For the record, bullying your spouse doesn’t have any specific gender bias. Men can be just as harsh as women, but the issue certainly exists on both planes. It’s the female side that Dr. Karen Finn recently spoke to in her piece for YourTango. Specifically, Finn identified three “bullsh*t” ways that women bully their exes in a divorce. Here’s a brief rundown of what those three ways are:
- Manipulating by withholding child visitation
- Undermining and belittling the ex’s parenting
- Micro-managing the other parent’s interactions with the kids “to prove you’re the boss”
For women who engage in these sorts of behaviors, Finn has a special message for you: You don’t get to control what happens at your ex’s house.
“You don’t get a say in how or when he moves on to a new relationship,” Finn writes, and “you definitely don’t get to pick what toothpaste the kids use at his house. … If your child isn’t in true danger (in which case you need to speak to the court, not your ex), your opinion on anything else is entirely unwelcome.”
For the analytical woman who can see her own behaviors described in some of those above, Finn recommends you change course immediately. To the men who have to put up with it, she narrows down the steps you need to take into three simple actions.
Cut back communication time with your ex. Here Finn recommends being brief, informative, friendly, and firm (BIFF). This will also help you with the next action.
Don’t get pulled in to the ex’s drama. The less you communicate with your ex, the less likely she is to pull you in to her tumultuous world. As Finn writes, “It’s natural to want to defend yourself when she’s attempting to tear you a new one, but the best response is no response when she acts like this. The more you get into it with her, the more power you’re giving her behavior. You’re dancing to her tune and you don’t want to continue being subject to her whims. (If you did, you’d still be married to her.)”
Stand your ground. This is where the “firm” part of the BIFF comes in handy. Basically know what your rights are and allow those rights to trump her whims every step of the way. However, “Never do this in the heat of the moment; calling her bluff and standing your ground are things you do when you’re calm and communicating clearly.”
So how about it, divorcees? Do you see yourself in any of the situations described above? How do you handle it?