When creating this list, I looked not only at times my ex-husband has been angry, but also myself and the clients I work with through their divorce.
1. Identify the Anger.
Whether the anger is direct or more indirect, when you feel your ex is angry or acting out, call him out. Identifying the anger is sometimes half the battle. As my very wise coach often says, “lean into it.”
2. Be Nice.
Regardless of the cause of anger, if you can put yourself in a place to co-parent with empathy, sympathy or even just separate yourself from his emotions you will find the situation so much easier to handle. By being nice you are not only modeling how you expect to be treated but deflating his ability to be angry.
3. Keep Your Kids Out of It.
Whether you need to be so drastic to keep your kids from leaving with him as you fear their safety, or just refuse to engage during exchanges do not subject the kids to his anger or a conflicted situation. Often the conflict is a reason you divorce in the first place.
4. Do Not Engage.
Misery loves company. More likely than not, he knows exactly what buttons to press. Don’t go there. Limit communication to kid logistics. Keep everything in writing. If you feel yourself reacting, walk away. Angry people are not able to be rational or otherwise have a productive conversation.
5. Modify or Enforce the Parenting Plan if Necessary.
The best parenting plans for angry parents are ones that limit any contact between the two of you. Parenting time should start on Fridays after school or mid-week after school depending on your parenting plan. For summer exchanges meet in a public place or arrange pick ups around the children’s activities that may not require any interaction. If he won’t keep to the parenting plan, pursue a contempt action and get the Court involved letting him know you won’t tolerate him not abiding by the schedule. If the parenting time schedule you have provides for too much interaction contact a lawyer about modifying the parenting plan.
6. Keep Your Life Out of Social Media.
Whether you seem to be getting along or things between the two of you are terrible, do not post pictures of you having fun with others, being out socially during your parenting time, or posting any weak moments for him to attack. I have clients who have supervised parenting or restricted time because of things on-line. If you think it doesn’t matter because you are not FB friends anymore and don’t follow each other, you are kidding yourself. Someone is always watching.
7. Don’t Make It Worse.
Sometimes we can escalate the anger by hitting the buttons we know he has. Sometimes we say things to the kids that get taken back misinterpreted or miscommunicated by the kids. Sometimes there is nothing we can do except stay away.
8. Keep Your Boundaries.
In many of the parenting plans I create for angry parents we add language for all communication and scheduling and matters related to the kids to happen through a 3rd party website. The two I am using most often right now are TalkingParents.com, and OurFamilyWizard.com. While the communication boundary seems to be the biggest issue, he doesn’t need to be in your house if it’s uncomfortable and you can take turns at the kids activities if being in the same place together creates drama for your kids.
9. Stand Up for Yourself.
Moms are the worst at compromising their schedules and more significantly, their self-worth, to avoid conflict. Sometimes it is very necessary to confront the conflict instead of avoiding it. Do not tolerate him yelling at you. Do not allow his needs to be more important than yours and definitely do not let him disrespect you in front or your children. Remember that every situation is a teaching moment for kids. They too need to learn to stand up for themselves, have self-respect and deal with conflict in a calm and confident manner.
10. Focus on the Children.
Both during and after marriage parenting is about the kids. It’s not about you. When you are focused on your children, his feelings, temper tantrums and negative reactions are not important. You do the best you can with the time you are with the children and know that nothing is more important than your love and happiness for them.
You may also like:
Healthy Co-Parenting: Are You Able To Put Your Children First?
10 Tips For Co-Parenting With An Angry Ex
Your Child And The Narcissistic Father
This is a very good list Teddy Ann. My exwife is very angry. Things just didn’t work out as she expected. The guy she had an affair with (and is still seeing) is still married. She got stuck with the custody plan that she tried to saddle me with and the financial jackpot that her divorced friends told her she deserved ended up being a no alimony, reasonable distribution of marital assets and retirement accounts and pay your own legal expenses kind of divorce. Add into the mix, her sharp wit had turned ascerbic and abusive by the time we called it quits.
