“Yes Divorced Dad, everything is my fault. You may hate me for the rest of your life, if you wish.”
My ex had sent this text in the middle of a disagreement over the children’s schedule. I had three plays to consider in response.
Play #1: The Rookie Mistake
Soon after a separation we want to respond. We really really really want to let the our ex know how wrong they are (or in the case of this type of text, if we are angry, how very perceptive they are). We want to argue our point. We want to have the last word.
And it never goes the way we imagine in our minds. These sort of text battles always end up spiraling out of control. Their hurtful words end up stressing you out, and your hurtful words lead to your ex stubbornly standing between you and your goal. Learning to not engage should be an important part of your recovery.
Play #2: The Statue of Liberty
A text like the one I received from my ex was meant to get an emotion out of me. She was fishing. It came from a place of anger, and she was looking to get a rise. It comes from a pattern that she and I had developed in our 15 years together.
It is perfectly legitimate to ignore texts that you recognize as emotional triggers that can lead to Rookie Mistakes. One way to recognize these is to look for content that involves finances or the children. If the text is about anything but those two things, then ignoring them is a winning play.
Play #3: The Veteran Juicy Juice
What is your goal? Veteran divorcees learn to cut through the bull and stay on target. The juicy juice is a combination of the Statue of Liberty, and a targeted response that aims to move the discussion forward. Since you are trying to accomplish something in the communication, a full ignore might not be the best option. Sidestepping your ex’s fishing allows you to avoid the emotional trap, while expressing your need and seeking a way to a resolution.
My juicy juice is still a work in progress, but here was my first response:
“What I am frustrated by is that we agree to something and then you change it without discussion. This was not the first time. Here are the options before us. You tell me what you want.”
I proceeded to outline the two options that I saw as possibilities to resolve our argument. I did not address her accusations of hate, but did express why, from my perspective, we were even arguing in the first place. We are still figuring out how we are going to finalize our custody schedule, but at least the goal is closer.
Know your goal. Stay on target when communicating with the ex. Don’t get sidetracked on emotional triggers. And give ’em the juicy juice.