Remember when he was a decent human being? Here's what happened ...
You look at your ex and all you see are the dirty, rotten games he's played since your divorce.
He is a stranger in your eyes now and you wonder what ever happened to the good man he once was. You feel total disgust for the total jerk he's become.
You hear about his antics around town (perhaps from your child’s teacher or from mutual friends). He has moved on with his life, he's dating "some woman," spending money on her but can't be bothered to pay for the kids' soccer lessons. Or maybe he's Mr. Disney Dad now, trying to win over your kids with endless trips and presents (while you barely get by on the measly child support he begrudgingly pays).
Somewhere, deep inside of you, you believe he does all of this to hurt you.
Every interaction you have with your ex turns into a major battle (or a hostile standoff). Of course, right? Clearly the sole entertainment in his life is making your life a living hell. He is unreasonable, demanding, and selfishly only thinks of himself.
So, why the change? WHAT turned him into a complete and total monster?
The scary (but honest) answer is — you! Because you decided to label him that way. You choose to see him as a villain.
You put this label on him because somewhere along the line you determined that it's easier to believe your ex is the worst person alive. And it's easier to only see his "crimes" somehow gives you a false sense of control.
Look, your divorce literally turned your world upside down. You felt (or still feel) totally out of control and insecure about your future. Almost in a flash, your ex became public enemy number one. He is the person that you most want to get away from. Divorce is like being shackled to your worst enemy for life.
However, constantly making him out as a monster reflect a, deeper, diversion of your own real fears.
Perhaps you fear being alone the rest of your life. Maybe you're scared of not having your children full-time (or worse, that your kids might want to move in with their father). You likely also dread the loss of income, freedom, friends (even family) because of the divorce.
The bottom line is that you're struggling to make sense of your world. You want to feel in control of your life again. And this is natural. We ALL feel that way going through divorce.
You desire a certain security for your future. By making him wrong (every single time in every single thing he does) you believe that makes you "right."
Although you may feel like you're the first person to experience this emotional roller coaster — you're not. And hopefully hearing this both comforts you and snaps you back to reality. Because while it's very normal for women to experience fear, anger, sadness, rejection and project all of those emotions on their ex — and honestly, he likely does the same thing to you in return — viewing him as the perpetual evil villain isn't healthy for you, your children, or your future.
It's time to gain some perspective and regain control of your life! Here are 4 shifts that help you see your ex as a human being again:
1. Let go of the labels. The truth is, what he does or does not do is his business. Start referring to him by his name, rather than "the ex" or any other arms-distance labels you've given him. He's not a character in a movie, he's a real person in your children's lives.
2. Ask yourself if your thoughts are really true (or fair)? People are supposed to move on after divorce (that's the whole point). You may not like that he has a girlfriend but he's not "wrong" for moving on. Before you slam him for a decision or action, ask yourself if your perception is truthful or fair? Would you want him criticizing your for the same thing?
3. Notice what he does right, not just what he does wrong. Yes, he was late picking the kids up from school once, but he's on time every other day (and you've picked them up late once or twice yourself). For every thing you nit-pick, do you even notice when he does those things well?
4. Focus on what makes you feel good. Stop focusing on him and pour that energy into yourself! Rediscover the missing pieces of you lost during your marriage. When you focus on what you want (versus what you don't), the magnificent woman in you emerges, leaving no room to dwell on your ex.
Even if your ex really is a grade-A jerk quite often, he cannot control you unless you allow him to. Choose to send the monster away by setting healthy boundaries and learning to maintain them. Take your life back. Take your power back. Focus the best (and bulk) of your energy on your own happiness.
Cindy Holbrook is known as the Compassionate Divorce Coach. She helps women move forward after divorce with less stress and more confidence. Identify the barriers that are keeping you stuck. Discover your next steps in your healing process by taking this short quiz at DivorceRecoveryCompass.com