One of my favourite questions to ask my clients when they are telling me about all of the “terrible” things their ex said or did is “so what?”
You may find this question uncaring, but I promise there is method to my madness.
This question is in no way meant to invalidate your experience with your ex. It is part of an attempt to separate the facts of what s/he did from the story you tell yourself about how it is such a problem, and then to rate how much that story really matters. In other words, it is a tool to stop being triggered by your ex’s shenanigans.
You cannot control you ex
Newsflash – we’ve discussed this before, but it merits reminding. You have absolutely no control over the things that your ex says and does. I think we can all agree on that.
Recently on a blog about not being triggered we discussed the only part we can control is what we think about what s/he says and does.
Most of us have a story of how his/her words and actions are a problem. I am trying to poke some holes in your story. Do you have to see your ex’s behaviour as a problem? Maybe it isn’t really.
The Manual You have for your Ex
The next time your ex says and does something you think is inappropriate I want you to ask yourself – what did I want my ex to do? That will uncover the Manual that you are keeping for your ex.
For those of you who are new to my blog, let me explain to you the concept of a Manual. It is a secret instruction guide for how we expect other people to behave.
Let’s say your ex feeds the kids McDonalds for lunch both Saturday and Sunday. Maybe you think that your kids should not be allowed to eat McDonalds more than once a week. You have just uncovered your Manual for how your ex should or shouldn’t feed the children. Notice the word should. That is the telltale sign that you have a Manual.
Let’s first establish the problem is not that your ex fed Mcdonalds both days. (Your kids sure don’t think this is a problem. Neither does your ex.) It is only a problem to you because it does not comply with your Manual for how a good parent feeds their child.
The more manuals you maintain for your ex…the more you will be disappointed.
You know I recommend dropping your Manual for your ex. Not all of us can completely achieve this, so I have created a new tool called the “so what” meter.
Ask yourself “so what?”
Before you are seething with hostility because your ex did not behave as you might have wished, I want you to slow down and ask yourself “so what?”.
Your brain will come up with a million reason’s that the behaviour is a “huge” problem to your kids. Brains are really good at catastrophizing and trying to keep you and your kids safe from perceived danger. This is where you can apply my “so what” meter.
Rate your ex’s shenanigans on the “so what” meter
If a child is not physically endangered, the unwanted behaviour scores under 5/10 on the meter. What your ex said or did may not be ideal, but nobody is being significantly harmed. No need to freak out. Release your breath. Nothing has gone wrong here.
On the polar opposite, if the behaviour puts your child in danger, such as driving your toddler without a car seat, the “so what” meter is 10/10. Feel as horrified as necessary to take aggressive action to protect your kids from more of this behaviour.
What about the ex who discusses legals in front of the kids? Where does that fit on the “so what” meter? This is different for everyone, but I would encourage you to keep it under a 5/10. Your ex will say stupid things to your kids. The more freaked out you get about it, the more oxygen you give the flames. I prefer to believe that it is no biggie and rate it a 3. Behaviour I would never condone or personally participate in, but I won’t get my knickers in a knot about it. That way when my kid asks me about it, I am totally calm, confident and happy to discuss any questions they may have. How I show up as the healthy parent will always trump my ex’s shenanigans.