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Help with a difficult Ex

Community Member

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice about how I can manage or improve the situation with my ex wife. We have kids together, so unfortunately we can't part ways anytime soon, which would be the ideal option. I believe she suffers from mental health issues, perhaps borderline personality disorder like her mother, but I'm obviously no expert.

I'll try and keep the back story brief. We separated 2.5 years ago, after being married around 7.5 years. It was my decision to leave. Our marriage was plagued with issues from the beginning. I stayed for the sake of the kids, because I believed I owed them a "whole family", only to eventually leave for the sake of the kids, when I saw how the constant fighting was beginning to effect them.

It's not my intention to simply pass all the blame on, but whenever my ex got upset or angry, which was often, she would force a confrontation with me there and then about it, without any regard for who else was around (which was often our kids). If I walked away to de-escalate, she would just follow and continue.

During the relationship it felt impossible to keep her happy, and the smallest thing would set her off. I was walking on egg shells the whole time, and honestly felt like I could never do anything right. I often struggled to understand why she would be so upset or angry, despite honestly trying. It just felt like the she saw everything in a different light to the way most people do. Like she was looking at the world through a pair of "negatively shaded" glasses, almost to the point of being delusional. As an example, if I made an effort to do something nice for her, she would explain it away as "I only did that because..." and put a negative spin on it. And everytime something from our past would come up in an argument, she would remember it in a worse and worse way... Like she was adding a further negative spin on top of the negative spin she'd already put on the event.

Anyway, our separation started off more or less amicably, and I had hoped with the relationship over things would improve. But things have been slowly spiralling downwards ever since. The same issues I experienced in the relationship are continuing, to the point now that she can barely contain her anger and bitterness during our custody handovers. It's literally impossible to discuss anything with her, as the smallest thing can cause her to fly into a torrent of abuse; which essentially mean I can't be involved in any decisions relating to our children...

1 Reply 1

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I can understand fully your predicament having been in a similar situation some 23 years ago. You have lasted this long with your Ex causing abrasiveness in children handover periods and you'd essentially like to improve matters for you and your childrens sake. Totally understandable.

I relate strongly to this because I have experienced similar when my first marriage split in 1996. My children were 7 and 4yo at the time and just prior to the split I had a suicide attempt but took the view that a part time dad is better than no dad at all...a stance I remain proud of. You have reason to remain proud that your children have you in their lives.

My ex wife was very difficult for different reasons in that she used silence as her chosen tool which had also lasted in the 11 years during the marriage. Come children changeover silence dominated also. Hence being the best dad possible, was very hard as communication with things like parent/teacher nights was non existent or "I take care of that- don't concern yourself". So I went alone anyway. I exercised my rights as a parent no matter her opinion.

And that is the key to your situation imo. To be the best dad possible might not mean you can be potentially the "best dad". Meaning that however your parenthood is smothered by her, focus on your potential that you have left.

Being parents of children does not mean you need to have a relationship of any kind with their mother. Sure its desirable and best for the children but you really need to say to yourself, this matter of communication with conflict is beyond my control and hence I should be kind to myself and avoid it at all costs while still being a effective and loving dad.

The best avenue for any communication is by email or messages. The reason I say this is to enable you to have a written account of your reasonable requests and this might one day be crucial in a court of law if trouble develops as insurance. It also takes out the emotional side of communication- eg it is harder to yell on an email apart from capital letters that you might learn to laugh at rather than get hurt. You can also take your time reacting and responding to her nasty words. At changeover she cannot argue with a simple wave!

Remember your parenthood is as significant as hers. Some parents like to remove the other parent from their kids lives- don't be deterred- stay strong.

Google "Dads in distress". They can also help. All the best, repost if oyu want.