Beef With the Ex

QUESTION: Chuck and Garland, judging from what I've read so far on this blog, I think I'm the first brother to drop you two a line. So I hope that's okay.

My wife and I just got a divorce last spring. We have two kids one 3 and one 8. I'm having problems with her and I don't know what to do about them. To start with, the divorce was her fault, she cheated and did some other crazy stuff and then it was over. I tried to stay civil through the divorce and even afterwards but she didn't make it easy. Now whenever I talk to her she likes to argue and blow things up, always in front of our kids. I don't want them to see us fight.

No matter what I do, she argues. I might call her and be polite and try to see how she's doing and she starts yelling and cursing, with the kids in the room with her. A few nights ago she dropped the kids off for my weekend and it was cold and rainy outside and I invited her in for a few minutes and she turned me down and said "no" like I was some stranger. As soon as the kids got in the house she drove off.

How can I get her to stop being so negative towards me and start treating me better in front of the kids?

GARLAND: Yeah – I think you are the first guy! So, THANKS!

In my opinion, I think you're still holding on too tight to the past. This woman is NOT still your wife. You start by saying, "My wife and I just got a divorce last spring…" First - she's not still your wife, and Second – the spring was almost a year ago, so just might not be the best word to use.

Calling to see how she's doing and inviting her in are just signs that you still want to be close to her, you still want to show her that you care about her and her well being. Unfortunately, the same doesn't hold true with her. Considering that you say she caused the divorce – she stopped caring about your well being long ago.

I'm sorry that’s the case. I'm willing to bet that she ended the marriage with her actions and you are the one carrying around the guilt. Am I right?

It's a crappy deal that you have here, but I think you just have to find a way, or talk to someone professionally that will help you find a way to cut your emotional strings with her. Yeah – I know you have kids, that makes it tougher, but you have to stop calling her to check on her and you have to stop inviting her into your home and you have to make sure you don't use your kids as a conduit to her. You sound like you still have a lot of feelings for her, but the solution to her negative demeanor lies with you. Don't give her an avenue to your feelings and she won't be able to hurt them. It sounds simple, but I know it won't be – please find a way to stop opening yourself up to her. Take care!

CHUCK: Our first question from a man, huh? The glass ceiling has been broken! Thanks for the question, brah. Hopefully, we can help.

People are sometimes given unrealistic expectations by the Media. For example, when celebrity couples get divorced, you always hear them say that "we hope to remain friends." And normal people actually think that can happen. Sometimes it's JUST NOT POSSIBLE. Not for Brad and Jen, and not for you and your ex-wife, apparently.

Unlike Garland, I don't necessarily think that you want to get back together with your ex. I hope not. Nothing you have described sounds like too much more than you just trying to be civil to me. And considering how your marriage ended, that you're even trying to remain civil is a credit to you.

I think the circumstances that led to the dissolution of your marriage may be the key to why she is so nasty toward you. If, as you say, things ended because of her cheating and bad behavior, and your children no longer have two married parents to raise them, she may be feeling guilty. And she may be turning the guilt and bad feelings she has about herself towards you. She probably thinks that if she provokes you long enough, you'll get angry at her, and then she will be the wronged party instead of you.

Don't take the bait, though. She is unhappy right now, and misery loves company. Try and talk to her, and let her know that you'd appreciate it if she didn't air her animosity out in front of the kids. Talk to the kids, and try to make them understand that the problems you and their mom are going through right now have nothing to do with them. Restrict your conversations with her to matters of necessity alone. And hang in there. She can't keep this chip on her shoulder forever.

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