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How to Talk To Your Toxic Ex When It Comes to Parenting

by | Feb 17, 2022 | 4 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

When it comes to dealing with your toxic ex, it’s always best not to.

However, when you are parenting with you, cutting off all communication is not an option.

Toxic people often thrive off the attention they get from you, whether it’s good or bad.

Oftentimes, they will provoke you into arguing or defending yourself simply to create conflict.

They will also take what you say out of context and twist your words to suit their narrative.

So, how do you talk to your toxic ex when they make communicating horridly difficult?

Here is some advice when it comes to how to talk to your toxic ex:

1. Don’t Defend Yourself

I know how hard it is to have someone constantly berate you and put you down, knowing that defending yourself will make no difference.

This is because your ex has probably already established a perception of you that cannot be changed. Changing that perception would mean that they would have to admit that they were wrong, and toxic people are usually not willing to do that.

I think in my experience with dealing with a toxic ex, not defending myself was the hardest thing to do. But the more I did it, the less what he had to say affected me.

A huge part of this is building up your self-esteem to the point where what your ex absolutely doesn’t matter.

At that point, you can let their insults and threats fall on deaf ears and cut off the supply of attention they are looking for.

2. Limit Communication to Texts and Emails

As I said, toxic exes will likely twist your words to make you look bad and make themselves look better. If you’re dealing with court, custody, access, visitation, and all that good stuff, this is where they will try to use your “words” against you.

To protect yourself, and gather evidence against them, limit all of your communication to written forms such as emails and texts.

This will also minimize conflict since you will not be giving them the opportunity to blast you over the phone or face-to-face. At least with a text or an email, you can read it when you want to and respond to it when you’re ready.

Just keep in mind that toxic people are notoriously brave when they can’t attack you directly. They are likely to come off as more aggressive and threatening through texts where they can have their say uninterrupted.

But I say, let them fill their boots. It’s more evidence to prove their character, especially if you do have to go to court.

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3. Stick to Need-to-Know Information

Does your ex need to know that you got a new job? Or bought a new car? Or visited your grandparents over the weekend?

Nope.

The only reason you are still communicating with your ex is that you have a child together, so your conversations should pertain only to the child and only to need-to-know information.

There are a few reasons why this is important. First of all, again, they use your words against you. Telling them you went out for a fun night at the bar could be turned around to accuse you of being an unfit parent.

Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter – you don’t want to give them any ammunition for their campaign against you.

Secondly, your toxic ex may try to “hoover” you back into a relationship so they can control you again. When you share personal information about your life, they may take that to mean that you “care” about them or still “love” them. They will use this to try and rope you in.

Ultimately, whether they want to win you back or accuse you of things, it’s best not to give them an opportunity so that you can live your life with as little of their crazy as possible!

4. Set Boundaries on When They Can Contact You

Can you stop your toxic ex from blowing up your phone in the middle of the night? Apart from blocking their number, there’s not much you can do to prevent them from contacting you.

However, you can make it perfectly clear that you will not respond to their texts outside of a predetermined timeframe.

For example, you can tell them that you will only answer after 9 am and before 6 pm and only if it’s in response to an emergency or to provide important information about your child (such as changes to visitation dates, etc.)

Otherwise, all messages will be ignored.

They may not like this, and they may become more aggressive in contacting you, but, over time, they will realize that they are not getting what they want (your attention), and their efforts will wane.

5. Write Your Responses and Messages Carefully

If you’re wondering how to respond to your ex’s text, first think about whether or not you need to respond. If they are trying to make chitchat (which could be their way of trying to hoover you) or insult you, there is absolutely no need to reply.

When they are asking you a question and responding is necessary, try to stick to one-word answers such as “Yes” and “No.” If an explanation is not required, don’t give one.

Otherwise, keep your responses simple and to the point.

There will be times when getting a text from your ex is going to make you feel anxious and nervous.

When it comes to how to respond to your ex’s texts, it’s important to first take a deep breath and calm yourself down before deciding if you should answer or not.

