Yes, it may seem obvious that he is a jerk. And, I know, she may makes Cruella de Vil look sweet. You could spend night and day complaining to anyone who will listen about how your ex is unfair, vicious, and lousy. And you might even be right. But guess what? It's you who will pay the price for working yourself into a lather. It's you who will feel the effects of the venom in your veins. And if you have children together, they will suffer from your badmouthing ways.
So how do you resist the temptation to hurl the insults? How do you refuse to take the bait that your ex dangles tantalizingly in front of you? Zip your lips! That's right, just like the old fashioned adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Use these tips to help you keep your lips firmly zipped.
Your children are ½ your ex: when you insult your ex, you're insulting your children. Even if your ex is a perennial disappointment, your children deep down love this person. And genetically, they resemble this person. So remember that if you tear down the ex, you are implicitly tearing down your children as well.
You once loved this person: it may seem incredulous, but there was a time when you actually wanted to spend the rest of your life with this person. Close your eyes and summon the feeling you had on your wedding day. See if you can connect with some sense of good will that existed at one time.
Redirect your emotion : Change the trajectory of your frustrated feelings and start focusing on what is going right in your life. Make a list of things for which you are grateful, including the smallest details of abundance (your health, friends, having electricity, good food, etc.). Gratitude always feels better than anger.
Badmouthing ultimately hurts you: Remember that lowering yourself to the level of a school yard bully is no way to go through life. The anger activates your body's stress response and wears you down. Being unkind, nasty, and spiteful has a way of backfiring. It's like holding a hot coal, ready to fling it at your enemy, only to discover that you're burning your own hand.
If your ex is badmouthing you, then they are suffering: If you're on the receiving end of being badmouthed, just know that your ex isn't doing so well. Even if you can't wish them some compassion, you can at least stop the spiral of negativity by refusing to play dirty.
Difficult circumstances can be your teacher: If you choose, you can let your divorce (and even your ex) teach you about patience, about being your best self, about resilience, and about love. Yes, about love. Love yourself and your children enough to stay out of the fighting ring.
If you do resort to badmouthing, you can stop: If you find yourself slipping with an insult, say the words "Cancel that" and try again. Substitute other words like, "My ex is frequently challenging for me." Relapses are normal but don't use that as an excuse for all out war. Get back on the wagon as quickly as you can.
Remember that when you badmouth your ex you keep your energy hooked to that old, negative relationship. Instead, keep the flashlight of your attention on new growth, new patterns, and the new life waiting for you.
Follow Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyDavisBush