How to Work with Your Ex Without Being Manipulated

Do you worry that giving in to your ex’s demands—about your custody agreement, parenting time schedules, or last-minute schedule changes—creates a cycle where those same demands will be made again and again? Instead of feeling like a doormat for your ex to tromp all over, use the following tips to work with your ex without being manipulated. Once you start using these skills, you won’t want to go back. It’s all about standing up for yourself and your kids!


  1. Set Boundaries – We teach others how to treat us by what we accept and what we don’t. So set firm boundaries with your ex telling him or her when you’ll be available for in-person meetings, as well as phone calls and texts. And be sure to stick to the rules you articulate. If 10 p.m. is the cut-off for text messages, don’t read or reply after 10:01 unless there’s a legitimate emergency!
  2. Be Flexible – Try to  be as flexible with your ex as you want him or her to be with you. In addition, spend less time attempting to read your ex’s intentions and deciding whether he or she deserves whatever accommodation is being requested. Instead, focus your energy on what’s really best for your kids in the situation. When you focus on them, along with your own sense of integrity, you’ll be able to make choices from a place of confidence instead of doubt and insecurity. So the next time your ex asks you to be flexible about a last-minute schedule change, consider what you think is right for your kids and in line with your principles.
  3. Be Considerate – One of the best pieces of advice you can fall back on is simply being considerate of your ex. Treat him or her as politely as you would a colleague at work. It goes back to the idea that we teach people how to treat us; in this instance, you’re setting a positive example for how you’d like your relationship to work. Trust that the energy you’ve put into being considerate will come back to you eventually. And even if your ex doesn’t respond to your efforts to rebuilt trust by treating you differently, at least you’ll know that you’re setting a positive example for your kids by not giving in to the temptation to treat your ex badly or stoop to his or her level of immaturity.
  4. Be your children’s best advocate – Finally, in everything you do, be an advocate for your children. Doing only what is in your children’s best interests frees you from any guilt your ex tries to throw your way, and ensures that a tumultuous relationship with your ex doesn’t have a negative impact on their relationship, as well.
  5. Know when to disengage. Especially if you’re just coming out of an unhealthy relationship with your ex, it’s unlikely that your efforts to create fair and healthy patterns will be accepted and welcomed 100% of the time. When you notice that your ex is pushing back on your attempts to set boundaries, disengage. Avoid the temptation to raise your voice or insist on doing things your way. Sometimes a quiet response is the one that’s best heard.

Credit: Jennifer Wolf

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