Pettiness in divorce and co-parenting is almost a cliché. I feel like people think that's the standard, like acting petty is perfectly acceptable. I see this silly, small minded behavior in so many divorced couples, and guess what? It bugs me. Here are four scenarios of despicable pettiness.
1. A guy gives his ex-wife the monthly child support check and takes out $35 because he just bought his daughter a new spring coat. The guy makes over $400,000 per year and he doesn't feel like he should have to pay the $35. It's against the law to take money out of a child support check for anything, but the guy knows the wife won't call her attorney about $35, because one phone call will cost her triple that.
2. A woman just met her ex husband's new girlfriend and is burning inside. Not because she wants the husband back, but she's jealous and resentful that he is happy. Where's HER boyfriend?? The husband asks if he can take the kids on a night that isn't his, because he and the girlfriend want to take them somewhere special. The wife says no, even though she has no special plans with the kids.
3. A guy just lost a ruling in divorce court and he's pissed about it. How dare the judge award his biatch ex-wife what he so didn't want to give her. He's so angry, there's invisible steam coming out of his head. His thought process is, 'How can I get back at her?' Here's what he does. He cancels on her last minute when he's supposed to have the kids, just so she will have to scramble for a sitter or cancel her plans.
4. A separated husband and wife are out for dinner together with their children because their little girl begged for them all to be together on her birthday. The check comes and both decide to split it, until the wife realizes that the guy had a beer, and tells him to add that to his part of the bill.
Petty behavior is ridiculously silly. It's very unimportant, it makes people hate themselves, and the worst one, it's really, really, really bad for the kids.
I realize that there are so many emotions that come into play during a divorce. The person you loved more than anyone in the world at one time is now the person who angers you so much at times, you can barely breathe.
So, you want to hurt that person (at times) as much as you can, because he has hurt you. He left you. Or he cheated. Or, you'll never forgive his bad behavior during the marriage. Or, he's acting so awful in the divorce that you just want to be awful back.
People in divorce want to hurt people with big things and little things. Big things include milking him for every penny he's worth, or trying to get full custody and keep him from his kids (which is horrific for anyone to do.)
But people often times feel like if they can get to their ex with a bunch of little things that will aggravate the person, make that person's life more difficult, or cause that person to have to spend money, that that will somehow give them some sort of gratification that they need. WRONG!
It might make you feel better to gyp your ex out of five dollars, or it might make you temporarily happy to secretly know that you have made your ex's life more difficult, but isn't it silly? Short-sighted? PETTY?
In the long run, doing petty things won't make you feel better. They will make you feel worse. Why? Because deep down, you will know in your heart that you were dishonest, or that you exhibited bad behavior, or that you hurt your children. In other words, deep down, you'll know you acted like a jerk. And looking in the mirror and knowing that never looks good.
Being petty also messes with your karma in life. Do good and good will come to you. Don't do good and I don't know what. All I know is, good things come around to people who are do-gooders.
Think about the scenarios I listed above. If the husband cancels on seeing the kids to hurt his ex-wife, he's really hurting the kids, who have to spend the night with a sitter instead of their dad. Or the mom who won't let the kids go out with the new girlfriend. That's a night the kids could have really enjoyed. Pettiness is selfishness, and in the end, you are hurting yourself and the people you love most.
Here's my advice. You can't control the pettiness of your ex. Who you can control is you. You can decide you aren't going to be petty anymore. That's all you have to do. Just say you're not going to be petty anymore and that's it. Just say it and you'll feel better.
Be the bigger person and let your ex be the petty one. He or she is the person who's going to have to deal with that horrible feeling of the jerk who just hurt not only his self esteem and his karma, but his kids, too.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of the comedic novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE about life after divorce. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter for the Pioneer Press, with the monthly column, "Heart of the North Shore." She lives in Chicago with her two kids. And she's divorced (obviously.)