How to Deal With Your Ex at Special Events

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Everyday Dads Leave a Comment

Summer is in full swing, and with the warm weather and packed schedules there is probably more than one special event on your social calendar. If you are co-parenting, those special events can find you face to face with your ex—which can be stressful and anxiety inducing.

Many of the events are happy and mark exciting milestones in your child’s life; like birthdays, weddings, or leaving for college. These already emotional events can become overwhelming when you add a challenging ex to the mix.

There is no sure fire way to eliminate every possible conflict that may arise, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize friction and help you enjoy the event.

Strictly business

If you have kids, you know that your relationship with your ex didn’t end the day the divorce was final. Navigating the co-parent relationship can be tricky, but for couples that don’t see eye-to-eye, keeping things strictly business can save you a lot of grief.

Taking the perspective of treating your ex like a business associate will help you channel your most professional self. Much like at work, when your boss or a co-worker gets under your skin, you can keep your cool and rely on formalities to maintain your composure.

Treating your interaction with your ex as a business transaction can help keep emotions out of the conversation. This will allow you remain civil in spite of potential efforts to inflame emotions.

Effective communication

Business relationships thrive on effective and efficient communication.  If your ex is difficult to communicate with, holding fast to communication etiquette can keep your conversations on course.


One of the foundations of effective communication is being a good listener. Try to hear what your ex is saying by being attentive and focused on the conversation. Be patient and ask questions to clarify what is being said, this is of course easier said than done, but worth the effort.

Listening to what your ex is saying can also give you clues to where the conversation is heading. If you think it might end poorly, politely excuse yourself before the situation escalates.

Stay on topic

Keep the conversation in neutral territory. Stay focused on your child or any other topic that will keep the exchange casual and friendly (or polite, if friendly is too much of a stretch).

Try talking about topics that are in the moment, like the venue, the weather, or whatever is happening now. Avoiding discussions about the past or even the future can keep contentious subjects off the table and reserved for a later dialogue.

Avoid hot topics

Hot topics should be avoided (including the Goth-inspired shopping mall staple).  This includes anything that will quickly escalate into a heated argument or cause emotions to boil over. Prior to the event where you will see your ex, make a list of the topics that should be sidestepped, and create an exit strategy for leaving the conversation with dignity.

Be nice

Like Patrick Swayze’s character, Dalton, in Roadhouse says, “be nice”.  Your ex probably knows the exact buttons to push to get a reaction from you. If this happens, channel Dalton and make “be nice” your mantra. By refusing to be anything but nice, you will set the tone and the standard for all your interaction throughout the event.

Practice, practice, practice

It is a miserable feeling to have somebody say something inappropriate, then draw a complete blank, only to come up with the perfect rebuttal two minutes after they walk away.  Practicing your response can help overcome these frustrating moments.

Using the list of hot topics, practice responding to the things your ex might say. This is a great way to be prepared for whatever come your way. It also has the added benefit of helping you “be nice”, maintain your composure, and stay focused on enjoying the event.

As divorce attorneys, we see first hand how difficult dealing with an ex can be. The above are suggestions for helping survive an event that your ex will be attending, Every situation is unique— for specific advice that is tailored to your circumstances, speak with a therapist, or your attorney directly.

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