It's not your house anymore, so stop sneaking in!
An exhole is an ex who acts like an a**hole. In my role as a divorce coach, I've heard all kinds of stories from my clients and family law attorneys. Many times, the stories a client tells me are about their ex behaving like an exhole, but not always. Sometimes I have clients who don't immediately realize that THEY are the exhole.
Here are some suggestions to keep you from being an exhole so you can move on with your life:
1. Respect your ex's home as their home. A woman filed for divorce and moved out with the idea that the man she'd been having an affair with would leave his spouse too. He did — for a while. After her divorce was final, he moved back in with his wife. This woman got tired of living alone in an apartment and so she would just show up at her ex's house when he was gone and let herself in. At first she claimed it was because she missed the cats. Then she started showing up at different times wanting to talk with her ex, or she'd "surprise" him by stopping by to cook a meal or just to grab something that she wanted. Her ex-husband had moved on and her surprise visits were invasive and inappropriate.
If your ex is living in the marital home and you're not, your former marital home is now theirs. It is no longer your home even if your name is still on the mortgage. Just as you wouldn't barge into your next-door neighbor's home because there was something you wanted to talk with your neighbor about, or because you wanted to get the suitcase back that they borrowed last year, or because you wanted to get the pool cue you left there the last time you visited, there's no reason for you to barge into your ex's home either.
2. Avoid "accidental" texts/emails/social media posts to your ex that were meant for your new romantic interest. One woman told me about a text she received from her ex. The text called her by the pet name he used to have for her and told her how much he missed her. This woman initially thought that her ex wanted to reconcile. Then, she read the rest of his text. In it, her ex proceeded to share how he was looking forward to the plans they had for staying in a B&B that weekend. It became obvious at that point that he had "accidentally" sent the text to her instead of his girlfriend. The most painful part of the text for this woman was that she had suggested they stay in that B&B two years ago, but he had refused. She did find it funny, though, that he wasn't creative enough to come up with a new pet name for his girlfriend.
I can't tell you how many times I hear stories of exes who "accidentally" send a love letter to their ex instead of their new sweetie. These accidental missives are extremely cruel and no matter how angry you are at your ex, there's no reason for cruelty — ever.
3. Accept that your post-divorce lifestyle will be different from your married lifestyle. There are people who plan for their divorce sometimes years before they actually start the proceedings. I've heard many different stories about people who start siphoning a bit of money here and there from joint accounts or 401Ks and start socking it away in a secret place to make sure their ex doesn't get it. But cash isn't the only way that exholes plan for their divorce.
I know of one woman who planned for her divorce by getting a personal trainer six months before she filed and a boob job less than a month before she filed for divorce. Luckily her soon-to-be-ex had a bit of a sense of humor about the whole thing, and asked his attorney if he could negotiate visitation for the enhancements he got to pay for but never got to see.
4. Respect your ex's private property. There was one fellow who was a clotheshorse. He enjoyed wearing designer suits and had a closet full of shoes. When he moved out of his house to move in with his girlfriend, he wasn't initially able to take all of his clothing or shoes with him. His ex was so angry about having to see his stuff in what used to be their closet that she decided to have some fun with his possessions. She took a pair of scissors and cut almost all of the way through the shoelaces on every pair of shoes he had left in the closet. She cut through just enough so that when he went to tie his shoes the laces would break.
Moving is never easy and if your ex is moving out of the marital home, they might not be able to remove all of their personal belongings immediately. If they don't get everything out, the best way to help them and yourself is to be clear about your expectations, let them know when would be convenient for you to allow them into your home, and agree to a date on which all of their possessions will be removed. An exhole would begin throwing their ex's things out, or destroying/damaging their ex's property.
5. Accept that your ex needs to be able to eat too. Usually early in the divorce process, an exhole will clean out the joint accounts and cancel their soon-to-be ex's credit cards. The truth is that both you and your ex need to eat, buy gas and have a place to live.
6. Your kids deserve your love and attention regardless of how you feel about your ex. One fellow loved to be a Disney Dad. Every time he had them, he'd take the kids out to do amazingly fun kid things that his ex just couldn't do because she didn't have the disposable income that he did. The problem was that when he got angry with the kid's mom, he would decide he didn't want to see her or where she lived and would cancel his time with his kids so she'd have to cancel her plans. Unfortunately, whenever he suddenly cancelled his plans, his kids would wonder if he still loved them.
It's always so sad to hear stories about kids being used as weapons to get back at an ex. An exhole will change plans with the kids last-minute to mess with their ex's plans. An exhole will also change plans about what they will and won't pay for the kids because they decide that their ex should have to pay for it instead.
7. Neither you nor your ex is perfect. I heard of one woman who moved with her husband to a new state and left her extended family behind just a year before he filed for divorce. When he told her he wanted a divorce to be with his girlfriend who lived in their home state, she was furious. She felt that he had moved her and the kids to the new state just to get them out of his way. She was so mad that she started calling everyone they knew back home to let them know what he had done — she even called his family.
Exholes make sure that everyone knows that their ex is a villain, that they are the bad guy, that they deserve to be ridiculed and punished. They'll do this by how they speak about their ex and, if that's not enough, they'll also post to social media about their ex's shortcomings.
8. Avoid playing Big Brother. There was a fellow who was very good at computer networking. He needed to be because it was his job. He understood how to "remote in" to another computer. He was so good at his work that when his wife, who was not computer savvy, moved out he would regularly check out what she was doing on the computer and look at her browser history to keep tabs on her.
Another way you might be an exhole is if you're using your knowledge of your ex's passwords to log into their accounts to see what they've been up to.
9. Take financial responsibility for yourself. There was one woman who was the breadwinner for the family. She worked long hours as a consultant. Her husband stayed at home and took care of their three sons. When she filed for divorce, she was suddenly "unable" to find any work. It seemed like things had dried up for her. Of course, as soon as the divorce was final, she suddenly found another job.
I've heard all kinds of stories about people quitting jobs and living off of savings during their separation in a futile attempt to reduce the amount of support they need to pay their ex either in the form of alimony/spousal support and/or child support. All this does is create more drama, trauma and legal expense. Adults take responsibility for themselves and their decisions — including financial responsibility.
10. Avoid threatening behavior. One of the worst exhole stories I've heard was from a woman who finally decided to file for divorce after being physically abused for 30 years. The abuse was so bad that it was a common occurrence for her to have broken bones and to be hospitalized.
Unfortunately, when she decided to file for divorce, her exhole threatened her life. Luckily, she was able to get some protection, but part of that protection included severing all ties with everyone who lived in the area she used to live. I don't know how her story ended, but I think about her often and pray that her courage to get out of a horrible situation was repaid by being able to live a happier and safer life.
Threatening behavior isn't always so dramatic. Sometimes it's verbal or emotional abuse. Sometimes, it's just not doing what your ex is counting on you to do, like pay your child support on time.
11. Do your divorce recovery work. This is the key to not being an exhole. Divorce is an incredibly stressful and painful experience. It takes work to get through it and to be a whole, happy person independent of your ex. Without doing the work, it's extremely easy to become an exhole because it's so easy to blame your ex for the divorce and the trashing of what you thought your life would be.
Don't risk being an exhole. Do what you need to do to recover and heal from your divorce.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation. Don’t let the worry about divorce ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.