For most divorced women it is hard to go to any event where you know we might run into our ex, unfortunately, for those of us with kids, it is inevitable. There is a good chance our ex will be at the big events in our child’s life. While in most cases this is good news for our children, it is often not good news for us.
Regardless of the details of your marriage and divorce and where you are in the process, for most of us, this prospect can be anything from disturbing to filled with dread. This article gives some tips on navigating these tricky waters
Have To Be Around The Ex?
1. Admit this will be hard. A lot of us might have imagined a fairytale divorce as easily as we imagined a fairytale marriage. The reality is that being in the same room with someone you once loved and who hurt you will be hard for both of you. And while most of us hope to get to the point where we can take a minute to consider what this is like for him, for now, I encourage you to keep your empathy for yourself. It is going to be hard and you will need to think of the things you can do to make it easier for you.
2. Anticipate the problems. Try to anticipate what will be the biggest problem for you. This is different for each of us and may vary from event to event and they are all legitimate. Sometimes it all just looks like a black forest of fears but for most of us, there is usually one or two specific things that are the triggers. For some people it will just be seeing his face, for others, it will be seeing the people who used to know you as a couple. Explore this with yourself or a friend. Knowing the specific fear you are walking into often helps you be prepared.
3. Control your contact. Even if he will be there, you can control how much contact and the kind of contact you have with him. If you know that seeing him with his new girlfriend will bring you to tears, honor this and give yourself a way to not have to look at him. Bring a book, bring a friend, anything that will give you something else to look at. You have no obligation to introduce yourself and be social.
This also applies to seating. If it is an event with assigned seating, tell the host you do not want to sit near your ex. If there is no assigned seating, get there early enough to choose your seat wisely. Most event planners understand and respect this. And absolutely make sure that you can leave whenever you need to. I have sometimes taken Lyft home when the other people I came with wanted to stay longer but I knew I had had enough.
4. Protect yourself. In the case of someone who can be physically or legally abusive, call the police ahead of time. In my case, my ex-husband abused me legally with lawsuits and even an attempted restraining order. The legal threat was real so at one anticipated encounter I called the police ahead of time and told them my situation. The police met me and drove with me to the event. When I told the officer that my concern was that my ex would call the police on me, she said, “Well, then the dispatcher can tell him we are already here,” It gave me great confidence to do what I needed to do as a mother and gave me protection against another abusive lawsuit.
5. Focus on your child. That is the reason you are there. Let it be a mantra. I keep a picture of my children handy because it can quickly snap me back when my mind starts to go down a dark road.
6. Tell people. This is often not something we have allowed ourselves to do as we have tried to make a dysfunctional family work. But divorce makes it obvious there are problems and most people understand the strain of divorce so let other people you trust at the event know your discomfort. Most people will be happy to help even if it is just to periodically check on you to see how you are doing.
7. Lastly, surround yourself with support. There is a lot there when we look around. Sometimes it is hard to see this when the person who we trusted most has hurt us and the relationship we counted on is over. Still, it is there and let yourself find it. What feels supportive to you can change as you heal and grow. In the beginning, it might just be a book with positive messages that you can carry with you. Later it might be other people as you begin to know who you can trust and learn to trust yourself.
These are just a few of the tips that have helped me and my friends. I encourage you to reach out and find a few more that work for you. We don’t have to miss out on enjoying important events in our lives because our ex will be there. We are growing and changing and we can learn to navigate our way through these stormy and unfamiliar waters. Today’s soccer game will lead to tomorrow’s graduation and we can find what works for us to be there.