8 Brutal Signs You Hate Your Ex MORE Than You Love Your Kids

Bearded man wearing a red knit hat and staring with hatred into the camera.

All is fair in love and war? Not when your kids become casualties!

Divorce changes everything — especially your feelings about your ex. Far from the love you felt on your wedding day, now you probably feel something closer to frustration, anger, or even downright hate.

Hostile feelings during divorce are common but we all know NOT to expose our children to that toxic resentment, right?

In my experience working with divorced families, most divorced parents claim they’re all about their kids. They pat themselves on the back endlessly, thinking that they ALWAYS put the kids first and would never do ANYTHING that might harm or distress their children. But in practice, that altruism is rarely present.

Are parents saying these things to convince themselves or others? I’m not sure. All I know is, those declarations of “my love for my children comes first” are rarely true.

And I challenge you to reflect on your own behavior to see whether you hate your ex more than you love your children!

What do I mean? I mean that when it comes to making choices about your reactions or behavior, your anger for your ex poisons your decisions — you just can’t hold your tongue, or resist sliding in that passive-aggressive potshot. Hating your ex is one of your favorite pastimes. And I get it, our exes are often infuriating.

It’s just too bad the energy you pour into chronicling every evil detail about your ex isn’t being poured into loving, supporting, and focusing on your kids (like you say you want to). Your kids crave a home full of ease and joy, not your unrelenting resentment. But, of course, it’s all your ex’s fault, right? They “make” you act this way.

Wrong! You choose your responses. And your responses currently are hurting your children. Children see the world as revolving around them. They believe your actions (and inactions) are because of them. And all the time you’re stewing about your ex, your children wish loving them was enough to keep you happy and focused on them.

So, is this you? Do you hate your ex more than you love your children? Here are nine behaviors that indicate the war with your ex is your top priority and your kids are becoming causalities of that war: 

1. You withhold child visitation to punish your ex.  
Don’t like that your ex is dating again or resent an email he sent? Suddenly your kids can’t go to dad’s house. Your kids love both of their parents. Denying your children time spent with the other parent hurts your KIDS. You’re ultimately punishing them! And what did your children do to deserve such severe punishment? Nothing. They aren’t pawns to dangle and withhold. 

2. You skip child support payments.
It’s astounding how many parents do not grasp that child support is for your children, not money you’re giving to your ex. Your children need to eat, a safe place to live, suitable clothes to wear, and maybe even enjoy a treat or adventure now and again. Your children interpret your refusal to pay child support (a.k.a. lack of financial care) as them not being worthy of being cared for. How horrible for them to feel that way!

3. You belittle your ex within earshot of the children.
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with talking in private about how you feel about your ex. We all need a place to vent. But, there is definitely something wrong with letting your kids hear it — even by accident.

Your children love their other parent (even if you don’t). When you put down your ex, your kids start to wonder if you secretly feel the same about them. They feel forced to take your side when they’re with you because they don’t want you to stop loving them, too. And I call that emotional blackmail (and it’s cruel)!

4. You gripe about your ex’s family.
Just like your child loves their other parent, they also love their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on your side and your ex’s. Being part of both extended families helps children feel safe and loved. Maybe you’re glad to never see your ex mother-in-law again, but your children still love their grandma.

Do you really want to take that away from them by talking poorly about people who love them?

5. You compare your child to your ex unfavorably.
“You sound just like your mother!” or “Your father never keeps his word either.” Your child isn’t stupid. They know that comparing them to the other parent you clearly hate is an insult to them. This hurts them on so many levels but most they fear they’re at risk of you hating them, too.

6. You grill your kids about the other parent’s actions.
Your kids are not your personal spy. Putting them in that position forces them to take your side when they’re with you and taking their other parent’s side when they’re away from you. It’s a no-win situation for your child that teaches them your love for them is conditional on giving you info that fuels your beloved hatred of your ex. 

7. You guilt trip your kids when they enjoy life with your ex.  
If you really love your kids, you want their genuine happiness … and that includes wanting them to enjoy time spent with their other parent, too.

But when you make snide comments about that trip to theme park or new toy or fun vacation (“Well, I’m sure it’s nice for your dad to afford such things when his child support payments are so low.”) your child feels guilty. The same occurs when you change the subject, or even ignore your child, when they innocently share with you the fun afternoon they had with their other parent.  

Every single time you do this, you undermine your child’s joy. Instead, you’re sending the message that their happiness is a betrayal to you, that they can’t be real with you, that they can’t love their other parent, and that you won’t love them if they do.

8. You “forget” to call or spend time with your kids to avoid your ex.
So, you bail on your kids because you don’t want to deal with your ex? Seriously? Talk about putting the war with your ex BEFORE your kids (and your responsibilities of being the best parent you can)! Nothing hurts a child’s self-esteem more than believing their parent doesn’t find them worth the effort.  

Look, getting (and being) divorced is not easy. I know that. The toxic anger divorce stirs up is extreme and feels all-consuming sometimes. Maybe you’ve never considered how your behavior impacts your kids before now, but now that you know the harm it causes … it’s time to change this pattern.

Your first responsibility (and amazing gift) is loving and nurturing each of your children to the best of your ability. The value of that trumps your annoying ex any day! 

But, breaking the “I hate my ex” obsession isn’t easy. And if you catch yourself focusing on your anger more than your love for your kids, just remind yourself (regularly) just how precious your kids are and do your divorce recovery work. Your kids (and you) are worth it … and, you know what they say: “Living well is the best revenge.”

