Blended Families Logical Consequences Emily Bouchard

Dealing With
Frustrating Former Spouses

By Emily Bouchard, MSSW

The StepHero Community Newsletter

"How to Deal with Frustrating Former Spouses"?

One of the most persistent and common complaints I hear from stepparents is their frustration with ex-spouses (their’s and/or their partner’s) whose behavior is intolerable.

Two things:

  1. Treat them with respect – knowing that they will never change
  2. Treat yourself with respect – and stop wishing that they would change.

Their behavior may look like it is about you, but it really is not. They are letting you know their own level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the world, and they are using you or the situation as a way to feel victimized – instead of taking action and choosing to love their life.

In my experience it is HOPELESS to wish, want, need, hope, pray – that THEY will change. I’ve heard clients report how they have tried all sorts of communication strategies that are supposed to be so effective with zero results. I’ve heard so many complaints about how the former-spouse will agree to something and then turn around and do the opposite – and my clients are always so surprised EVERY time this happens.

I feel a need to repeat here Gertrude Stein’s definition of insanity that can be very helpful: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Here’s what I tell couples who are struggling with these issues – stop focusing on what is wrong about THEM and start focusing on what you do have control over – your responses to what the ex-spouse does in relationship to you and your family.

Oftentimes, when couples begin to shift their focus, they discover that it has been serving them to look outside themselves at what is so wrong about the other person – the one they cannot change. It allows them to feel victimized, helpless, hopeless, and righteously indignant. They get to feel superior, knowing better than the former spouse how to parent and deal with new families and new lives.

The remarkable paradox that occurs is that when couples shift to:

  1. compassion for the former spouse, and
  2. taking full responsibility for their participation and choices in relationship to the former spouse,

Change does occur – it has to. When one aspect of the family “system” changes, all members have to shift as well.

When the new, second wife is able to release and let go of her resentments towards the former wife, she is able to be much more at peace with whatever the ex-wife is doing. By becoming a “lover of reality”, you get to actually enjoy the drama of life, instead of feeling only wronged, victimized, and hurt by life.

Freedom and peace come from meeting life fully with what it brings you instead of wishing, hoping, or needing life to be different than what it is.

Action Steps: The next time a former spouse pushes your buttons and you feel frustrated, angry, or hurt –

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and seize the opportunity.
  2. Ask yourself what you “get” out of believing that you are being treated a certain way.
  3. Honestly appraise how you approach life when you hold onto your beliefs about the former spouse and why you think they are behaving that way.
  4. Ask yourself how you might be different if you did not believe those things about the ex-spouse.

To learn more about how to become a lover of reality, visit

To schedule a private, professional coaching session to become free of your pain around your current challenge with the “ex” in your life, contact us now.



Wishing you and yours
all the best!

Emily Bouchard, founder,

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