By: Tess Worrell
Public venting against an ex-spouse harms three times over. It harms the ex (often the point, but there’s still a cost).
It harms children. It harms you. Facebook, Twitter, friends–all offer ample opportunity to tell the world the worst in our ex. Don’t. Here’s why:
1. Harm to spouse–We have the ability to influence. As we vent the real faults of our ex, we persuade others he/she can’t be trusted. When people don’t trust–they don’t connect at any meaningful level. This torpedoes the ex’s relationships:
- with friends–when they may need friendship most.
- with employers–which can damage employment opportunities. Hurting the financial viability of both households and the ex’s ability to care for their children.
- with your children–which creates long-term damage. Children can be persuaded that Mom never cared. That Dad bailed. Why should they trust the person you don’t. Railing against the ex cuts them off from their children. They can’t parent. And most still want to–at least to some extent. More, the children still need them to parent.
2. Harm to children–venting against their parent harms children by:
- undermining their relationship with their other parent. No matter how badly they behaved–God gave your children to both of you. Meaning both of you are integral to the the children becoming healthy adults. Your care for your children entails supporting, not purposely undermining, your child’s relationship with their other parent.
Caveat–When the ex mistreats a child, we can–and should–deal with that honestly. But, that discussion–focused on our child’s circumstances–is very different than venting against an ex.
If Mom misses a visit or Dad forgets the game, the discussion should focus on:
–the child’s pain,
–the child’s understanding that this is a shortcoming in their parent–not a reflection of the child’s value, and
–the child’s response.
not your pain or a generalization of their character.
- undermining their self-esteem. Every child knows they are a combination of both parents. When you vent against your ex, your child doesn’t hear a criticism of the ex. He hears a rejection of himself. She learns that those traits that come to her from the ex bring public excoriation. Most of the trauma for children in divorce results from children experiencing collateral rejection. Avoid this–you go a long way to ensuring your children survive the divorce as healthy people.
3. Harm to you–That venting that feels so good in the moment. That creates a sense of justice. That means everyone finally knows the truth. It fades. Quickly. And then. . . harm flows. Continually.
- Children will stop trusting you. The more you openly attack a child’s parent–the more the child will defend that parent and will see you as the enemy. No matter how right you are. They will likely come to believe what you say about their other parent. They just won’t trust either of you.
- Children glorify an absent parent. Criticize enough and the ex might disappear. Which might be the goal. This will hurt you.
The parent in the home who forces homework, assigns chores, and addresses character issues burns through a lot of good will in the process. Comparatively, the absent parent can begin to seem angelic.
Time with the other parent grants children a realistic perspective. The warts in the ex will come through in their relationship with the children just as they did in the relationship with you. So will the good aspects. Children begin to see both of you rightly.
When you trade railing for treating a spouse respectfully, children come to trust you more. They understand that you’ve been hurt. Yet, you remain gentle. In control of your words and actions. Honoring toward all. That’s the person children want to be with and want to emulate. Even when that person forces homework.
Refuse to vent. You protect your ex. You protect your children. You protect yourself.