treat you.  (Not how they ARE treating you, but the way you WANT them to treat you.)  You are setting an example, maybe they will pick up on it (but I wouldn't bet on it if I were you).  More importantly set an example for your children or others who are watching you as an example of a person of faith.  

6)  If worst comes to worst, you COULD go back to court to seek some assistance, if you can afford it.  If the ex doesn't

 make court ordered payments or schedules, or if     there is continual harassment, there are possible legal courses of action such as contempt of court charges or restraining orders. The trouble often is, though, that     even though you may be able to obtain court decrees, enforcement is often another matter.  Ultimately,there will be the court of heaven and the judgment there will be inescapable. 

7)  Return good for evil (Romans 12:14-21).  Even if your ex shortchanges you financially, or robs you of time with your children on their birthday or Father’s/Mother’s     Day, YOU still seek to do what is right, what is good, what OUGHT to be done. You will be able to look yourself in the mirror when you are doing your best to live pleasing to God, even if others are not. 

8)  If you have children, always remember this is their father or mother.  If nothing else, your ex gave you these children you love.  AND, the ex remains their father or mother, and so don’t do things that undermine that reality.  Try to be careful what you say or do in front of them.

9)  Perhaps most of all, when dealing with that troublesome  ex, you can be thankful that at least you don’t have to deal with him/her all the time, since you no longer    share a home.  After the divorce, though an ex can create a great deal of stress and havoc, you still can go home to your own space and your own friends without him/her around. 

10)  Notice:  none of these are really about that troublesome ex….because you often have no useful influence over that person.  All you control are YOUR behaviors and          attitudes, you don’t control theirs.  Remember, if the two of you got along well, holding the same values and priorities, you probably would still be married….it’s because you DON’T that you are now dealing with them as an EX…don’t expect them to adopt your point of view NOW!  The good news is, you also will only have to answer for your own choices…they will have to answer for theirs. 

Well, there’s a list.  Maybe it will help.  At least it can offer some food for thought. 

TL:dr  Dealing with an ex can be very difficult, but tips about the kind of person you are and how you respond can make a difference.  

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