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My Ex has spread rumors and lies about me. What can I do?

Dear Deb:
My Ex has spread rumors and lies about me to neighbors, friends and family. What can I do?
Dear Concerned:
Your Ex’s motivation for lying about you could be an attempt to control the narrative about your divorce and win supporters for their “side” of the story. They could also be trying to inflict damage out of anger or revenge. Or maybe they want to stay front and center on your radar and are trying to get you to continue paying them attention.
Whatever the case, it’s best not to attempt to control your Ex. Mainly because you can’t. The good news is you have complete control over your response and reaction. Here are some things to think about that I hope will help:
Let’s all acknowledge this sucks. It’s terrible to have to deal with, and you don’t deserve it. It’s hurtful, stressful and blatantly unfair. It’s important to recognize, acknowledge and work through the feelings this stirs up. You may feel angry, powerless, defensive and deeply hurt—all of these and more would be completely understandable. If you’re struggling with this, it’s very self-supporting to seek a therapist, coach or wise friend to talk to.
Defending yourself will probably make you feel worse. Just because there are some negative rumors about you, you don’t have to feel compelled to go out and set the record straight. Trying to defend yourself, explain, or tell your side will be unsatisfying, frustrating, and ineffective. As unfair as it might be, the more defensive you get, the worse you look. It will devolve into a “he said, she said, they said” situation, which is unwinnable.
But you can say something classy. If you want to address it or someone brings it up to you, watch what you say. Instead of defensively counterarguing each falsehood, try one of these three more dignified options:
“I’m disappointed my Ex is saying things that aren’t true. But I really don’t want to spend any more energy talking about it or defending myself. I’m sure you understand.”
“I know my Ex must be really hurting to lash out at me by spreading rumors. But I don’t want to give it any more of my attention. Thanks for understanding.”
“I’m sad my Ex is lying about me. But I’m ready to let it go and move on with my recovery. Thanks for your support.”
Then, let it go. Add “What people think about me” to the list of things you can’t control. Happily, people who know, love and care about you will consider the source and discount the rumors.
Whatever else is driving your Ex, the more you react, the more they will get “rewarded” by getting under your skin. Ignoring them is your best bet. The more you ignore it, the less satisfaction your Ex will get from it.
Stooping to their level is a mistake. Taking the high road is always a great choice. Nothing will make your Ex look better than if you meet a lie with an equally damaging story. Keep your head high, and they won’t be able to do any long-lasting damage. Being a kind and compassionate person is your BEST defense. The truer you are to yourself, the less important the rumors will seem. Eventually, this will blow over.
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Deb Purdy is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce.
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