May Cause Toxicity
Holidays seem to bring out the best and unfortunately the worst in people. It’s no more so than between ex-spouses. Especially if one of the former pair is toxic.
How do you protect your current spouse, the children you and your ex share, the children you and your current spouse have and anyone else in the blended familial mix?
A toxic ex-spouse is more than the person who gets upset on occasion because visitation exchange was delayed, or a disagreement over expenses. Being toxic is a habitual condition of the shared custody condition.
Ex-spouses who were toxic during the marriage don’t necessarily remain toxic after divorce. The conditions of a failing marriage may have been the cause of the poor behavior.
There is really no true red flags that predict or preclude toxic behavior, but there is behavior to remain watchful for that illustrates toxic behavior.
Prepare yourself, and avoid unhealthy confrontations. While your current spouse should be aware of the history and all current issues, your children should not be subjected to an unhealthy or potentially unsafe environment.
Ex-spouses are a source of marital strife and eventual divorce if the external influence isn’t handled effectively. Marriage counselors share that portions of counseling sessions are dedicated to equipping one or both parties with the tools required to resist the toxic ex-spouse’s manipulation and control tactics.
How to Identify a Toxic Ex:
Secret Surveillance Missions.
Is there an unrealistic expectation for accessing the ex-spouse and children at will? Does your phone ring at mealtimes, bedtimes, or Facebook’s facetime calls become your ex-spouse’s invasive surveillance mission inside your very home?
When the kids are with you, they are under your authority.
Set scheduled call times, and restrict where the kids may sit to facetime with their other parent. Your child may not realize what is being manipulated, but it’s not uncommon for the other parent to use facetime as a tool to interject themselves into your family through their voice over an open speaker or their image displayed to you, your spouse and the other kids.
“Show me mommy’s / daddy’s new car.” May seem innocent, and it may also be yet another way of building ammunition to use in future battles with you. Short of sticking the kid inside a broom closet, it’s best to limit their roaming capabilities.
The toxic ex-spouse has the misconception they are the only one capable of parenting the child. The child’s time with you is merely a distraction until baby is back home with the real parent. The ex-spouse feels empowered to grill you over the time the child has spent away from them.
It’s disguised by acts of interests in activities or time shared, but be cautious about what information is revealed. It’s not only a tactic used to make you recount your actions, but it’s a control mechanism for directing your actions in the future.
I know it’s sounding more like a counter-terror operation than a parenting piece, but we’re talking about toxic ex-spouses who would be just as happy with destroying your current marriage as they would doubling your child support while cutting your visitation in half.
The toxic ex-spouse isn’t your acute complainer. They are chronic, strategic and relentless. Many spouses do not see the manipulative power influencing them or their shared children. Once the current spouse attempts to assist in managing the invasion, they are often met with resistance or resentment. This is the goal of the toxic ex-spouse.
While they may not want you running back into their arms, they sure don’t want you in a healthy new marriage. Beware the saboteur!
Hearts and Minds
Many courts use the boilerplate custody verbiage “Alienation of Affection.” This simply means one parent shall not turn the child against the other parent. Remain mindful of what the child says. They are parrots and repeat what they hear.
Active listening helps you to understand what the toxic ex-spouse is feeding the child’s mind with, and often what words are being used by the ex-spouse to describe you to your child.
It’s not always the goal of the toxic ex-spouse to terminate your rights of custodial visitation. Many ex-spouses don’t want the burden of additional time or responsibilities associated with child care as it interferes with their personal, adult time with friends or a new mate.
The goal among most of these manipulators is they want you to fail in the act of raising the shared child so you become dependant on the “one true parent” – the toxic ex-spouse. It’s about exerting control. Control over you.
Damn the Torpedoes
Statistically, more dads take mothers to court over interference in visitation than mothers take dads to court for non-payment of child support. While that might be deciphered to show men are more prone to initiate court action, it does illustrate that there’s a problem on both sides with neither parent abiding by the court’s decree relative to custodial visitations.
The toxic ex-spouse could care less about what court papers say. They know it back and forth, and only rely upon it when it suits their needs. Seldom do parents rely solely upon a child custody agreement without ever making exceptions or provisions on the fly.
While this is usually done with the child’s best interest, it’s also a trap to be aware of. Ever found yourself muttering, “Yeah, but last time…”
I can also share with you that after 25 years in law enforcement, the last thing an officer will do is interfere in the civil process concerning child visitation. Officers are called into custody disputes more often than they’re called to armed robberies.
The high majority of agencies will never remove a child from one parent and award to the other parent.
The rare exceptions are under a direct court order from a judge within that jurisdiction. Otherwise, threatening to call the cops because the ex-spouse is late or didn’t bother showing up for exchange does not concern the toxic ex-spouse in the least. A call to the police station is good for documenting the civil court’s violation, but it doesn’t warrant criminal police action against the toxic ex-spouse.
10 Tips for Coping With the Toxic Ex-Spouse:
I’m a big fan of Ron Deal, and wanted to share his insight for dealing with a difficult ex-spouse. These 10 tips are from his article in SmartStepfamilies
- Be sure to notice your own part of the ongoing conflict.
- Stepparents should communicate a “non-threatening posture to the same-gender ex-spouse.
- Keep your “business meetings” impersonal to avoid excessive conflict.
- Use a script to help you through negotiations.
- Whenever possible, agree with some aspect of what you ex-spouse is suggesting.
- Manage conversations by staying on matters of parenting.
- When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent.
- Remember that for children, choosing sides stinks!
- Wrestle with forgiveness.
- Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household.
Most men are guilty of just blowing off the toxic ex-spouse’s behavior as no big deal. It is a big deal. If you value the sanctity of your new marriage, or just your own piece of mind, then give this the attention it deserves.
While it’s vital to be objective and not label someone as toxic because of their displeasure over you running an hour late, it is critical to monitor your ex-spouse’s behavior and attempted tactics. It’s more than a once or twice intrusion. If not addressed immediately, it shall become the pattern of your life.
How’s that for funny?