Maintain your cool when dealing with an ex

My son is getting married this summer...The problem is that my ex and his family will also be attending the wedding.

My son is getting married this summer and I wish I was more excited than anxious. The problem is that my ex and his family will also be attending the wedding. The divorce was disastrous, and the 10 years since have been a nightmare. My ex alternately ignores the boys or lavishes them with gifts and money. His family have treated me and the boys very cruelly.

Even though they have a rocky relationship, my son does want his dad to attend the wedding and has also invited his dad’s family, but doesn’t want them there. My sons are not aware of most of the terrible things the family has done to me and don’t know how anxious I am about attending and I’d like to keep it that way.

I have had trouble with my ex and his family at other events in the boys’ lives like school concerts and soccer games and I keep envisioning all the nasty ways his family might cause problems at the wedding. The closer it gets, the more trouble I am having. I am actually worried about getting sick or having a panic attack at the wedding. How am I going to get through this?

This is certainly a difficult situation. I congratulate you for not sharing your feelings with the boys. I can give you some general suggestions that might help you manage the day, but you might also find it useful to talk to a counsellor about your feelings and some more specific ways to manage.

I assume that there will be some other members of your family attending. If there is someone among them who you could confide in and who would be able to help you through the day, and who is also cool headed, enlist them. Ask them to stick close to you so that they are present during any interaction between you and any difficult people.

Maintain your cool. Avoid alcohol, which will impair your judgment and loosen your inhibition. When contact is unavoidable, treat them courteously – even if they are not behaving in kind. Try to keep interactions brief; excuse yourself with the need to perform a task or tend to a guest.

Prepare a few polite and socially acceptable phrases to use in response to just about any provocation. Some examples are: say something complimentary about your son or his new wife, comment on some aspect of the ceremony/photos/food/venue/guests, or just smile and nod. If they are trying to draw you into an argument, try saying “I haven’t thought about it like that before”, or “that’s an interesting point of view”, then finding a reason to leave the conversation.

Every thing you can do to bolster yourself will be helpful; think about what you will be wearing. This may seem a little strange, but if you view your clothes and jewelry as armour, you might choose items that help you feel a little protected.

If you don’t already know how to breathe from your diaphragm, learn how and practice before the wedding. Breathing this way will help you to feel calm and avoid a panic attack. Learning or honing your muscle relaxation skills is also a good idea. On the wedding day, be aware of the tension in your muscles and your breath and work to stay relaxed.

Find a phrase or short affirmation that is leaves you feeling strong/confident/peaceful/hopeful/loving and recite it silently and frequently through the day. Pair that with a few deep breaths and a quick body scan to make sure you are relaxed.

Stop recalling all the past problems and imagining the worst case scenarios for this day. Just thinking these thoughts is stressful and will leave you feeling anxious and vulnerable. Instead focus on your plan for coping.

You didn’t mention any physical violence in the past so I am assuming there is none, however if I am mistaken, you may also need to have a safety plan that includes calling 911.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering of the Denman Green plans for the Kirk Road site. Image, DHA/Ronan Design
Denman Green finds new site for housing

Facing COVID delays, the project reached expiration date on initial site

A fawn stands in a field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
MARS hoping to build fawn complex for rehab

Their goal is to raise $20,000 in a relatively short period of time.

Aspen Park in Comox is the latest school reporting a COVID-19 exposure. Screenshot, Google Maps
Fifth Comox Valley school reports COVID-19 exposure

Exposure at Aspen Park in Comox was reported for Feb. 22

Cumberland Brewery is looking to expand its patio space temporarily for the summer. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland Brewery looks for temporary patio expansion

Move would allow business to spread customers outside in summer months

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo
Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read