Are you dealing with an ex who has a difficult personality? Whether or not your ex has a clinical diagnosis doesn’t really matter - you just know that everything is harder than it needs to be when it comes to interacting with him or her as you go through your divorce. If your ex can be controlling and confident in how they talk to you, you may be concerned that they’re going to get exactly what they want. This can be intimidating!
Here’s the secret. They can say anything they want but that’s not reality. Just because he or she says something intimidating - like “I’m not paying alimony.” or “You have to move out of the house now!” - it doesn’t mean you have to listen. I’m going to share some important strategies when trying to come to an agreement with an ex who doesn’t know how to compromise.
Take back your power by implementing boundaries.
When your ex pressures you and tries to exert power over you, take back your power. This doesn’t happen through matching aggression. You can reclaim your power over the situation by setting a boundary.
Say “I can’t talk about this right now. I need a break” and walk away.
Or text: “I’m not going to be available for the next hour.”
Or, you don’t have to respond at all! Giving yourself the time and space to calm yourself down is powerful. This helps you maintain your integrity in the divorce process, no matter what’s thrown at you.
Don’t take it personally and keep it about your end goal.
It is crucial to remove the emotion from negotiating your agreement. It truly doesn’t matter what your ex says or thinks about you. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past. That has no bearing on your future apart from them. What will affect your future is the agreement. No matter how your ex behaves, keep in mind that you don’t need your ex to be nice, but you do need a legal agreement. The legal agreement is your end goal.
Wait it out while conserving money and energy.
Your difficult ex may talk confidently and sound like they’re never going to budge. Once their attorney explains what’s realistic and after they see how much money can be wasted on legal fees, they usually become more reasonable. Even though it’s tempting, don’t feel the pressure to get your agreement done as fast as possible. Be patient. While you’re waiting, you can trust this - people usually get what’s fair according to the courts. After spending money on their attorney and getting frustrated with the process, most people eventually realize that they have to compromise to get through the process. While you’re waiting for this to happen - it can take anywhere from a month to several months - you want to spend the least amount of money and energy. If you don’t rush it, even the most difficult ex will usually come around. Or, the judge will require them to!
Use a mediator
Consider using a mediator to walk you through the process when dealing with a difficult ex. Mediators are trained in interacting with all kinds of people and can be the one to break through to your ex so that they realize that compromise is necessary.
Find strategies to keep yourself calm
Divorce is overwhelming and can be exhausting. You need strategies to be able to remain calm. Anytime your ex or their lawyer comes at you in an aggressive manner, it’s difficult. Recognize when you’re overwhelmed and take a step back. You can take back your power when you learn to avoid reacting and think through how you want to respond.
If you can be patient, keep yourself calm, and think about your long term goals, you’ll reach an agreement with your challenging ex. It may be a difficult journey but it’s worth it in the end!
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.