Dealing with a Passive Aggressive Co-Parent in NJ Divorce Cases

Advising Divorce Clients in Garwood, Elizabeth, Rahway, Clark, Roselle, Roselle Park, and throughout Union County, Essex County, and northern Middlesex County.

Dealing with a Passive Aggressive Co-ParentDivorce or any form of ending a relationship is often an emotional and traumatic event. Often there are residual feelings, positive or negative, that remain after the relationship has ended. In cases where children are involved, co-parenting can be difficult in such an emotionally charged environment. Though the law can help regulate active behavior many co-parents who may still want to “hit back” at their former partner may turn to passive-aggressive behaviors whether consciously or unconsciously.  A recent study published by Psychology Today asserts that while anger itself is generally experienced as an uncomfortable emotion, the passive-aggressive person derives genuine pleasure out of frustrating others, hence our label of the behavior as “the angry smile”. Given that a passive-aggressive person can feel rewarded by this behavior, it is not likely to stop unless it is addressed.

Recognize the signs and understand why they behave the way they do

The first step to managing a passive-aggressive ex is to recognize the signs and understand why they behave the way they do.

Some of the most common signs of passive-aggressive behavior include:

  • Withdrawing and sulking, as opposed to stating opinions or needs.
  • Using words like “Fine” and “Whatever” to shut down a discussion and hinder communication.
  • Procrastination or carrying out tasks inefficiently.

Examples of passive-aggressive behavior

It is normal for passive-aggressive people to hide their own hostility while provoking hostility in others. They will often use indirect means to resist requests, break rules, and express anger. Examples of passive-aggressive behavior that can complicate a co-parenting arrangement include:

  • Refusal to communicate in a timely manner
  • Scheduling special activities with the kids during your parenting time
  • Consistently paying child support late
  • Consistently not holding up pledges or promises
  • Refusing direct communication and often using the children as messengers
  • Provoking hurtful emotions in their co-parent and then blaming them for the reaction
  • Using personal information in a way to provoke hurtful feelings or emotions

Effective Strategies for Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Co-Parent

Though it can be very frustrating having to interact with a passive-aggressive person it is recommended to take great care not to get angry. Understanding how your passive-aggressive co-parent thinks will help you anticipate and deflect their hostility and not waste time fuming. Dealing with a passive-aggressive person is always delicate as they will often deny any wrongdoing and act persecuted. Given that anger is the response and reward that they actually want it may actually cause an increase in their passive-aggressive behavior.

To disarm your passive-aggressive ex it is recommended that you:

Remain calm…

Remain calm because becoming angry will just make your ex feel that they have “won” and is likely to invite more covert aggression. Finding a way to vent away from your toxic co-parent can go a long way toward lowering your stress level.

Try to focus on the positive

Try to focus on the positive. Attempt to shift your mood by focusing on what’s going well. Writing a daily gratitude list can help you concentrate on the good things in your life and remove your mind and emotions from the situation.

Model appropriate behavior to your children

Make an attempt to model appropriate behavior to your children. Given that you can’t control how your ex acts you should not sink to their level. It is important not to resort to criticizing your co-parent; instead, focus on teaching your kids effective communication and relationship skills.

Setting Limits

The setting of limits is critical. Being angry or lecturing will not stop your co-parent from pushing boundaries. Protect yourself by stating your limits and staying firm with those limits. If your ex is violating the court order, contact your attorney.

Stick to the facts when communicating

Communicate when necessary but stick to facts. Expressing your feelings or sharing personal details may only give your co-parent information and ammunition to use against you. Communicate only what’s required for co-parenting, with as little personality as necessary.

Contact Your Attorney if Behavior Violates a Court Order

It is important to note that if passive-aggressive behavior results in a violation of a court order, such as a child support or alimony award or raises to the level of harassment it is critical to contact your attorney as soon as possible. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself.

Consult a Union County NJ Divorce Attorney to Help Walk You Through the Process

At Law Office of Edward S. Cooper, our attorneys are experienced in supporting clients across in Rahway, Clark, Roselle, Roselle Park, Garwood, Elizabeth, and throughout Union County, Essex County, and northern Middlesex County in all divorce and co-parenting procedures, including drafting comprehensive child custody and support agreements.

We know the circumstances surrounding a divorce or break up can be divisive and complicate co-parenting, and we focus on finding solutions that ensure swift conclusions that support the physical, mental, and emotional health of our clients and their families.

To speak with our firm today in a comprehensive and confidential case assessment regarding your divorce, please contact us online, or through our Linden, NJ office at (908) 481-4625.