I spent some time on divorce forums after the split, hoping to find a community, mostly to help me work through my anger and hostility toward my ex. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to feel this way, and I still had some raw emotions, even though we hadn’t really loved each other in a long, long while. In those forums, people would inevitably post questions about what to do when…
- their ex didn’t pay child support
- their ex didn’t show up for visitation
- their ex yelled at them on the phone
- their ex didn’t call enough
- their ex cancelled plans at the last minute
- their ex brought the girlfriend to parent-teacher conferences
and so on, and so on…
“But what do I do??” they would plead.
After awhile, even I knew the answer to every single question like this: “Nothing!”
You do not have control over your ex. You can’t make him (or her) do (or not do) anything. The only thing you can control is your reaction to his/her actions. (Notice I didn’t say feelings – you can’t control feelings, and anything you feel is natural – let it be). The ex doesn’t pay child support? Find a way to live without it, and keep track. Find out what your state agency will do for you and when. Give them a friendly phone call and ask for enforcement. The ex doesn’t show up for visitation? Have a back up plan (always), and use it. The ex yells at you on the phone? Hang up. The ex doesn’t call enough? His/her loss. (This is a hard one, when you know your child may be hurting. Help them to know how much they are loved, use a backup plan, and know that in the end, your child will learn valuable lessons from this, and love you even more for being there for them). The ex cancels plans? Use your resources to cover childcare if necessary, and use your backup plan. The ex brought the girlfriend to conferences? In the whole scheme of things, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. In any case, it’s out of your control, and as much as it is hard to accept sometimes, worrying about things that are not in your control is a waste of energy. Save it for the big battles.
That being said, you can cordially express your displeasure with the ex about any of these things. But don’t expect an appropriate, cordial response. Document everything, know your rights, and if they are being violated (or your parenting agreement is not being met, etc.), step up and say something. But always ask yourself if you are really just trying to control the situation. Trying to control your ex will get you nothing but a headache.