What to do with an irresponsible ex-husband

By Elisabeth K. Corcoran
Author of He Is Just That Into You

Question (from Facebook community): “My ex-husband does not follow through on his responsibilities regarding finances or our kids.  Do I put my foot down and keep asking and nagging so he takes responsibility or do I not worry about it because at least I have my kids?”
Part of me wants to answer with “don’t even get me started!”, but I won’t.  Instead I’ll say that I can relate and I know the frustrations that come with having to live with absolute injustices being done and with my children being hurt.  I’m living this one out on several levels right now, today, in my real life.  So, trust me when I say that I know how you feel and I totally get this.  I don’t have clear cut answers on this but here’s what I do know.

Words are just words.
We will all get to a place in our relationship – and if we’re divorced, we’ve probably hit that place by now – where it basically no longer matters what we say.  To this one person, our opinions do not matter.  Our ideas do not matter. Our emotions do not matter.  So we can talk or text or email until we’re blue in the face but words are just words and it is the rare word that will actually get through and make a difference. If you only knew how many emails I have written that I send to someone else to vent or just plain delete because I know that for the most part what I say will be deemed idiotic or, worse, the opposite action will be taken just to try to hurt me.  For those of us who have not had an amicable parting of the ways, this is our sad, but true, reality.  (Side note: however, others words may make a difference. If your ex-husband is blatantly breaking the rules of your legal agreement, and you’ve deemed the situation worth it enough to fight for what’s right, ask your lawyer what your options are to legally require him stick to what he’s supposed to be doing. That’s, in part, what the law is supposed to be for.)

We can’t change people.
This should not come as a surprise, as we probably spent a majority of our marriages learning and re-learning this lesson.  Even when people are sinning against us, it can be very difficult to get them to stop.  People must feel the consequences of their own actions before they change. Hurting someone else is not always enough to make someone want to stop doing the wrong things they’re doing (it should be enough, but it isn’t always).  The person needs to feel the pain within himself.  They must feel and believe that they should stop what they’re doing, or change will be fleeting at best.
So, since we can’t change anyone but ourselves, and our words will fall on deaf ears, what can we do?

We can change ourselves
.  We can only change ourselves and our perspectives and our responses.  When the bill isn’t paid that is supposed to be paid, we can freak out and yell or we can take some deep breaths.  We can vent to a trusted friend.  We can pray and ask God to provide in other ways.  When our kid’s father doesn’t take him to his soccer practice, we can freak out and yell or we can offer to take him ourselves, we can let the coach know the real reason he won’t be there, we can tell our son we’re so sorry, we can let it go.  Please know that I know that these things are simple but so not easy.
We can be grateful for what we do have.  We can thank God every day that we have our kids.  We can write a gratitude list for all the gifts we do have in our lives.  We can go to sleep each night trusting that just like God got us through this day, he’ll get us through the next one.  We can believe that God loves our kids even more than we do and he’s got us, he’s holding us.  He won’t let us go, even when it feels like no one else really has our backs.  God has our backs.

We can teach our children to make better choices.
It’s so tempting to fill our kids in on what’s really going on. And sometimes, depending on their ages and the circumstances, they do have the right to know. But other times, we need to check our motives. Are we only telling them the dirt because it feels so good to tell on our oppressor?  If you honestly feel your kids need to know what’s really going on, tell them, but appropriately. Otherwise, use this as a teaching tool.  Something like, “I’m so sorry Dad isn’t taking you to soccer practice. I know that hurts your feelings and is frustrating. When you’re a dad, you can remember how this felt and use it to help you make better choices for your own kids.”

This isn’t news but divorce sucks. And this is just one of the many reasons why.  But we must remember that we are no longer the person with the right to speak truth into our ex-partner’s lives. We can pray though that God will bring justice and that God will provide.

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