Dealing with the Crazy ex-Spouse

For those who will be dealing with ex’s and Oh Craps! this holiday season, a little help.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Run from the anger alien!

Question: My husband’s ex-wife is making our lives miserable.  She calls my husband’s cell phone at all hours screaming at him.  She keeps taking this whole mess back to court, saying that we’re attempting to alienate her children and we’re abusive.  What makes me nuts about this is how she tells everyone I caused everything. She left him for another man!  I’m sick of defending myself.  Yes, I started dating my husband before the divorce was final, but how does that make me a homewrecker?  She was living with a guy and avoiding her children ’till I came along.  Now it’s like she’s in some weird competition with me.  How can I stop the craziness?

Answer: Some people connect better through anger.  Your husband’s ex-wife WANTS everyone to be angry.    If you hate her,  you’re thinking about her all the time.  She has your undivided attention and she’s not likely to give it up.

You don’t understand this.  You have a normal life where you get the attention you need from people actually liking you.  I’m betting that your husband’s ex-wife has few friends and unrealistic expectations of people.  She probably didn’t think her marriage was over just because she walked out.  That might have been her way of getting her husband to pay more attention to her  and be more intense with how he expressed his feelings.

She can’t feel at a normal level and she attempts to have people dial up the heat until they are out of fuel.  When she figures out that all resources have been consumed, she will move on like a conquering alien army looking for the next planet to eat.  You interupted this process.  Don’t feel bad.  You’re presence in this family has re-energized your husband and made him more attractive to his ex-wife.  It might not have happened had she moved on to a new victim, sorry, partner.  You got there too early for that scenario since she was still prodding your husband to do something combustible.

You must cut off the fuel.  And the cut-off has to come from the both of you.

  1. Get an alarm clock.  Your phones will no longer be by your bedside at night unless they are turned off.  If you must, get a second phone that is for emergency or job situations.  Guard the number with your life.  Phone calls are taken during decent hours only.  If you answer the phone tired you are most likely to become angry and fuel the anger sucking alien.
  2. Get a good lawyer who is willing to do the worrying for you or, make court prep a regularly scheduled weekly activity that has a time limit.  Do not spend more than 2hours per week on this mess.  These cases will tend to go back to the same judge time after time.  Keep a log of; phone calls, problems, refusals to exchange, and any negative statements the children repeat to you.  Do NOT cross examine children, ask them what their mother said, etc.  If they tell you, say “Oh, really?”  and go write it down.  When she takes you back to court, bring the log.  Judges don’t get elected for being stupid and they are rarely able to suffer fools gladly.  The ex-wife will be wearing out her welcome with the judge, let her.
  3. Who’s everyone?  And why do you care?  If the lady who lives under the overpass and throws old donuts at cars starts talking about you, is that going to be a problem?  You are making this situation worse by defending yourself against her accusations.  Learn to roll your eyes.  Do it often.  You already think she’s crazy, what does that make you if you’re taking her seriously? When you defend yourself to someone, you have made them a judge of your life.  This woman has no right to that much power over you.  Smile and act vague.  At the very least it will irritate the crap out of her.
  4. Figure out who you are actually angry at.  My best guess in these situations is your husband.  Write down what you want him to do about this situation and take it to someone who’s dealt with an ex.  Let them tell you which of these expectations are realistic.  Take the realistic ones back to your husband and start a conversation.  He’s been running and ducking this for years.  He’s tired and wishes it would go away, so phrase the opening of this conversation to appeal to those two needs.
  5. If people are that easy to predict, use it.  What do her children wish she would do with them?  Tell them you’re planning to do it and wait.  She’ll get to it first and you can go ahead with the things you really want to do.  Surprise is key here.  The kids will tell their mother everything and that needs to be OK!  You’re plans will have to be surprises or last minute.  Learn to act faintly ditzy so that last minute plans don’t seem like a stretch.
  6. No matter what she does, you and your husband need to respond as though you are smoking weed and have no motivation.  Vague, benign, faintly, slightly bored, yawning, disinterested.  Whether you are telling her that Monday is striped socks day for little Johnny, or you’ll call the police if she comes on your property again, use the same tone of voice and the same body language.  Practice acting stoned with each other.  It will be something you both get a laugh out of, and you could use that right now.

