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Communication after Divorce

Updated on December 28, 2010
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Sunshine is a wife, mother of four, a relationship expert, a journalist, a photographer, a public speaker, and author.

If women come from Venus and men come from Mars, then ex-wives and ex-husbands are from the farthest polar extremes of the universe. Matter of fact, they’re from so far away from each other that they not only don’t think the same, they don’t speak the same dialect, or even the same language. They don’t even speak from the same body part. Before people who break up should be allowed to speak to each other, they should have to receive a Doctorate in Ex-Language. This is the only way they can learn to decipher what the other is saying.

In the end of a relationship, there is always an equal amount of good and evil, ying and yang, or whatever you want to call it. It comes down to a balance. One person is always the Antagonist-a bitter angry person hell bent on making life hell for the other, and the other is the reactor-hell bent on defending themselves and proving the other is wrong.

When this is the case, there is no speaking to each other and expecting the other to understand anything you are saying. It’s like two people in a room trying to read the exit instructions in English, but one speaks Spanish and one speaks German. The Spanish man, not understanding the directions will try to tell the German man, “I don’t understand these directions”, causing the German man to stare at him blankly. Next, the Spanish man will repeat his words more loudly, as if the German mad just didn’t hear. Suddenly, the German man yells back at the Spanish man in German “You are very rude”, which makes the Spanish man very angry. Suddenly, they both think the other is a jerk, they won’t talk to each other, and neither one of them can exit the room. Sound familiar?

First, let’s talk about the Antagonist. The Antagonist is very hurt by the death of their relationship, and has a hard time getting over the feelings of love for the other, so instead of dealing with them, the Antagonist turns them to anger. At this point, the anger boils over and turns to hot lava. Now, Hot Lava Wo/man will start with accusations. Sometimes they are lies, and sometimes they are distorted truths…which are also lies. The Antagonist blames the Reactor for everything from the beginning of the relationship up to decades past the relationship. If an Antagonist remarries and the marriage fails, the Antagonist will find a way to blame the Reactor for it. When the Antagonist stubs her/his toe, s/he curses the Reactor. Over time, the ‘distorted truths’ that the Antagonist has created become truth in her/his eyes, making it easier to place blame and accusations on the Reactor. The Antagonist will exhaust amazing amounts of energy and resources trying to stick her/his foot out to trip the Reactor just to see her/him fall on her/his face. People who are drawn to the Antagonist are easily manipulated and molded by the Antagonist, and will blindly follow her/him on her/his quest to take out the Reactor. The Antagonist can’t take responsibility for her/his self and her/his actions.

The Reactor, on the other hand, is always under attack. This makes the Reactor fight back, trying to prove that s/he is right. After being accused of so many things by the Antagonist, the Reactor will spend countless hours redeeming her/himself. The Reactor usually keeps all of the friends from the relationship because the Antagonist has wedged himself away from them or tried to suck them in on her/his side. The Reactor usually feels like s/he’s screaming into a hurricane, and that nobody is listening, turning her/him into a Martyr. The Reactor knows who s/he really is, and can’t believe that anyone would say such horrible things about her/him. Usually the Reactor fights back by watching and waiting for the Antagonist to contradict her/himself (which happens quite often), and anytime the Reactor can catch the Antagonist in a lie and prove it, s/he will let the entire world know.

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A typical text message conversation between an Antagonist and a Reactor may go like this:

Reactor: Please tell our daughter that her animal won first place in the show

Antagonist: I’m sure your daughter would have rather been there, but she’s getting used to disappointment.

Reactor: Well, if you would do a good job and be a parent, she wouldn’t keep having this problem

Antagonist: Yeah, it’s my fault that you won’t ever treat her, it’s my fault she has lice, it’s my fault you cheated on me, it’s my fault we’re divorced.

Reactor: She lives with you, she always has it, it’s documented every time, I never cheated on you, and we’re divorced because you were abusive.

Antagonist: There’s no reason for you to message me right now (At this point, the Reactor is just glad to not be getting yelled at, but before you know it, another message comes through).

Antagonist: It doesn’t matter what this is about, you still always find a way to blame me.

Reactor: Stop acting like an idiot and proving me right.

Antagonist: It must be nice to know that you’re always right, and no one else can make a mistake. We’ll spend the time and money treating her because you won’t, and she’ll just have to live with the disappointment of knowing that you wouldn’t do your job as a mother, and you treat her like an animal.

To the average person, this seems like a very dysfunctional conversation, but with the right knowledge, the trained eye would see this:

Reactor: Our daughter’s animal just won first place, will you please let her know?

Antagonist: Thanks for letting us know her animal took first place, I’m sure she’ll be excited, and it will cheer her up because I said a bunch of mean things about you to her to make her feel sad, and like it’s your fault she couldn’t go. I did that because am upset that you left her here for us to treat instead of taking her and treating her. I am tired, and I’m broke. I can’t afford the treatment, and frankly, I don’t know how.

Reactor: I’m upset that I’ve treated her over and over just to send her back to your house to get it again. I set a boundary and refuse to keep doing that. I’m also upset that instead of considering my recommendations, you just do the exact opposite just to make me mad.

Antagonist: I’m just so hurt that we aren’t together any more, and I feel like hurting you, and I’d feel better if we just didn’t talk.

Antagonist: I feel like you’re punishing me.

Reactor: I just want you to do what’s right.

Antagonist: I’m sorry, I made a mistake. We will treat her because it’s the right thing to do.

When the Antagonist says, “ROAR”, s/he really means, “I’m hurt and angry” and lashes

out. When the Reactor fights back, it’s always a reaction to the attack. If you take a step

back from the conversation, you can see that what you are hearing is not what is being

said. Once you can understand the language of the ex, you can take steps to prevent

acting like the Antagonist or the Reactor.


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