My ex-husband and I split amicably. We were supportive friends to each other through the whole process. Before he moved out, we went to lunch on a cloudy November afternoon to discuss the logistics of our divorce. I couldn’t stop crying, so instead of talking about who would get the kids when, he handed me a tissue and said, “Let’s not do this today.”
We talked about how sad we were and reminded each other that we were doing the best thing for our family — because we both knew we were. That’s what friends do — they don’t try to cover up a hard situation with a Band-Aid. They do and say the right thing, even if it’s hard.
My ex isn’t a “bad guy.” Our relationship was never toxic or abusive, but he does disrespect me in front of our kids from time to time now. And I am not here for it.
Last week, I had a blow-up with him (no, it wasn’t in front of our kids). Apparently he needed a reminder about how I expect to be treated as the mother of his children.
He had walked into the house to get the kids on his night, per usual. I was dressed up and he said, “Why are you wearing that and why are your heels so high?”
The comment was fucking annoying (and unnecessary) on its own, but his tone made it even worse. And yes, the kids were standing right there and heard it.
I don’t expect him to compliment my looks (nor do I want him to), but I do expect him to keep his lips from flapping when he has the urge to say anything less than kind to me. We are raising our kids to be kind, and as their father, he needs to set a good example for them. It’s a hell of a lot easier to shut the fuck up and keep unsolicited opinions in your head than to let unsolicited bullshit flow from your lips.
I went through a stage after our divorce when I didn’t speak up about these kinds of things. I’ve watched friends go through much worse after their marriage ended. I took it to heart when they told me how good I have it. But the old saying “You teach people how to treat you” is true as fuck. I let his rude, snide comments slide a few times, and that set a terrible precedent.
I’d tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal and I shouldn’t complain. I believed it was just the way he was dealing with our separation. I’d shut my mouth in order to keep the peace for my children because they’d already been through so much. There was also a part of me that was tired and didn’t want to fight about it.
But now, that woman has left the building. I’m back in action and taking no shit. After all, my children are watching.
His remarks about what I wear, questioning why I’ve changed something around the house, and his laughter when the kids say something to me that’s disrespectful is reason enough to speak the hell up.
I don’t care if we have a good co-parenting relationship and are usually friendly. That should be baseline behavior. It certainly isn’t a pass to act like an asshole riddled with hemorrhoids.
Just because we get along reasonably well and he’s a great father most of the time, doesn’t mean he can treat me like a doormat now that we are divorced. I say “most of the time” because if he’s disrespecting me in front of his children, he’s not actually being a great father. I don’t care what he does with, and for, them when I’m not around. There’s no making up for degrading their mother.
I respect him in front of our children, always. There are times I don’t like him or I don’t agree with something he does — those conversations deserve privacy. I hold in the eye rolls and sit on my hands when I want to wag a finger in his face because I know it is what’s best for our children. And he owes me the same respect as well.
If you are someone who is dealing with an ex-spouse who isn’t respecting you, speak the fuck up. Don’t make excuses for them just because your situation could be worse or you think it would cause more trouble than if you stayed silent.
Part of being a good parent and showing up for your kids is in the way you treat people — ex-partners included. I’m not saying you need to be disrespectful too; you can discuss things in a non-emotional way.
What I am saying is, don’t be afraid to remind your ex that the way they talk to and treat you matters. If they can’t behave for you, they need to do it for your children. And if he can’t do that, you need to handle your business on the phone or over text. You do not have to tolerate disrespect (or any kind of inappropriate or abusive behavior) because you share co-parenting duties.
I don’t deserve any form of disrespect. I don’t care what my ex thinks about the way I look or if I’m too strict with our kids.
But I will always care about what my children think about their dad. I will always care how they see me handle it when someone isn’t treating me right. I will always demand respect, and I will always care about the examples we set for our children.
Because, married or not, it’s our biggest job.