 

Reach out for help.  You’ll need a place to vent and some accountability on your actions so you don’t accidentally fuel this anymore.  Once you’ve cut off the fuel, expect it will take a while to get her to cut the behaviors.  Your family has been a regular feeding ground and aliens don’t give those up and move off without a fight.  She’ll fight, you’ll smile benignly and she will eventually get frustrated and move on.  Keep that stoned smile plastered on your face and reclaim your planet for peace!

Help! My family won’t support my parenting.

 

You put your child on a gluten free diet and your grandfather took her out for pizza.  You tell your parents “we’re trying a new church as a family” and they take your children aside to warn them about how Mommy & Daddy are going to hell.  You’re so grateful for a diagnosis that helps you deal with and explain your child’s behavior; until your family starts casually mentioning all the ways you did things wrong in pregnancy and how your parenting is really not helping.  You tell your teens, “No drinking!” and your sibling takes them both out for a beer.  If these sound outrageous, be very thankful you haven’t had to deal with an unsupportive family.  Read on to help a friend who has.  Oh, and every one of these examples is true.

It’s not just controlling &/or self-absorbed family members who will act this way.  Normally sane, functional people will become grandparents, aunts, & uncles and promptly turn a corner  onto the dark side.  Having children of your own changes all the dynamics in your family, but your family may not cooperate.  Children are a sign that the future is coming and it’s time for everybody to grow up.  Older family members may even see your children as a sign of age creeping up.  Various family members may be threatened by your independence, the way you respond to your children instead of them, or even the way that children force you to finally stand up to family members.  Who’ve often had it coming for YEARS!  We’re all more willing to do the hard stuff and go through the conflicts if it’s for the sake of our child.  If there are changes that need to be made in the way your family acts towards you or continues to treat you, children will bring that problem to a head.   When in doubt, choose your kids.  They need you more than family members have a right to interfere with.

Another issue that may effect multiple family members is denial.  If your child has issues that you are dealing with, the rest of the family may feel threatened.  Nothing says get your own poop in a group faster, than a close relative attempting to do just that.  Guess what?  Lots of people have poop all over because they do NOT want to deal with it.  These folks are convinced that pretending it’s not there is working.  They don’t want to hear about their behavior, it’s effect on anyone else, or the slightest hint that they could actually change the way they’re not dealing.  You’ll tell these family members about your child’s autism diagnosis and they’ll say, “I’m not autistic!”  These are also the grandparents who yell at you for insulting their grandchildren and tell you it must be the bad parenting.  They will also make multiple comments about “their” grandchild being just fine and you’re wrong about that diagnosis.  Like you made the diagnosis without the benefit of Dr.s or anything!  Obviously, this is crazy talk.  Treat it appropriately.

There are two types of non support that tend to come from the folks who raised you.  You deviate from the way you were raised and they get upset.  They’re either taking your every motion personally or they’re just so self-absorbed they can’t see the use of new techniques.  Either way they will be a pain.  You probably know already which you’re dealing with.  The personalizers have been martyring themselves at Sunday dinner for years now.  When you tell them about what you’re doing with Jr, they make it all about them.  “You never did think I was a good mother.”  “Why do you need all these new fangled ideas?  Wasn’t how you were raised good enough?”  When your martyred parent refuses to follow your rules, and feeds your child a combo of sugar and caffeine that acts like kiddie-crack, you will hear a variation of, “You think I would hurt my own grandchild?!”  Yes, you do.  And no amount of playing nice is going to cover that up, nor should it.  You make rules to protect your child.  If people won’t follow those rules, they are potentially harmful.

Self-absorbed parents are going to take your parenting personal if they notice it at all.  The most likely scenarios are you insisting they give up a bad habit while around children, not use corporal punishments like spanking, or follow new food rules.  This grandparent will defend themselves for about three seconds, “I’m fine, what’s the problem?”.  After that they tend to go on the offensive.  “I never had this issue as a parent, what’s your problem?”  “That kid just needs a good beating to toughen them up.”  “I’ve been smoking for 45 years and I’m still alive, you just believe everything you read ’cause you’re gullible.”  These guys are not changing for you, their grandchildren, or the chance of peace on earth.  They don’t care because they don’t see any options besides their own.  Don’t reason with them unless you just needed the frustration.

