Beating Your Ex at Their Own Game

If you have been dragged, kicking and screaming through the family court arena, you are most likely at the end of your rope. It’s time to make some decisions. Either just keep going along to get along, wait it out, keep everything all bottled up inside or go for broke. You might as well go ALL in. Face your biggest fear and show your adversary that you are not going to sit and quietly take it anymore.

What if you suddenly called up your ex (provided there is no restraining order) and said, “OK. I am done. You go ahead and do whatever you want to me. I will be pleasant. I will not allow you to bring me down. I have resolved to treat you like a human being regardless of how you treat me. Do your worst. You cannot hurt me anymore!” Wow, huh? Well, it’s not that easy. They will take that as a challenge.

So if you are not the game player, you have to try to keep your cool and try not to lose your mind. Hopefully you know your adversary well and know how to push their buttons. This is where you will allow them enough rope to hang themselves. Trust me, these types always get too cocky for their own good, have trouble keeping all their lies straight and will trip themselves up eventually. You can help it along by backing off. That’s right. Back off. They get confused and bewildered when they cannot upset you. If they are throwing mud incessantly, and they get no reaction whatsoever out of you, or worse yet you are laughing, enjoying life and just looking darn good, they will go off the deep end. Eventually they try so hard to make you look bad that the real them is exposed.

For years my ex harassed, pushed, abused and did his very best to get a rise out of me. He was successful. I became every angry and felt violated in every aspect of my life. At one time, things became so volatile that I had decided it was time to file a motion for sole legal custody. I already had sole physical. I started to interview lawyers. I didn’t care what the cost! I was referred to some super lawyers, very expensive, but they would be able to get the job done. As soon as I started my search for a new lawyer, I was served a notice to appear in court. It was an order to Show Cause. At first I thought my ex was taking me to court yet again, but the I realized the judge was calling us both in for failing to co-parent (rolling my eyes). Well, I did get to hire a great attorney by then and he was able to represent me at the hearing.

At the hearing, the judge started chastising me, not my ex. Even though all of the infractions he listed against us were mainly about things my ex had been doing (or not doing), the judge attacked me. My ex and his attorney had been talking about my anger for years and now they had the judge talking about it, too. I knew what was coming. I would end up ordered into anger management. I developed a new strategy. I decided right then and there that I would go to anger management on my own so that if it came up in court or I got court ordered to go, I could already show that I had gone, on my own. I asked my attorney if it was a good idea and wanted to make sure that in no way would it hurt my case in the future. He thought it was a great idea and so I signed up to go where my insurance would cover it and it would not interfere with work. A couple of days later I received a letter in the mail. It was a copy of a letter that my ex had sent (with his attorney’s blessing) to the judge. It was not a motion. It was just a letter. It was a procedurally incorrect way to do this, but he was telling the judge that I should be court ordered into anger management. He had even chosen the place I should have to go at a cost of $400 and during the day when I would have to miss work several times per week to attend classes! I was livid, but confident that my strategy would work. My attorney was also livid due to the fact that neither my ex or his attorney had contacted him. They went behind our backs to the judge. My attorney asked the judge to allow him the opportunity to respond to this letter. The judge agreed to that. My lawyer pointed out that the other side had done this in an underhanded way and that my ex’s letter showed his tendency toward anger himself. My attorney informed the judge that I was already attending anger management on my own initiative, but we felt that my ex should also go to anger management as well. It didn’t take long for the judge to answer. He court ordered me to continue in my anger management program and also that my ex should go to anger management. Not only that he should go, but that he should go to the one he had recommended me to attend! Do you see what happened there??? I knew that my ex would do something like that and I backed off and let him. Rather than argue that I didn’t want to go to anger management, or that I didn’t have a problem, I preempted what I knew was coming. My lawyer was somewhat amazed. He said, “That played out exactly as you said it would.” Yes, it did. I knew my ex and how he operates. I had also come to understand that I was his target and he would come after me with one thing after another. I had learned over the years that when he was very unhappy or having difficulties in life, he would attack me. Anytime the spotlight came close to shining on him and exposing him, the attacks would start and he would do his best to put the spotlight on me. I beat him at his own game. This was the first time, but not the last and it changed the relationship forever. My ex was left bewildered and confused (and of course complained about having to go to anger management due to the cost and times-HA!) and I think he started to fear me. Do you know why this man who I lived in fear of for more than a decade started to fear me? Because it was evident that fear had left me. It was gone. Susan Carpenter would be going full speed ahead to end the battle and to grasp the life I wanted. My ex no longer held any power over me. That was the beginning of the end of hell.

Life is so much better and all I had to do was give my ex enough rope to hang himself with. I also had to look fear in the eye and leave it behind forever. I learned to trust my gut instincts and I have continued to do so in my life since then and it has never lead me astray.

What you can do is try to go with the flow a bit. See if it changes things. Stop fighting against the things the court wants you to do and just go with the flow. Anger management is not a bad experience. As a matter of fact, I met my best friend there and that was when I decided to return to school for a psychology degree. I learned about toxic relationships in my anger management class and I realized that I was a part of several toxic relationships. I have since weeded out those kinds of people from my life. It was a VERY good thing and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Try not to fight things. I think everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t believe that, you should outweigh the time and energy it takes to fight something as opposed to just accepting it and doing it. The court will look favorably on you for being proactive, but they will make your life a living hell if you fight them on what they want you to do. Not everything bad turns out to be bad. Often it is an opening to a new path for you.

*photo: Aces in the Hand by Grant Cochrane

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