What can you do if your ex is simply not responding?
I had a client recently – Lucy (not her real name) – whose ex-husband had gone silent.
He did not respond to any letters or any communication. Lucy felt this was rude and disrespectful to both her and her solicitor. More than that though, she felt that it showed contempt for her as a person, and it made her question her own worth.
Her ex’s behaviour and actions (or rather lack of action) were affecting how she saw herself.
I asked Lucy whether her ex’s lack of response said more about her or him….. That one didn’t take long for her to answer! It said much more about him than about her.
Here are my top tips to free yourself from the negative impact of your ex’s lack of engagement on your feelings:
Remember you get to choose how you feel
Whilst you cannot control your ex’s behaviour, you can control how you feel, how you respond and how you behave. This is your Zone of Power.
When you get angry or upset due to your ex’s actions, and find yourself saying, “why can’t he/she just xxx”, or “I wish I could make him/her do/say/understand yyy”, then you are falling outside your Zone of Power, and the inevitable result is frustration. Especially when the problem is that your ex is non-responsive; you can’t make them respond. You can’t make them react the way you want them to. You CAN always choose your own responses and feelings.
NHS – How to control your anger
All the while Lucy’s ex did not respond, and she allowed it to make her feel frustrated or upset, or angry at what she interpreted as his rudeness and contempt, she was sliding out of her Zone of Power, and enabling his actions to have control her reactions and responses.
Easy to say I hear you cry! What can you do to take back your power, and get back into your Zone of Power?
You have all the resources you need!
The first powerful resource you have is your breath. Your breath can overpower your thoughts, slow your heart rate and lower your stress levels.
Breathe in counting to 5, hold for 2 and breathe out slowly counting to 8. Repeat until you feel calm. This brings oxygen back into the brain and as you can’t count and think at the same time, so it stops your thoughts. Win-win!
Once you’re feeling calmer, take a big piece of paper, and brainstorm answers to these questions:
- What are all the good things in my life?
- What am I grateful for?
- What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?
- What have I done in the last month/year that I am proud of?
- What qualities and strengths do I have that would help me right now?
Stick your brainstorm up somewhere that you can see it regularly every day. Remind yourself of all the good things, and all resources you have. Sit for a moment and reflect on your power and strength. Really feel that power and strength in your heart and body and imagine it protecting you like a shield, or a suit of armour. Imagine yourself putting on that shield or armour next time you feel the frustration rising, and imagine it bouncing right off.
Now stand tall in front of a mirror, with your shoulders back, head held high. Breathe deeply, look yourself in the eye, and know that you are resourceful and worthy! Tell yourself out loud how resourceful you are, using examples from your list of things you are proud of and have achieved.
Tell the story differently
Notice what story you are telling yourself about your ex’s refusal to engage. What assumptions might you be making? What else could it mean? For example, could it mean that they are afraid and acting from a place of fear? Burying their head in the sand?
Separation and Divorce – what to expect
How could you look at it differently?
When you tell the story differently with your focus on you, your strengths and resilience, notice how that changes how you feel. Instead of “he isn’t responding and I’m just so angry”, try “although my ex’s lack of response is frustrating, I know I am doing the best I can and I have already achieved so much”. Focus on how far you have come, and what you have achieved.
Throughout my divorce proceedings I felt angry, frustrated and agitated and these were feelings my Solicitor didn’t really have time for (and paying a solicitor to deal with your feelings is very expensive!).
She needed to crack on with the legal side of things. She suggested that I contact a Divorce Coach and it was the best thing I ever did. It really calmed the situation down in my head and I started to think rationally and was able to make decisions, which ultimately led me to helping my lawyer.
Get clear on what you CAN do
Instead of focussing on their lack of response, get clear about what you can do. Get the advice you need on the steps you could take now to move things forward. That might mean speaking to your solicitor, or a financial adviser, or another professional. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will all go away.