You tried to take the high road during your divorce. You didn’t badmouth him to the kids. You didn’t tell her parents what an awful daughter they raised. You refrained from bashing him to his boss. You didn’t slash her tires. You behaved like a grown-up. (For the most part. There was that one time you…well, never mind that.) It’s all in the rearview now. Your scorecard might not be perfect, but you tried.
Despite all your efforts, you can’t figure out why your ex still seems so angry at you. Why she doesn’t sit with you at your son’s Little League games or why he prefers curt text messaging to real live conversations. Maybe he still gets pleasure from launching the occasional half-veiled insult your way or she snubs you when it would take half the energy to be cordial.
In most cases, divorce brings out the worst in people: rage, pettiness, quirks and self-righteousness all go into overdrive. Here’s why your ex may be having a hard time coming off that pile of post-divorce ugliness:
1. You drove the divorce
Typically, one partner wants the divorce and the other wants to keep trying. Of course, you may have passed this baton back and forth for years until you finally cried uncle. But if you pushed to make the divorce a reality, you may be faced with an ex who believes she is the unwitting victim of your home-wrecking awfulness.
What you can do: Unfortunately, very little without her on board. If you’re able to have a civilized sit-down with your ex, gently suggest you both lay down your gauntlets and accept the marriage wasn’t meant to be — and that, sadly, both of you are to blame for its downfall. Repeat as necessary.
2. Money, honey
Could be that things were financially okay while you were married, but now you’re both struggling. Maybe you’ve made peace with living with less while your ex is resentful he has to. If you wanted the divorce (see #1), your ex may blame you for being forced to tighten his belt.
What you can do: If possible, try not to make every convo with your ex about money. Accept it’s now on you to make your own ends meet. When financial issues arise, show him you’re willing to negotiate fairly. If it’s become your fondest objective in life to make his financially difficult, consider it may be time to focus on something healthier.
3. The kids aren’t all right (with your ex)
Hopefully this isn’t the case (except, perhaps, in instances of abuse and neglect) but kids are more intuitive than we give them credit for. If they witnessed your ex’s bad behavior—and were spared yours—it could be they’re holding onto negative feelings about their other parent. Of course, said other parent blames you for this breach.
What you can do: Assure your ex that you’re committed to the children having a warm relationship with her. Talk positively with your kids about your ex and encourage them to contact her when they’re in your care.
4. Losing control
Could be one of the reasons you wanted a divorce was to get away from your ex’s controlling ways. Perhaps he made all the rules in the relationship including ones for how you should live. Divorce has stripped him of that power. All he can do now is stand on the sidelines, seething, as he watches you blossom.
What you can do: Not much. This is your ex’s issue. Thankfully, he can no longer dictate what you do, where you go, what you wear and who you associate with. Be grateful you’re free of the iron fist.
You’re finally with the person you should’ve married in the first place. If your ex hasn’t yet found her new soulmate, this may send her into a tailspin. Watching you thrive in a new relationship may bring up feelings of self-doubt and sadness for her: why couldn’t he just have loved me the way he loves his new partner?
What you can do: Enjoy the romance, but don’t flaunt it unnecessarily. Making out with your new honey at your daughter’s high school graduation is inappropriate at best. Imagine how you’d feel if the tables were turned. Act accordingly.
6. Pharrell Williams has nothing on you
If your ex is soaking in his fury, nothing will add fuel to that like your growing happiness. It drives him nuts that you don’t share his misery. If living well is the best revenge, you’re proving there’s no better way to do that than by putting the marital chaos and charade behind you— while he’s resentfully stuck in the muck.
What you can do: Keep on and don’t allow your ex to poison your well-earned peace. Pray he’ll also find his own post-divorce glee. Because nothing will diffuse his lingering anger like finding his way back to happiness.