LIFEadvice: Dealing with a difficult ex-spouse

By Kimberly Giles, Contributor | Posted - Feb. 27, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Life is a complicated and messy endeavor. Life Coach Kim Giles is here to help you with simple, principle-based solutions to the challenges you face. Coach Kim will empower you to get along with others and become the best you.


How do you deal with exes who try to ruin your new marriage? How do you set boundaries with an ex who uses children as a manipulation tool? How do you deal with an ex-spouse who personally attacks you all the time? I guess that’s three questions, but any help would be appreciated. My ex is really difficult to deal with.

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Research shows that kids do best when their divorced parents get along, though divorce rarely makes that easy to do. Here are a couple of suggestions that may make the road a little easier:

Principle:Children need to be protected from conflict.

Your children have the right to love both their parents, so never bad-mouth your ex in front of your children. If your ex is saying negative things about you, there isn’t much you can do about it except live so that your children see the truth for themselves.

If your ex is hostile or insulting, whenever possible use e-mail or text messages for communication. The children can’t overhear those and won’t think the problems are their fault.

Principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Treat your ex the way you wish to be treated, even if they don’t deserve it.

Behaving in a calm, rational, respectful way (even if your ex doesn’t) is the first step to a more civil relationship — and, your kids are watching your behavior and learning from your example. If they witness mature behavior from you, they will learn how to deal with problems appropriately.

Principle: Focus on what is your responsiblity.

You must take responsibility for your actions and behavior, but do not waste energy on things you have no control over and things that are not your responsibility. Make sure you don’t have a tendency to “own other people’s problems” and feel guilty if you can’t fix them.

Get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Write what’s in your control on one side, and what’s not your responsibility or in your control on the other. Get really clear about what belongs to you and let the universe handle everything else.

Principle: Setting clear boundaries is crucial.

You will teach people how to treat you by the kind of behavior you tolerate. You know what your boundaries need to be. Set them and start enforcing them in a strong but respectful way.

Make it clear that all communication must be about the children. You have no other reason to communicate. Rude or disrespectful text messages will be deleted without response. You will not respond unless treated respectfully.

Principle: Strong and respectful communication makes a difference.


There is a right way to have a conversation with a difficult person. This involves asking questions and listening to your ex’s point of view first, then asking permission to explain your point of view.

Asking questions and listening does not mean putting up with abuse. It is about honoring and respecting the other person’s right to their opinions so they will be more likely to respect yours.

If rational, respectful conversations are not possible, stick to text messages only.

Principle: The universe gave your child this parent (your ex) for a reason.

Your ex may not be a perfect parent, but apparently they are the perfect parent for your child. If your ex causes problems or even damage your child (and you are unable to protect them from this) there is a divine reason that experience was meant to happen.

Trust the universe. It knows what it is doing. Your child will survive this and may become stronger for it.

This is tough to live with when your ex is hurting your children, but you really only have two choices. You can live in anguish while you try to help your child through it, or you can live in trust while you help your child through it. Trust creates more peace.

Principle: You can choose peace regardless how your ex behaves.

You cannot escape this difficult situation, but you can choose how you want to experience the situation. Pain and suffering are optional.

You can choose to ignore the attacks. You can choose to see that attacks aren’t really about you. You can choose to see your ex as the scared, struggling human being they are. You can choose to trust life. You can choose a state of inner peace.

People only have as much power over you as you give them.

Peaceful does not equal passive, however. You must still set limits, enforce your boundaries and protect yourself and your children.

Get some professional help

Less than 25 percent of remarried (step-family) couples seek out professional help, education or counseling in spite of the fact that it usually makes the difference between success and failure. Less than half of all step-families even read a book about step-family dynamics. I strongly urge you to seek out some professional help and read some books.

If your ex has anger issues or behavior that seems ridiculously inappropriate, they may suffer from borderline personality disorder. Research and learn more about the condition to find out what you can do.

Hope this helps.

Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of and She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker. Follow her blog on the KSLAM page

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