Emotional Ex? 4 Techniques to Defuse Drama

Do you have a co-parent who regularly rants? Angry texts and tearful telephone calls are upsetting, and it’s easy to feel trapped in exhausting old patterns with your former spouse.

Fighting is intimate, says psychotherapist and divorce expert Kate Scharff, and that’s important to keep in mind. As she points out in her article End the Drama and Find Peace: New Rules for Dealing With an Over Emotional Ex, provocative messages may mean your ex is reluctant to let go and is trying to keep you close and engaged.

In these situations, less communication is better. Here’s how to reduce the drama and focus on what’s important.

  1. Ignore cheap shots. Don’t let pettiness provoke you, says Scharff. A text such as “Well, I guess your little work event is more important than our child’s well-being” is irritating, yes, but it doesn’t call for a response.
  2. Don’t answer telephone calls. To avoid rants, let all of your ex’s calls go to voicemail. Then listen to the messages right away, Scharff advises. Call back if it’s an emergency concerning the kids. But if it’s nothing but a rant, keep calm and carry on.
  3. Communicate in writing. This is the best approach when most phone calls are rants, Scharff says. For questions about schedules and shared expenses, I suggest using an online co-parenting tool such as Coparently, 2houses, Our Family Wizard® and others. These secure forums encourage brief, child-focused messages that cannot be deleted. Otherwise, ask your co-parent whether they prefer text or email.
  4. Wait. Pausing before you reply does three healthy things:
    1. It allows you to identify any important questions that require an answer.
    2. It prevents you from firing off a hasty, regrettable response.
    3. It resets expectations. Mobile devices make instant replies possible, but when emotions run high, that’s not the best idea.

This isn’t about aggravating your ex by leaving them in the dark, however. Scharff suggests that you let them know up front you will respond to non-emergency child-related messages within a reasonable timeframe — say, 24 hours.

Once you’ve sidestepped a lot of emotionally draining back-and-forth, you can concentrate on how best to reply. Next week, I’ll share how to avoid common mistakes, such as defensiveness and sarcasm, and opt for drama-free, on-topic answers.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact us.