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Ask Stavroula: My Ex-Wife Is Belligerent towards Me in Front of Our Children

The National Herald

Dear Stavroula,

I have been divorced for three years and I have a son who is 11 years old and a daughter who is eight years old. My wife wanted the divorce and she has since remarried and is expecting a baby. Ever since we broke up I have been extremely consistent in my responsibilities with the children. Because my ex-wife and I stay close, I take them almost every afternoon when I am not working. I am involved in their extracurricular activities and although I am a freelancer with all the difficulties that this may mean, I am very consistent in my schedule. Nevertheless, my ex-wife's behavior towards me is aggressive, and I can’t understand the reason why. She never misses an opportunity to insult me, to humiliate me, to make me feel inadequate as a father, and, unfortunately, often in front of the children. I try to avoid any conflict with her, I deal with her calmly, but I do not know if it is right for my children to hear only one side and see a father who does not react to their mother's insults. Should I finally treat her the same way in order to stop her?

Manos

Dear Manos,

No divorce is easy, especially when there are young children. In fact, if one of the two rebuilds his life, the other partner feels negative emotions and the problems may come to the surface again.

The strange thing in your case is that your ex-wife is still angry and aggressive with you, despite the fact that she has remarried and is expecting the arrival of a baby, which is usually a happy period.

This may mean that the differences between you have never been resolved. But it can also indicate other issues. Many times, the guilt one feels about breaking up a marriage can take the form of hatred and verbal violence, because it is easier for her to blame the other person than to admit her own mistakes.

Other times it may indicate problems with oneself and a lack of self-awareness. That is why in these cases the role of the expert is important.

What those who mistreat their ex in front of the children, as your ex does, may not understand is that they do not harm their ex but instead harm their own children.

In your case, your children not only have to deal with the painful situation of their parents’ separation, a new person in their mother's life, and the arrival of a baby, but also their parents' conflicts. These all can be too much for an adult let alone two young children. Ideally, you and your ex-wife should have found a channel of communication to help your children adjust to the new situations in their lives. That is why I think it is very important to talk to your ex-spouse with a specialist, not to help you rebuild your relationship but to stop hurting your children.

Of course, under no circumstance would I suggest you behave in the same way. On the one hand, there is a possibility that the conflicts will become even more intense. On the other hand, think about how your children will feel when they see both their parents yelling and swearing and accusing each other. At the very least, let the children know there is a different way of resolving conflicts, which can help them later in life.

After all, dealing with your ex-wife's verbal attacks with calmness and stability does not mean that you are weak, but the opposite. It takes a lot of strength to keep your cool and behave civilly, when you receive insults and unfair behavior from your ex in front of your children.