Although it takes two to resolve conflict, a divorce provides endless opportunity for conflict to continue.
Even if your divorce finalized years ago, anger and resentment may show through small (or large) acts of aggression that become hurtful – despite the fact that such acts might remain passive in nature.
Passive-aggressive behavior describes an indirect response to negative feelings.
While a passive-aggressive ex may not act openly hostile to you, their actions often show feelings of hostility underneath.
Because such destabilizing behaviors hurt you and even your children, it’s important to combat them with wisdom and sensibility. Below you’ll find five steps to dealing with passive-aggressive actions without involving yourself in the fray itself.
1. Control Your Own Behavior
Although your ex may have “forgotten” to pick up school supplies or finds ways to undermine your authority with the children, take the high road. Don’t stoop to their level and engage in vengeful and retributive passive-aggressive actions. Instead, focus on producing behavior that’s above reproach. Your reaction to your passive-aggressive ex can be contagious in a positive and negative way. If you seek peace, they may be more willing to as well.
One way to do this involves speaking positively of your ex-spouse, rather than expressing frustration about them. Refrain from trying to make your ex look like the bad guy in front of your children to maintain a sense of safety and family unity. Whenever you speak ill of your ex in front of your children, you put them in a harmful situation. Remember that you are still talking about their other parent that they still love. Even if your ex talks badly about you in front of the children, be sure to control your actions and behavior despite the negativity being said about you. As your kids grow older, they will gain a sense of who the more mature one was during the divorce.
2. Make Your Children The Priority
Your ex may hate you until the end of time, but it’s important to set an example for your children in the way that you respond. In addition to insulating your children from the ugliness of a passive-aggressive ex, you’ll help them understand that they are more important to you than winning an argument.
3. Laugh It Off
If your ex tends to procrastinate their tasks or attempts targeted incompetence, don’t let their mind games get to you. Address problems with an adult and controlled response, and when it becomes too much, laugh it off.
Of course, some ex-spouses make the lives of their counterparts a living purgatory at times. But until you let yourself respond in the same immature and passive behavior, you don’t have to admit defeat.
4. Disarm With Honesty
Because passive-aggressive people deal in indirectness and deceit of how they really feel, it’s important to address issues head-on to avoid perpetuating the vicious cycle. Focus your conversations on the real issue at hand and do all you can to facilitate open communication.
5. Be Assertive
Address problems immediately, rather than storming off or opening the situation to additional passive-aggressive behaviors later on. Stay respectful, but convey that if your ex has a problem they can speak to you about it directly.
Use these five strategies to dealing with a passive-aggressive ex as a guide that can help you when you feel like you don’t know how to respond or act. If you feel like legal action needs to be taken and you cannot handle your ex at their worst, consult with an experienced family attorney. Allowing conflict to continue and holding grudges will only make lives harder as time moves along.
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