The best thing has been to minimize interactions. We do exchanges at school when possible. I accept no communications via the kids. Email and text only. Phone calls carefully. Since she’s still very focused on reversing her fortunes, it’s document, document, document, for now.
I’d like to be able to co-parent with her, but for the forseable future, it’s just not possible. I keep her informed and ask her opinion, but in the end I do what I think is best within the bounds of what I am legally allowed to do (and I can site the pareagraph number if necessary).
I was the one deciding the divorce and are willing to leave the house, but i find him super angry. His insults are great, no matter how much i try. It’s sad to see and I see a huge challenge ahead. The whole thing is just very sad.
Teddi Ann Barry says
Divorce is very sad and often leaves people reacting as their worst self – not their best. You can’t fix it for your x. Stop trying. Do not engage, apologize or permit his anger or sadness to make matters worse for you.
Hi Teddi, while I completely concur with your points and concerns herein, I think it’s fair and equally important to point out that many times it’s not necessarily the Husband who is the high conflict person here. Let me preface everything by saying, Divorce is probably one of the worst things I have ever experienced, BAR NONE! It’s emotionally draining, it can stressful and lord knows it’s a financial mess; in some case so much more so than others. It’s astounding how money plays a factor for one or both of the parents. But in all fairness, that’s usually the controlling factor. That’s how an ex wife controls the ex husband, and that’s how an ex husband can control the ex wife. So it’s not a wonder that one parent will talk trash or attempt to make the other parent out to be horrible in the hopes of winning a far superior custody plan since that equates to a transfer of money. What I also see is that no matter how the custody plan is structured, in the end, the children lose out the most. Divorced parents forget this and don’t realize that no matter what they say, what they do, regardless of their “best intentions” they are hurting the children. Kids need and want both parents, and when one parent causes conflict between the parties and it filters to the kids, the kids are then left believing that the other parent, despite what the kids feel in earnest deep down, that that parent is “evil” and will certainly align with the opposite parent. No secret here, this is how PAS starts and continues to get worse, with little or no help from the professionals’ and the courts. While I try to adopt your advice as much as possible, my ex continues to push to start problems and continues to make things a conflict.
Personally speaking, I think the problem(s) are more deeply embedded in the “whole system” rather than just the parents. When one parents knows that the family law courts won’t take an abrasive approach to rectify the issue, then the parent violating the orders, continues to get away with the bad behavior. On top of that, it costs the other parent, time, Money, and the most precious loss, TIME WITH THE KIDS!! I speak from experience after trying all aspects of the system. My ex and I tried mediation, that didn’t work, their attorney put the kibosh on it. Then it was see a therapist, that didn’t work because he didn’t go and claimed I lied to the therapist. Then it was put into the hands of the Family court’s and agree, twice they chose not to adopt the recommendations of that person. We then did the dreaded full blown custody evaluation, which cost both of us another $6k each and still he was unhappy with that outcome. My rhetorical question for you is, “Where does it stop.?” What does a parent who just wants peace and time with their kids do when your co-parent is so unreasonable. He will not stop until he’s found a professional, such as yourself, that will side with him; so far we have seen 4 different professionals and not one has agreed and therefore he just won’t accept the truth. I think personally speaking, the courts just need to take a firmer stance and say, “Listen, we understand the issues around a divorce and that not everyone is going to be happy. However, we have the best interest of the children in mind and that is, will be and will never change from, an even custody split, unless you both can agree to something else or there are well documented facts (Child Abuse, drugs or alcohol, incarcerated, etc) that would warrant a less split.”
Setting a level playing field for all parties eliminates all the messy other parts. This makes the custody exchanges easier and no need to involve the other parent. I am still amazed at my ex, and their insistence to follow custody orders for things like exchanges, even though the kids have said, I will pick them up, or I can get them after school etc. The response from my counter part is, “NO, I must take them to meet you, that’s the court order.” Funny, we made the choice to get married, have 3 children, then get separate, then get divorced. Are you telling me we can’t make a decision as to what our kids do, when they see the other parent etc. My attorney told me so many times, “you two can do anything you both agree to, yet, he never agrees.”
Anyhow, I liked your article. At least it gave me some salvation that I am doing the right things.