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Bad-Mouthing Your Ex?

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Here's why you need to stop. Now.

woman angry and yelling

Single Mom Seeking and Dr. Leah: Surely, you've noticed this: many mothers bad-mouth their children's fathers on their blogs.

We understand that blogging is an outlet. You need a safe place to vent. And you get comfort from connecting to other women who "get" what's happening in your life.

Bad-mouthing your kid's father, however, is destructive to your child.

All of it: the name-calling, the derisive nicknames, and the endless recitations of his inadequacies. Kids quickly learn that no matter how involved Dad is -- or isn't -- they are still "half that person."

You might know that both Dr. Leah and I had quite traumatic experiences with the fathers of our children.

We have plenty we could say in public about them. But we don't.

So, why do so many single moms continue to bad-mouth fathers, either in person or online?

After all, we know that kids get hurt when one parent criticizes the other in front of your children.

If Mom persists in bad-mouthing Dad, kids must cope with thinking of themselves as "half liars" or "half irresponsible jerks" or "half lazy deadbeats." Coping with the "bad half" dilemma is an enormous developmental challenge for kids.

On top of social pressures, academic demands, and all the rest, kids will be haunted by doubts about their self-worth based on what they hear Mom say.

So, why do parents -- who are clearly loving and responsible -- continue to bad-mouth their kids' dads?

Many of you might be caught in a "perfect storm" of broken relationships, legal system snafus and catch-22s, and economic woes. We understand.

So, here you are, sitting at the computer screen while the kids are asleep or pleasantly occupied, clicking away. You might feel like you're chatting with trusted friends.

Blogging -- and commenting -- often feels like chatting behind closed doors.

It's not.

Even if you leave a negative comment on a blog about your ex, your kids can find it and read it. Sure, you might be anonymous, but your babies will one day be tech-savvy and literate. And they'll have friends with those same skills.

Indeed, anonymous blogging is an oxymoron, don't you think?

We'd like to know:

Do you rely on blogs -- writing a blog, or commenting on them -- to deal with the anger and disappointment you feel re: your ex?

next: MALEorexia -- A New Guy's Disease?
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
AmyElle July 8, 2009, 1:37 PM

I personally try very hard not to badmouth my “wasband” at all. I personally feel that if I am truly forgiving, have gotten past it all, then what is there to say? Sure, I have years of stored up thoughts. However, I am simply not putting it out there. I do have a personal journal, handwritten though. Could the kids pick it up and read it? Yes, but I don’t put things in there that I am not willing to say to his face. I am lucky though. I have a pretty great ex. He’s an ex because of issues we had, not because of his parenting.

Jeffrey Levine July 8, 2009, 5:57 PM

Thank you for speaking about this topic so clearly. I would hope that it’s common sense that bad-mouthing anyone (including exes, or co-workers, or friends) says far more about the one DOING the bad-mouthing, than the object of their words. In my practice I have learned that those who are willing to bad-mouth are the ones who were unable to communicate without blame and judgment even during the marriage. My suggestion is that if you are driven to bad-mouth, use that as a clue that you have some growing to do in the communication arena, and put your focus back where it belongs - on yourself.
Just a thought. Thank you Rachel for bringing this up.
- Jeffrey

ame i. July 8, 2009, 6:28 PM

I don’t have an ex, but my late husband(father) of my daughters could be a real butt-head.
I never say anything in front of our daughters, though.

Taylor July 15, 2009, 11:43 PM

For the past year since our separation I have not bad mouthed the kids’ dad. However it has not been the right thing for me or for my kids. They don’t know the truth about anything and so my reactions (which I tried to hide, but leak out because I am human and not a robot) then look crazy to my kids. My ex flaunted his relations with other women in my face, and continues to do so, and even uses my kids to continue doing this. Not telling the truth is driving me crazy and driving a wedge between me and my kids. I will do it calmly, simply, and with acknowledgement of their feelings, but continuing to keep his secrets just feels like I am continuing to allow myself to be abused emotionally. For once, I choose me.

Steve July 23, 2009, 11:48 PM

Why do parents — who are clearly loving and responsible — continue to bad-mouth their kids’ dads?

First, the premise is false - that mothers, single or otherwise - are more vocal about their ex-spouses behavior, etc.. than their ex-husbands.

The statistics clearly show that acts resulting in restraining orders and incidents of harassment, ‘domestic’ violence, assaults and murder are overwhelmingly the responsibility of the male ex-spouse.

Those acts are often preceded by extended periods of harassing emails, phone calls, ‘visits’ and stalking.

Maybe its that males quickly abandon words for violence to offset their inevitable personal and financial embarassmment - in front of their children - for having abandoned their marital vow for what always turns out to be just ‘another woman’.

One only has to review the rantings of such ‘celebrities’ as Charlie Sheen and Alec Baldwin to get a good look at the private hell that many women are subjected to by their former male spouses.

Alec Baldwin may or may not be blogging about his hatred of his ex-wife, but he has made it clear he intends to write about ‘parental alienation’.

I would suggest the transcript of the phone message he left for his daughter would be a great starting point: what he says to his daughter about her mother is a textbook example.

bea line February 25, 2010, 1:48 AM

My mother totally bad mouthed my father when i was a child. My father was pretty bad ie cheated & very uncaring to his kids & wife (no financial support or anything else). I understand why my mother did this & I’m not sure if it had any real bad affects on us kids. Sure it would have been brilliant to have a caring loving father but that wasn’t so. I think it’s slightly exasggerated the whole parent bad mouthing parent thing.
I am friends with my father & have as a good a relationship as I can with the kind of man he is. So big deal 1 parent can’t control themselves…It’s called being human to a certain degree..

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Peaceful Dad November 2, 2010, 3:55 PM

I want to say that I appreciate the post about bad mouthing dads. Listen I know that there are some really bad fathers out there, I have seen them. When I was going through our divorce, my wife used Facebook to tell our friends and my business partners that I was a drug addict that needed rehab. This was very damaging because I actually lost my business partner because of it. I have never used drugs, I am a very responsible dad and because of her accusations not only made me look bad but also made herself look bad in court. When you say damaging things to get back at the other it only potentially hurts the child. I refused to bite back so to speak because I wanted to protect my son!! I’m glad I did!!


Peaceful Dad

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Lost in Laporte April 25, 2011, 8:38 PM

I can’t handle the emotional stress so that I decided to give my child to the deadbeat father fighting for custody after eight years of no contact from him. I told her that we will see each other when she is grown because the father hurts me to my core. I plan on letting them be a family without me. It may be for the best. I hope she’ll understand later.

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