How to Handle a Bitter Ex-Wife in a Divorce

Couple with lawyer
Couple sitting in front of divorce attorney. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

A divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can face. In the article, "The Influence of Divorce on Men's Health" in the Journal of Men's Health, ending a marriage can have negative physical, emotional and spiritual effects and that divorced men tend toward ailments that range from the common cold to life-threatening conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer and heart attacks. Men who have gone through a divorce are also more likely to engage in substance abuse, experience depression and are 39 percent more likely to commit suicide. Divorced men may find themselves struggling to manage their interactions with a bitter ex-wife, but some tactics may make the transition smoother.

Take the High Road

It may be difficult, but taking the high road when dealing with a bitter ex-wife may be best. It may be helpful to think about the reasons for her behavior. In his 2012 book, "Renegotiating Family Relationships: Divorce, Child Custody and Mediation," Robert E. Emery emphasizes the importance of understanding the grieving process and emotions common during a divorce. Showing empathy and refusing to engage in conflict is not about making excuses for your ex-wife’s bad behavior -- it’s about preventing the further escalation of your issues. Adding fuel to the fire will only make things worse.

Avoid Bad-Mouthing Your Ex

When speaking to your children, friends, family or coworkers, avoid saying negative things about your ex-wife. Dr. Richard A. Warshak's book, "Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing," sheds light on how children can become confused, upset and alienated by hearing one parent say unkind things about the other. You may be frustrated by your ex-wife, but it's best to share those thoughts with a trusted professional, rather than burden those around you.

Keep Your Temper Under Control

If you’re in the middle of a divorce, chances are that you are upset about a few things, which, of course, may only become worse by frequent confrontations with your ex-wife. Keeping your cool during altercations is essential -- not only for everyone’s safety -- but to establish peace. To avoid retaliating, address any issues that trigger your own anger. When she realizes that her actions will not result in you having a meltdown, she may be less likely to continue those behaviors.

Consider Mediation

The American Association of Marital and Family Therapy suggests enlisting the assistance of a professional with experience in helping couples through exceptionally difficult divorces can be extremely helpful. Mediation is a short-term, structured process in which the former partners meet with an impartial third person. The goal is to develop more effective strategies for co-parenting, managing finances and other issues.

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