Here’s the list of things you can do in order of effort you’ll have to put in and the likely negative response from family members.  Some of you are going to need to jump straight to the end and just plow into the opposition.  Your children are worth it and the peace of your future is worth it.

  1. Reassurance.  Your parents or other loved ones may just need to know that you love them and appreciate what they’ve done.    Some people worry that any change in you means a change in your feelings towards them.  It’s needy and a little annoying, but relatively easy to deal with.  Tell them, “I love you, I am so glad you are my, parent, brother, sister, cousin, etc.  I will always appreciate that my family has given me the strength to parent like my children need me to.”  You will need to overtly state that your parenting is not  a negative commentary on theirs.  (Unless your parenting is a direct attempt to be as different from them as possible and you’re still angry.  Skip down to #3 and come back to this one if you ever get less angry.)
  2. Educate.  Older family members or more conservative ones, may not like the changes because they don’t understand, or adhere to an older set of solutions.  Tell them about the process you’ve gone through to come to this point.  How many diets, dr.s, diagnoses, etc before you found something that worked.  Point out ways that your child is doing better or your family is doing better because of the changes you’ve made.  Let them know they don’t have to agree with you, but you’d love for them to understand how you came to your decision.  Remember that you took a while to change and your family will too.  Don’t be put off by total disbelief or disdain.  We all react to new ideas pretty negatively the first time we hear them.  But somewhere after that 5th to 25th time, we’re sold.  Bring it up calmly and drop it quick.  Multiple exposures works, but slower than you will want.
  3. Recruit your children.  Diet changes, religious decisions, and other major issues are not something you’ll want to force down your child’s throat.  No matter how young they are, relentlessly point out the positives by your words and your actions.  If you change the way a child eats, do it for the whole family and treat it as an adventure.  Laugh more.  Be OK with making mistakes and draw your children into preparations so they feel important.  Get your children involved and give them ownership of the changes.  Relatives who come in trying to mess with what you’ve done will listen to your kids more than you anyway.  You will benefit from having kids who try to cooperate rather than sabotage, and who are happier overall.
  4. Set boundaries.  Of course you should already have boundaries and rules in your home.  I’m talking about the formal process of laying out the rules and consequences for non-compliant family members.  Let them know you are serious, you are acting in the best interests of your child, and the specific expectations you have for that relative’s behavior.  If you are married or partnered, this needs to be done as a team or the relatives will figure they can get what they want by going to the other guy.  Yes, it is the same behavior your 4yr old uses to get a cookie from mom after dad has said no.  We tend to go back to what worked when we’re under stress.
  5. Recruit help.  This can mean getting some other family members on your side or just opening up about the situation to some supportive friends.  It can also be a time to suggest family therapy so a professional gets looped into playing the referee and you don’t have to.  Be prepared for anger and bad behavior if your naughty relation figures out you’re getting the rest of the family on your side.  Be prepared for the same reaction if all you wanted to do was educate the family.  The people who are most likely to undermine your parenting are also most likely to be paranoid and wildly defensive.
  6. Limit the interactions.  You’ve done everything you can and your parenting is still not being supported.  This is a safety issue.  When your child is 15 and wants to get in a car with a drunk driver they NEED your voice in the back of their head.  Your children will face multiple situations that could kill or permanently harm everyone involved.  If they think you’re stupid and not worth listening to, they are less protected and more likely to get hurt.  Please don’t think that your parenting is anything less than life or death.  Respecting you is a safety net against stupid/dangerous/harmful behaviors.  Do not let anyone mess with that.  It is totally within your rights and responsibilities as a parent to tell your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, uncle or aunt that they are no longer welcome in your house.  It’s better to tell them to go away now, than to blame them at the funeral.  If you do chose to have some contact with these people, do it in settings that you feel comfortable with and get support.  Have your partner, your friends, your worship community or a mental health professional present.  Don’t go it alone if you can’t tell them off alone.

 

Not all families are born.  We have to make them around us sometimes. Whoever they are, put people in your children’s lives that are respectful and helpful.  Everyone will benefit.

Stop Attracting Crazy People!

If you look around and your friends take advantage, your family takes you for granted, and your job is in Hell’s waiting room, the common denominator here is you.

