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When Ex-Bashing is All in the Family

Dear Deb:

My brother has been my rock during my divorce. My problem is that while I’m actually starting to move past my anger at my Ex, my brother can’t. He constantly makes snide comments about my Ex. It’s wearing me down but I don’t want my brother to think I don’t appreciate all he’s done by complaining. What should I do?
P. H.

Dear P. H.

It’s not unusual for family members to continue to express protectiveness in the form anger and judgment, even as you begin to move past it. The reality is that, by fuming at your Ex on your behalf, your brother is casting you in the role of helpless victim. First of all, know that you can’t control how your brother feels about your Ex. He may never be able to let go of the bad blood—that’s not your responsibility.

Having said that, you can control what and how much you share with him going forward. If you’re starting to move on but are in the habit of venting to your brother, you are pouring gas on the fire. Save your rants for a coach, therapist, neutral friend or your journal. If you stop complaining about your Ex, your brother might follow your lead and drop the subject.

If your brother continues to bag on your Ex even after you stop, it’s time to lovingly set some boundaries. Express your appreciation for all of his love and support. Let him know that you have decided to focus on the good that came out of your marriage as a way to reclaim your power and move on. Tell him that the best way he can support you going forward is to stick to the old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, please don’t say anything at all.”

If he still can’t help himself, consider ways you can give yourself space. Know that as you evolve, the people closest to you may not grow at your pace. You can keep the connection that you value while gradually shifting the focus. You may want to see or talk to him a little less for a while as you step more fully into your post-divorce life. When you do see him, shake things up. Catch a movie or go bowling instead of hanging out talking. When you talk, shift the focus from the past to what you, and he, are doing next!

If you have a question for “Dear Deb” please submit it on the contact page. While I can’t respond to every question, I’ll do my best to choose ones that I think will help the most people.

Deb Purdy, is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of
Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter and Happier After Divorce.

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