5

A few divorced women (ok, maybe many of you) can think of a number of less than flattering things to call your former husband. Think of him however you chose, for as long as you chose, but do it in silence. It is well documented how damaging it is for your children to hear you berate and demean their father. So, you have the luxury of assigning all kinds of names and claims to his behavior and character, but only in your head.

 However, situations will arise when you need to refer to him/introduce him to others. Sometimes this happens in front of the children- in situations related to school, sports, or social settings.  “My ex-husband” is, I suppose, accurate enough. But how do you feel being introduced as the “ex?” How do your children process that never ending reminder of the split of their parents’ marriage?

 Words have the ability to hurt, to set a tone, and create discomfort and even hostility. Bullying has brought to light the negative impact of name calling. Among other interpretations, “ex” has connotations of being disposed of or discarded. How we refer to people is important. When we are called a “bad” name we feel hurt and we literally are hurt as our body reacts physically to the verbal onslaught. Now we know that not only can “sticks and stones” break bones but that words “CAN really hurt you!” In your ongoing attempt to co-parent in peace, consider how just one small change may help lower defenses. As for the children, remember when you reject their parent, you hurt them, too.

“Ex” addresses only the fact that your marriage has ended and ignores the children’s continuing connection with their father. Try introducing him as “my children’s father.” It reinforces for the kids that you respect their ongoing relationship with their father. It is inclusive as it labels what is, rather than what was.

This issue may seem insignificant to you. It certainly is not for your kids, who hear and interpret more then we assume they do. They are not oblivious to your attitude toward their father. My “children’s father” is a clear reminder that the divorce doesn’t change their relationship with each parent. Furthermore, it is a “teachable moment” in that we role model for children both how to behave and the power of our words.

I have heard the increasing use of “Wasband” especially among those who did not have children or when the children aren’t involved in the discussion. The play on words tends to make people relax. It seems less acrimonious than “ex” while still identifying the role he played in your life. It simply says “we once were a couple” and now we aren’t. It evokes no awkward tension for others to deal with.

 I have not heard a counterpart of “Wasband” to describe a prior wife. Perhaps, we need to think about how we want to be addressed by our former spouses and introduce a new word into the lexicon.

 Consider how you would like him to refer to you. Are you comfortable with “My ex, or the depersonalizing (and hostile) “THE ex”? Do you want to be referred to by your first name? How about my “children’s mother”? Of course, there is always “Hey, you!” Are there labels that validate you? What labels are hurtful?

 Most importantly, how do you think of yourself? Often, without realizing it, our inner voice is our most harsh critic. While you don’t have control over how he thinks of you, you do have control over your own thoughts and behavior.

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Donna S. on the 10. Mar, 2013 remarked #

    My ex actually refers to me as his “former wife.” I’ll admit, it feels a bit more civilized and less biting. However, given the fact that he was the one to ask for the divorce, very much against my wishes, I can’t seem to comfortably respond in kind. Maybe in time I will be able to, but not now.

    • Donna Ferber on the 11. Mar, 2013 remarked #

      “Former” is another good option. How about “my original wife”? I suppose there are many options but how many of them are really without any “edge”?

  2. cj golden on the 12. Mar, 2013 remarked #

    I truly believe that while the specific label is important, more so is the tone of voice with which that label is said. “My ex-wife” may be stated in kind terms while “my children’s mother” can sting if voiced with disdain. This, of course, is true of any labels we pin upon another.

    • Donna Ferber on the 12. Mar, 2013 remarked #

      Absolutely. What we say and how we say it has equal weight.

  3. Judy on the 13. Mar, 2013 remarked #

    I do like “former husband”. It is polite and says it all without specifics.
    It does not imply anything about your life together good or bad. It is respectful to what once was a good marriage/relationship.

Leave a Reply to Donna S.