There is a way out if you’re willing to change.

  1. Put yourself in at least the top five of your priority list.  If you’re not important to you, no one else has to take you seriously either.  You’re probably worried that some people will say you’re self-centered and selfish if you don’t kill yourself trying to make everyone else happy.  The kind of people you DON’T want in your life will tell you horrible things so they can continue to take advantage of you.  Take that as a good sign you’re moving in the right direction.  Write down a to do list.  Ask yourself how many of the items on that list help you and only you.  Make sure there are at least two items, each day, that are all about you.  Do this daily and consider it a multi-vitamin for mental health.
  2. Take time for you each day where you turn off your electronics and don’t let anyone bug you.  We have an incessant world where every second is bombarded with needs and wants.  Turn it off.  Take a walk.  Sit in the sunshine.  Call it prayer, meditation, anything that reminds you to listen and find some calm.
  3. Say the word No a lot more often.  You will never have space in your day if you say yes all the time.  Crazy people love to hear yes.  They will bug you till you crack,  & scream about how you don’t love them when you say no.  Then they’ll shower you with praise and promises they won’t keep the second you say yes.  Which is how they’ve trained you to say yes, all the time, or else.  Take your life back from this madness.  Say no.  Say it often.  Practice saying it with confidence and a smile.  The people who don’t like to hear this word will eventually go away if you keep saying it.  No is like scrubbing bubbles for your mental bath tub.  People that are calm and mature can hear no and stick around.  Immature narcissists will have a breakdown when they figure out you mean it.  This is great!  Say no and watch the crazy people run!
  4. Stop complaining.  No one wants to hear it except the predators looking for their next powerless target.  This is like putting blood in the water every time you do it.  Predators look for people who feel powerless and have little to no concept of responsibility for their own future.  When you announce to the whole world that you hate your job, have no plan to change that, and you will never get what you want; the people that could actually help you are backing away.  Your next ex-spouse is circling closer, posing as the rescue ranger you’ve always dreamed of.
  5. Stop blaming.  Sure it’s someone else’s fault.  Now what?  Are you really expecting the person that hurt you to come back and make it right?  Yes absolutely, they should.  But they won’t.  Ever.  Once again, you are signaling powerless and helpless  to the very people you don’t want in your life.  Accept that you were hurt, life is not just, and you will have to do the repair work whether or not it’s fair.  Anything less and you are a wounded fish waiting for that shark with the big teeth to come find you.
  6. Stop waiting.  You’ll start eating vegetables next week.  You’ll walk during lunch if someone will come with you.  You’ll plan that vacation you’ve dreamed about your whole life…..after all that other stuff.  You think waiting is smart and proves you’ve overcome your need for instant gratification.  No.    Waiting is just you letting your fear of change turn your life into the longest line at a government office.  If you are moving towards the things you want in your life, you will attract other people doing the same.  Other movers actually help and encourage you.  Waiting for a rescue sends out a signal that you are alone, helpless, and a sitting target in the water.   And we know the kind of person that attracts. Start playing the Jaws theme, here comes the teeth.

 

Photo by leasqueaky  from flickr.com

Someone at work, is out to get you.

You even know who they are.

You didn’t want to believe it, so you’ve made up excuses for how rumors swirled, letters got misplaced, and situations you had calmed down suddenly fired up again.

Someone is mad at you, possibly blames you for a stalled career, or maybe their home life sucks and you’re a good target.  Whatever it is, you are not imagining this.

You might need to look like you don’t know what’s going on, but don’t fool yourself.  You have a target on your back and someone is gunning for you.

Here’s your battle plan.