The same goes for if you have to initiate contact with your ex to raise concerns or make changes to plans. Just tell them what you need to say with a simple explanation (if necessary) and leave it at that.

6. Don’t Encourage Them

I read somewhere that if you want to talk to a toxic person or have them be agreeable, you should compliment and praise them first.

What?

I think this is garbage advice. We know that toxic people often thrive on our attention, whether it is good or bad, so why would we want to encourage and fuel their behavior?

Plus, being nice to your ex isn’t going to make them nice – we learned this the hard way during the relationship!

And, if we tell them lies like “You’re such a good parent,” or, “I really appreciate all that you do for me,” just to butter them up, you bet they will use these words against us when it comes to the crappy decisions they make or the few things they actually do for us.

“You haven’t paid your child support in six months.”

“Oh, but I do so much for you. You even said so yourself!”

Phooey! Don’t do it! If you need something from your ex, just be straightforward and blunt (and hope they actually listen).

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7. Don’t Ask Them For Advice

Toxic people often believe they are always right, and if you don’t take their advice, they become angry, or they make take your asking for advice as an indication that you don’t know what you are doing or that you are a “bad” parent.

Again, don’t give them ammunition, and don’t put yourself in a position where you are relying on your ex for anything, even advice. They make take your advice-seeking as an indication that you are under their control again. No thanks.

If you need advice, ask a friend, ask your mom, go to Google, anything – but don’t ask your ex!

8. Make a Plan

The best way to communicate with your toxic ex when you have a child together is to lay out clear plans. This involves visitation times, transportation, limitations of access, etc.

Typically, you would go to court and have these provisions detailed in a court order. A court order is a great way to hold your ex accountable since breaking it involves legal penalties.

However, you can establish a parallel parenting plan by writing down these details as they are discussed between you and your ex.

For example, if you text your ex and ask if they would like to have visits with the child every other weekend, keep the text and write it down. If they state the times they would like to pick up the child and drop them off, again, keep the text and write it down.

The only caveat of doing your own parallel parenting plan is that there is no legal way to have your toxic ex stick with it. If you haven’t had a court order drafted regarding visitation and access, I suggest you do.

No Contact With Parents – Why You Need to Make Communication With Your Toxic Ex Work

This seems like a lot of effort to “appease” someone who is a garbage person, but there are some very important reasons why you need to try and make communication with your ex work.

Most importantly, if you go no contact with your ex and cut them off from their child, there could be legal ramifications for your actions. Even without a court order, it is assumed that both parents have a right to access their child.

Plus, the more you try to work with them, the better you will look in court. Judges pay attention to those who are being civil and reasonable in these situations.

Overall, unless you have a very good reason to keep your ex out of your child’s life and the court agrees with you, they are going to stick around as long as they want to.

Knowing how to talk to your toxic ex is not only going to make your life easier, but it could help diminish their negative behaviors over time.

Control Communication With Your Toxic Ex

You spent enough time under the control of your toxic ex – now it’s time to take some back!

While you can’t change them or the way they behave, you can establish boundaries when it comes to communication. By doing so, you are gaining back your power – it may seem to be in a small way, but you still are.

How do you communicate with your toxic ex? I’d love to hear any tips you may have! Drop them in the comments below:

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    First off, thank you for writing this. It is very helpful. I deal with my ex wife in the ways you have laid out in this article. I also had to learn the hard way. Short simple statements of fact are all I use now to communicate the plan for visitation. Engaging with her is never a good idea.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re welcome! And thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    What is the best way to approach establishing a Parallel Parenting Plan to an existing order that is a Coparenting Plan with a toxic ex?

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      If there is an existing order in place (I’m assuming through the courts), then it may be difficult to implement an actual parallel parenting plan. However, you can certainly use parallel parenting tactics, such as controlling how you communicate with the other parent, establishing boundaries, and controlling emotions, to reduce conflict in the situation. Here are a couple of articles on this blog that may further help with that question: How to Deal With Challenges When Parenting With a Toxic Ex and How to Communicate in a Parallel Parenting Arrangement

      Reply

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