Six Good Reasons to be Nice to Your Ex

by Bret Reece


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When my first child was still in the womb, my mom told me that people don't have any idea what their capacity is for love until they become a parent. I smiled and acted like I understood, but when my son was born, I suddenly understood what she meant. It’s not that we don’t love our spouses as much. It’s just that the kind of love a parent has for his or her child adds another dimension altogether. This is very difficult to understand before one actually becomes a parent.

Every coin has two sides, though, and along with this great capacity for love comes added capacity for much darker feelings. The protectiveness a parent feels for his or her child is literally animal in nature. I felt this the first time I held my son in my arms. I silently knew that from then on, I’d do whatever it took to protect him, no matter what the consequence.

When people divorce, negative emotions run out of control. Months or even years of pent-up frustration, hurt, and anger finally find their way to the surface. Add a custody battle to the mix and it’s no wonder divorcing parents are often so bitter and hurtful in their dealings with each other.

Making the effort to find ways to be nice to your ex, however, pays off. Here are six reasons to go the extra thousand miles and be nice to your ex at all costs:

#1: Because your ex is the mother/father of your child(ren): 
Children, even very young ones, are smarter and more observant than most people think. They understand, and learn from, much more than just our spoken words. They pick up on our gestures, our facial expressions, the tone of our voices, and more. Remember, when dealing with your ex, that “your ex” isn’t the role that he or she plays in your child’s life. Your ex is your child’s parent and your child will have a hard time dealing with, and later forgiving you for, treating his or her parent badly. How do you feel when someone talks badly about your parents?

#2: Because they'll be more likely to be nice to you: 
People are nice to people who are nice to them. Even if your ex goes out of his or her way to be spiteful and rude, being nice will tend to disarm him or her. It won’t always work, but when it does, everyone involved will have a better day – including your children (read on).

#3: Because they'll be more likely to be nice to your child(ren): 
We’ve all had bad days and have not treated our children as well as we should have. There’s a reason why they say that we always take it out on the ones we love. Anger is hard to control and often comes out of us in ways that we didn’t intend. Children are already innocent bystanders in a custody case; why make them victims as well? If being nice to your ex, even when it almost hurts to do so, means your child will have a better day, isn’t it worth it?

#4: Because it's a small world/town/office and things get around: 
It’s normal to vent about one’s ex to a certain extent, but do you know anyone that just won’t shut up about it? How do you feel about that person? Did you and your ex have any friends who are still friends with both of you? What do you think they say to your ex when they spend time together? If you make it a habit to refuse to talk badly about others (even your ex), people will respect you more. They’ll also be more willing to trust and confide in you.

#5: Because you might end up in court: 
One of the things I tell people in custody situations is, “If you love your kids and want to protect their interests, keep a journal of everything that happens that’s even remotely related to the custody situation.” The journal serves as your memory during custody cases. Are you keeping one? If you aren’t, start one as soon as you finish this article. If you are, think about this. What if the judge decides one day that he or she wants to read it? Do you want the judge thinking that you just came off the set of the Jerry Springer show? Now, what if your ex is keeping a journal? Do you really think that the general tone of your behavior toward your ex isn’t easily recognizable in his or her journal? Think again. Contrary to popular opinion, judges are smart people. They’ve dealt with many, many custody cases and they’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your judge is willing and able to decide what kind of person you are, but remember that this judgment is based on the information he or she has available. You are in control of what that information is.

#6: Because you'll feel better afterward: 
Most people inherently know the difference between right and wrong. When you’ve done the right thing, you know it. When you’ve done the wrong thing, you know it. Your kids will know it, too.

"Lead the life that will make you kindly and friendly to everyone about you, and you will be surprised what a happy life you will lead." - Charles M. Schwab

In so many ways, being nice to your ex is simply in the best interests of your child(ren). Yes, lashing out with a sharp tongue and a cruel wit can sometimes feel good in the short run. But it’s a very short run, indeed. In the long run, everyone’s life will be better if you do your best, every day, to be nice.


Copyright 2006 – Bret Reece
Bret Reece is the author of Custody Toolbox for Windows, an all-in-one custody manager for parents in custody sharing situations and custody battles.  You can read more about Custody Toolbox at  You can reach Bret at  (This article may be freely reproduced provided it is unaltered and the above information is included.)


More Child Custody Related Articles

- Five Common Child Custody Myths
- The ABCs of Custody Journals
- Four Tips To Ensure Divorcing Parents Do Not Engage In Alienating Parenting Behavior
- Helping Your Children Handle Divorce

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