  1. Remain calm.  This will be seriously irritating to whoever wants you agitated.  Think carefully about how you sound when you’re being the business version of you.  Practice producing this tone of voice no matter what else is going on.  When your co-workers are devolving into juvenile delinquents, you will still look and sound adult.  This is important.  Who do you want to believe?  The guy screaming like a howler monkey denied sex and bananas or the adult who’s calmly describing the situation?  Your boss doesn’t like rabid monkeys either.
  2. Recruit allies.  These do not all have to be in the workplace.  You need some allies that are outside of the situation and can give you an alternative viewpoint.  Having friends and allies can make the miserable creatures most likely to target you think twice.  Loners are easy to pick off and have no one to hand out repercussions later.  People with friends come with built in possibilities for extended reach and negative consequences to anyone hurting them.
  3. Document  everything you can.  Now is not the time to take it easy.  The more you document, play by the rules, and then document some more, the more difficult it will be to bring you down.  Co-workers on the attack will look for something you’ve done that falls outside of the rules.  Never mind if everyone does it and they’ve been doing it that way since the company was founded.  If you don’t have written permission for it, expect to have it thrown at you in some nasty way.  If you need to break the rules, get someone higher up the chain to sign off on it or forget it.  Don’t waste your time documenting other people or trying to bring your attacker down.  You’ll look like a jr high girl in a cat fight if you do.  Take care of you, take care of your allies, make sure your actions are positive for the work place.
  4. Make an escape plan.  Do you have some money saved up?  Do you know what you’d do if your job ended tomorrow?  No?  Get busy.  Having vindictive co-workers is one way to be reminded that we all need a back up plan.  Living paycheck to paycheck will put you in a desperate place.  You are more likely to take other people’s crap and be sending out signals that scream, “Potential Victim! Please Target Me!”  When you know you could walk and be perfectly OK, your backbone will magically harden and your skin will grow teflon like qualities.
  5. Deal calmly and directly with your attacker, do not fight them.  No screaming, no yelling, no sarcasm.  There is no faster way to make your enemy look like an escaped mental patient than to remain calm as they get louder and more outrageous.  Your boss may not care who’s right, who’s better for the company, or who’s working the hardest.  The boss WILL care about who’s easiest to deal with.  Let your behavior be non-defensive, goal directed, and calm.  You will be amazed at the stuff you get away with saying when you say it calmly while smiling.

 

Most of all, trust yourself.  I see way too many people in my office who didn’t trust their gut feelings until it was too late.  At the very least, check your bad feelings with someone you trust.  If you’re wrong and you’ve done the five actions listed here, no harm done.  You’ll look better on the job and have allies who will prove useful later.  If you’re right and you take these five actions, you will either save your job or have a better option to move to.

 

Photo by; Adam Cohn, flckr creative commons.

What’s going on? Is my ______ paranoid? Ack, what IS this?

paranoid jay

Some tell tale signs of a paranoid person. Identification will help you be more objective and not take their issues so personally.

  • There is no such thing as constructive criticism. Any change you ask for will be met with rage and counter-attacks.
  • Still mad at the kid in 5th grade that made that one comment about their weight, their nose, their whatever! Still mad at every person they can remember that ever said anything to them.
  • Grudge holding is a badge of honor.
  • Forgiveness is not this person’s strong point. It’s usually not even a weak point they’re working on.
  • They’ll tell you a story about work and expect you to see the same negative attacks and threats. Only you don’t. You never see what this person is so upset about from interactions that sound so normal.
  • Wants to appear cold, emotionless, analytical and very in control.

How To Deal With Crazy People

 

How To Deal With Crazy People is a site that has answers to deal with the 10% of the population that is difficult to deal with.  These so-called ‘crazy people’ can monopolize your time, be an emotional drain, and add buckets of stress to your life.

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When you are able to have a basic understanding of how difficult people think, you can respond without being caught up in their game, feeding their insatiable need for your attention, or going through your own life like a zombie.

You’ll also learn how to make your own life more crazy-proof. There will be tips on scheduling, motivation, letting go of the anger, everything you need to build yourself into a crazy denying machine!

As you develop the skills to keep your own calm, realize what people are trying to do and say no to a WHOLE lot more of that, you will be amazed at the calm that takes over.  You do not have to be in bondage anymore.  Think I’m exaggerating?  What do you call it when your phone rings and you cringe, you see a car driving by and worry about it being that one particular person, you plan your day around who you’re avoiding, or who you’d like to avoid?

It is a sad fact that you might be losing part of your life to anxiety and fear over difficult people in your; workplace, church, community, and even your home. Some of the most difficult people to deal with will be your family.  No one can get to you quite like they can.

This site will deal with the specific situations and give you a chance to ask questions.  You will benefit from my experience as a therapist helping clients take back their lives and other readers giving their own stories.  Knowledge is power.  Let’s power up and get you back in charge of your life.