Life Advice


Health & Spirit

How to handle anxiety when dealing with a hostile ex

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My ex and I divorced about two years ago after years of emotional abuse. We share custody and communicate only by text, as it's still a toxic relationship with a lot of anger on both sides. I try hard to put the kids first, and we attend school events together mostly drama-free, but it causes me a lot of anxiety.

Our daughter's birthday party is this weekend. I am not hosting but will be attending. It's been a tough week with a lot of hostility from my ex and I'm really dreading it. How can I get through and celebrate my kid when I really just want to run away screaming?

-- Post Toxic Divorce

I don't blame you -- that sounds so demoralizing.


You do have a few things in your favor though: Precedent is a big one. Your history with the things you attend together is mostly drama-free. Use that to minimize your dread.

And: Your toxic relationship might be open-ended but a birthday party is closed-ended. You just have to bear it for a few hours. Having been through what you've been through, you have grounds for full confidence in yourself that you can do this.

And: It's still a couple of days away. You have time to plan restorative things for before and after the party.

And: your daughter. There's no better point for you to fix your eyes on to keep your balance.


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