Another one of the many things that you can count on when involved in a high-conflict divorce and custody situation – harassing, accusing, angry, vulgar, abusive emails. Email is another vehicle for the high-conflict ex to continue their bullying tactics. Everyone has big “e-mail muscles.”
Receiving such e-mails is a very unfortunate and unpleasant experience. They can be quite vicious and rather upsetting. They target you directly and it’s normal to want to react in kind, which is exactly what your ex wants, to keep you engaged as they are feeling abandoned. It’s important that you do not do this. There will be times to ignore such emails completely. Other times, you will find that you can ignore most of the angry content and simply address a matter that is relevant (oftentimes about the children) in succinct, professional, even courteous manner. You can take the advice offered on our communications page regarding low-contact to all forms of communication.
Here is a little primer we like to call: “What You Get… What You See” – In these examples, aside from finding a great deal of similarity to what you’ve probably already received, you will begin to develop the foundation for email low-contact, keep yourself from being triggered to respond in kind, and protect yourself from giving the other side documented fodder for use against you in court-related matters.
EXAMPLE #1 – WHAT YOU GET:
Background: The issue is about taking the children to a doctor’s appointment.
Just so you know, you’re not father of the year. You were never there for me and the children during our marriage. The only good thing you ever brought to the marriage was the genetic material that makes up half of the kids. Aside from being a total asshole, I’m surprised you were ever even able to get it up to make them, you’re such a fag. Why don’t you actually help with their upbringing and take them to the appointment? Or are you too busy fucking your slut girlfriend to take the time and do something for the kids? The appointment is at 1PM on Wednesday. And don’t send me some long-winded bullshit email reply, either. You don’t control me anymore.
Oh, how I can imagine one would want to reply to that. One might want to talk about how manly they are and start defending just how involved a father you were all those years. You might want to talk about what a wonderful provider and protector you were for the family. You might even want to tell her how cruel and unnecessary her “genetic material” comment was.
It’s not necessary when you see the email only for what is important, and make a determination as to whether or not it warrants a response at all. In the above example, there is important information pertaining to the children that might warrant a response. Let’s find out…
EXAMPLE #1 – WHAT YOU SEE:
The children have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday at 1PM. Can you take them?
That’s it. Oh, but it’s not that simple. She fired a nastygram to you and you instantly felt your blood-pressure rise. You were already loaded up and ready to respond with a “reality check.” These are the times where you take a deep breath and walk away. Then you come back and look at the email again. It’s not “what you get” that needs to be addressed. It’s “what you see” that needs to be addressed.
In the above example, there is a relevant issue pertaining to the children that can be acknowledged and to which you may be inclined to respond: The doctor’s appointment for the children and whether or not you can take them. Nothing else in the email needs to be addressed. You save it, because it might be useful in court later. Regarding what needs your attention – you act as if there is no other text in the email aside from the request for the doctor’s appointment.
EXAMPLE #2 – WHAT YOU GET:
I saw you out with your new boyfriend the other night. What a fat, ugly bastard he is. He can’t possibly be half the man I was, just ask your girlfriends, half of whom I had sex with after dumping your fat ass. You’ll never amount anything, you stupid whore. We’re not even officially divorced yet and you’ve hitched up to your next gravy-train. I think I’m going to find out who he is and let him know what kind of cold, dead fish you are in the sack, you fat cow. Next time I see you out at the bar, I’m going to buy you a drink – a diet shake. Filing for a divorce from you was the best thing I ever did!
What a sweetheart this guy is. For someone who wants a divorce, he sure is paying a lot of attention to Melissa’s life. Of course, you might be inclined to set him straight on the facts regarding his behavior during the marriage. You might want to take a shot at his manhood and flex your own e-mail muscles to show him that you will not back down from such abusive rants. But… does this really warrant a response? Let’s find out…
EXAMPLE #2 – WHAT YOU SEE:
Absolutely nothing. There is no content that is relevant to your divorce, custody, child support, or any other possible issue requiring a response. Therefore, you simply file this away and get on with your day.
Think of this as a behavioral issue. Your ex is like a little kid screaming to get their way. They want you to respond to them to make them feel involved and important in your life, and get you paying attention to them. So, they write the nastiest thing possible. They do it for 2 reasons. One – is that it makes them feel better about themselves. The second – is to get the desired response from you. If you respond, you are telling them that the next time they want attention from you, all they have to do is send another nastygram and the dance starts. It’s analogous to the child who throws a temper tantrum in the grocery store to get a candy bar and the parent gives in just to get the kid to stop screaming. That child is more likely to repeat the behavior the next time you take them to the store. The best solution to stop harassing behavior from your ex is to IGNORE it, unless it can be addressed legally. They will eventually learn that you aren’t going to take the bait.
RULES FOR RESPONDING TO EMAILS
- An issue with the children must be addressed, eg. schedule changes, activities, doctor appointments, education concerns, behavioral issues.
- You are accused of specific abuse, deny it unequivocally so you have a trail if they try to take action against you and they can’t say you never answered their concerns. You only need to deny it once, and keep it simple: “I have never *done the abuse they accuse you of*” or “this is actually what happened, thank you for your concern but our child is not in danger.”
- Keep emotion out of the reply.
- State only facts within the reply.
- Send yourself copies (cc or bcc the email to yourself).
- Ignore the bullshit that is irrelevant.
Low contact communication can be difficult to learn, so we invite you to post any communications you need help with on our message boards so we can help you form a reply.