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

How To Effectively Co-Parent With A Bully During Divorce

Divorcing couple wondering how they'll ever co-parent.

3 tips to help you mitigate the meltdowns while co-parenting during divorce.

A typical divorce is dramatic and traumatic for everyone involved. Divorce means that lives get changed forever – first and foremost your life, your kids’ lives, and your soon-to-be-ex’s (S2BX) life.

Although for some people the thought of things never being the same is a blessing. The blessing is no longer having to deal on a daily basis with temper tantrums, intimidation, insinuations, inquisitions, bossiness, or put-downs – the hallmarks of an emotional bully.

These people yearn for freedom from the drama and trauma of their marriage. They look forward to the end of walking on eggshells around their spouse so they can rebuild both their self-esteem and their self-confidence.

As much as you are looking forward to being divorced, your kids aren’t. They love both their parents. For them the thought of being separated from either of you is painful and scary.

Learning to co-parent with a bully is critical. Your kids deserve to feel as safe and loved as possible during your divorce. Co-parenting is the quickest way to achieve that. And the hard truth is that as the non-bully the bulk of this learning will fall on your shoulders.

Co-parenting is the term used to describe an ideal type of parenting during and after divorce. It implies that the parents are able to work together for the sake of the kids. Although, few parents are able to achieve this during the divorce process, it’s still an excellent model to work toward.

But, when divorcing an emotional bully things generally get worse before they get better. That’s because big changes like divorce can bring out the worst in all of us. Bullies know they can get what they want through coercion and threats. They’ll usually step up their efforts before they ever consider changing tactics.

Most people who divorce a bully feel powerless when the bullying behavior escalates during divorce. Even though you’ve probably been living with your bully for years and have developed your way of coping with it, it’s still pretty normal to feel powerless now.

You just need a few new ideas and skills to work through all that divorce brings with it and to take care of your kids.

You can easily find all kinds of information about how to co-parent. And as great as this information is, there’s a problem with it. Every last bit of it assumes that neither parent is a bully.

So how do you effectively co-parent with a bully?

You take the basics that are out there and you overlay these three tips.

  • Keep your communication brief, Informative, friendly, firm (BIFF), and avoid apologies. Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. is the President of High Conflict Institute. His book BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns gives over 20 examples of BIFF responses for all kinds of situations. Learning to communicate in this way will decrease the chances of your bully having a total meltdown based on something you said, texted, or posted.
  • Keep your eye on your end game. This tip is all about strategy. Reaching a divorce settlement requires negotiation. With any negotiation, you need to know your minimum requirements and what you’re willing to give on. Once you know what you must have, it’s much easier to determine how you want to interact with your S2BX. You’ll be able to evaluate your actions and responses against how they might impact your end game.
  • Keep clear about what is and isn’t OK with you. Knowing and respecting your boundaries is important not only for your self-esteem, but also for how you’re modeling adult behavior. Remember, your kids are watching your every move and learning tons about being an adult from you and from their other parent.

Now, just because you are divorcing it doesn’t mean that your S2BX stopped being a bully or that you suddenly know how to deal with them (even after reading this article). You’re going to make mistakes and that’s OK. It’s just all to easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior especially when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, powerless, exhausted, lonely and overwhelmed as you’re dealing with your divorce and learning to co-parent.

So, if you happen to make a mistake and wind up on the receiving end of a temper tantrum from hell, remember that it’s OK and breathe. You’re still learning and this is just another lesson. Your lesson might be to remember that you can’t control how your S2BX behaves. Or your lesson might be there’s no sense in assigning blame to either of you because blame just makes you a victim. Or it might just be that your BIFF communication wasn’t quite as non-inflammatory as you thought.

Regardless of your lesson, remember that it’s OK. You can achieve the freedom you desire for yourself and your kids. You just might need to ask for some help or support to co-parent with a bully during divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with the challenges of your life now. read more articles about Life After Divorce.

Just finished a great book – Raising the Kid You Love with the Ex You Hate

Image of co-parenting book: Raising the kid you love with the ex you hate

Edward Farber, PhD is releasing his new book Raising the Kid You Love with the Ex You Hate next week. I was lucky enough to receive an Advance Reviewer’s Copy and I do mean lucky.

Ed’s book is full of fabulous advice about how to make the business of co-parenting work after the business of marriage has failed. The basis of his advice about successful co-parenting hinges on these three principles:

  1. Your child needs both parents
  2. Reduce parental conflict after the separation
  3. Both parents make decisions

Parents who can agree to abide by these three principles will have a headstart in helping their children be happy, healthy adults. To be implemented well, each parent needs to be consistently focused on them and communicate regularly with their ex to make sure they’re on the same page. Continuing to interact with your ex after divorce may not be something you look forward to, but, as Dr Farber points out, it’s necessary to being able to raise the kid you love.

I really appreciated reading this no non-sense approach to making co-parenting work along with the real-life stories from Ed’s practice, but probably the best part of this book is the fact that he shares ideas for non-ideal co-parenting situations. He offers suggestions for dealing with an ex who is more interested in revenge than in successfully co-parenting, for how the co-parenting arrangement will naturally need to change as your kid grows older, for dealing with an ex who has emotional, psychological or addictive disorders, and even for dealing with kids who may be embellishing the truth to get into your good graces.

This book is an ideal resource for parents who are divorced or divorcing and committed to continuing to be great parents.

You can check out the book at Raising the Kid You Love with the Ex You Hate.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles on Life After Divorce.