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How to deal with a toxic ex-partner

Community Member

I am currently struggling the most with having my ex-husband in my life knowing how toxic his attitude can be.

Unfortunately, as he is the father of my two children, it is a relationship I have to continue to endure, whether I personally would want to or not.

I am just really beginning to question at what point can a person walk away?

I feel that he is actually starting to cause me emotional harm and as I live with anxiety and depression, I am starting to be concerned by this and by him.

Normally, even through everything, we have been ok, but recently, with particular conflicts, I have seen a side of him that I truly despise. To think of him that way makes me feel physically sick.

i have held my feelings back for the sake of my children since we separated six years ago but I really feel that I need to distance myself from him as i fear he is causing me harm, emotionally and psychologically.

At what point, can a person say enough - you are hurting me and I can't do this anymore?

am I allowed to put myself first this time?

how would I explain to my kids that I can't speak to their dad or even be in the same room as him?

i honestly don't even want him in my house right now as I am overcome by these negative feelings I have of him.

i feel he has changed lately and when I bring up issues with him about the kids, he turns so nasty and it makes me feel that I cannot talk to him anymore.

a conversation I had with him earlier today was the last straw for me.

i really don't know what to do anymore. I am tied to him for life because we have kids together and that's why I am so afraid and unsure.

if he was not a father to my kids, I would have walked away the moment we separated.

I really hope to get some thoughts from people who may be able to help.

4 Replies 4

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi missy

Being able to identify the people who keep us in a depression or who bring us down into a depression is skillful. Anyone who's going to keep us down, bring us down or put us down is definitely displaying toxic behaviour. 'Why the toxicity?' becomes the ultimate question. I believe asking questions can lead us to a better understanding of the person and the situation we're dealing with. Instead of being drawn into a person's drama, we become more of an objective observer of it.

People definitely hold the ability to lead us to become physically ill. We're not just mental emotion or energy in motion, this is tied into our physical energy in motion (the multiple systems within our body). When the two aspects influence each other, things can feel like they're becoming completely out of our control. Regaining control can be about managing how we tick. Shutting down any negative destructive conversation with your ex is one way to manage. He may insist on arguing and insulting and if this is the case you may want to advise him that you'll be considering different arrangements. Advise that you are open to reason and respect and nothing short of this.

Wondering if your ex's 'low' comments are a possible reflection of a mental/emotional low he's in. I'm not excusing his behaviour here, just considering the possibility he's facing mental health problems - such as depression. If the low comments are very unlike him, this could be a consideration you could work with. If he's a complete and utter narcissist who refuses to give up control or share management strategies when it comes to the kids, scrap that advice.

Is it possible, when your ex is in the same room as you, you're goal could become 'Show the kids mum is an absolute powerhouse of positivity'? This way, the focus is less on your ex and more on your kids. They become your positive motivators. From one mum to another, kids can push us to points of greater self esteem when they give us a reason to rise. 'I'll show them what personal integrity looks like' could be your mantra.

Your ex is definitely challenging you. Working out what the real challenge is here (that you need to rise to in order to grow) is key. Once you master the challenge, you won't be able to resist patting your self on the back. By the way, if you're up for a read, 'The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem' by Nathaniel Branden is a ripper.


Thankyou for responding to my message and for offering me support and kind words.

I definitely am questioning why he is treating me the way he is and it is something I wish I knew as I am finding it very hard at the moment, due to my weakening emotional state, to not feel the one who is to blame for all the altercations.

He is going through some things at the moment, but despite that, I don't believe that justifies this sort of behaviour at all.

I have gone through challenging times myself but not once, have I ever took things out on someone I care about. Instead, I recognise I have a problem, then I seek help for it.

what I don't do is lash out and mistreat people who I am supposed to care about and be kind to. I cannot and will not justify that behaviour, nor should I.

He has had outbursts towards me a few times now over the past year, in front of our children, and he tends to often tell me he didn't say or do things that I know very well that he did, even though I do still doubt myself as he can be incredibly manipulative.

Every time there is an issue or point of conflict, he is quick to avoid topic, shift blame and to play the victim, and I am often the one feeling wracked with guilt, even when I know and am aware of what he is doing.

Then the cycle continues.

I find through experience that he is also very masterful at manipulating me and he is not one to recognise when he has said or done something that is worthy of acknowledgement, regret or apology.

I am the total opposite of that so I find it very difficult to understand and relate to how a person can act like that.

I do have some empathy for him and what he's gone through but he ultimately needs to be the one who makes the decision to want to be better and to actively seek help and support for himself, but I'm sixteen years, I am yet to see any positive change in him.

I can't and won't continue to be a punching bag for him every time he is having a bad day.

He needs to start making the right decisions for himself, just as I do.

I also want to act as an example for my daughter and show her that no man has the right to treat her like that and to show her that it's ok to stand up for herself and what she feels is right.

I think it's time for me to finally be selfish now, and to demand better treatment by him and if he cannot do that, I will have no choice but to ultimately walk away.

Community Member

You are absolutely allowed to be 'selfish' and walk away from toxic people reguardless of who they are.

There are plenty of organisations who can help with co-parenting without having to deal with him in person.

This is your life too and you deserve to be able to live it without abuse

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi missy

Sounds like you're rising to every challenge thrown at you. You should be incredibly proud of yourself.

I find that when I challenge my husband to rise to greater consciousness and/or action that his response tends to be, more times than not, 'I can't because that's just the way I am (someone who does what he does)', like it's meant to excuse him from making an effort in the way of evolution. He does tend to play the victim card at times. Sounds harsh missy but it's taken me many years to develop the self esteem that finds me saying to him 'Get your s**t together and grow up!' Yes, I don't hold back these days and I'll tell you the reason, something you can relate to I'm sure; I have put so much effort into growing myself, growing my kids and also helping my husband grow toward reaping the benefits of change. I have truly pulled my finger out over the years, so to speak, when it comes to just about every challenge this family has faced. There have been the occasional biggies thrown in here and there, which have really challenged me to rise and evolve. So, again, I feel entitled to tell my husband to do the same and get it together when it comes to a positive mature way forward.

I've spent years in passive enabling behaviour mode and those days are over missy. Yes, you've risen many times too and having done so, I believe you also are entitled to the claim the right to insist that's it time others start doing the same.

That book I spoke of: The 6 pillars are - the practice of living consciously, the practice of self-acceptance, the practice of self-responsibility, the practice of self-assertiveness, the practice of living purposefully and the practice of personal integrity. It sounds like you do practice these in many ways. Maybe your ex is challenging you practice them on a whole new level. Are you up for the challenge? I believe so.

Sending positive vibes your way 🙂