If you have a high-conflict ex, you may be unaware that you’re responding in ways that incite more drama. And when you have no choice but to maintain a co-parenting relationship with someone who makes even the most routine negotiations difficult, you may justify your own extreme moods and behaviors by blaming your former spouse.
I wouldn’t scream if he weren’t such an asshole.
I’d be farther along with my career goals if he would just leave me alone.
I wouldn’t be so angry if she would just be reasonable.
I’d be happy if he would just find his rightful place under the wheels of a bus so I could raise my kids in peace.
The problem with thinking this way is that you’re putting your focus of control outside yourself. You believe that you’re entitled to act and think in ways that don’t serve you (or anyone else) because of the way another person acts. You defer happiness until some time in the future when your ex magically changes.
Except that he (or she) probably never will.
No therapist, self-help book, family law attorney, or exorcist can teach you how to fix your ex. You can learn strategies to help you manage your challenging divorce, but you’ll never be able to give your ex a personality transplant.
So you have a choice. You can either continue to marinate in resentment and entropy OR you can decide to take ownership of the only things you can control:
Your own thoughts and behaviors.
Your Personal Growth Plan
Getting clear about the behaviors and thought patterns that don’t serve you, as well as the ones that do, is the first step towards personal growth. The act of writing down specific things you need to stop doing, along with specific things you want to start doing, allows you to set your intention to transform your life.
You can create your own personal growth plan by downloading and printing out this template.
Click on the image below
In the Red Behaviors section, write down the behaviors you need to eliminate in order to regain your sanity. Examples might be:
- Firing off hostile emails to my ex
- Stalking my ex on social media
- Yelling at my kids
- Wasting money crying/venting about my ex to my attorney
In the Yellow Behaviors section, write down anything that could trigger Red Behaviors. These can be thoughts and experiences as well. For instance:
- Ruminating about all the ways my ex has wronged me
- Trouble focusing at work due to emotional distress from my ex
- Getting too hungry, angry, lonely or tired
- Trouble sleeping and eating
- Refusing to date to avoid getting hurt
In the Green Behaviors section, write down any healthy, life-affirming activity you’d like to cultivate. The goal is to replace Red Behaviors with Green ones. Here are some ideas:
- Take a walk/exercise
- Go to therapy
- Practice mindfulness kills
Keep your personal growth plan handy so you can check your progress regularly. If you find you’ve been awash in red behaviors, don’t judge yourself. Instead, focus on implementing more green behaviors. Taking note of yellow behaviors can help keep you from veering into the red zone: when you catch yourself ruminating, for instance, recognize that it’s time to use one of your green strategies.
Managing your emotional reactivity towards your ex is absolutely something you can do. It just requires skills. As with any new undertaking, the more you practice, the better you get.
The Personal Growth Plan isn’t limited to divorce. It’s a great blueprint for manifesting change with just about any relationship issue. So the next time you catch yourself blaming anyone for your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, remember:
Your happiness is in your hands.