How to Deal With a Destructive Parent: Part Two

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How to Deal With a Destructive Parent: Part Two

Read part one of this series.

I’ll never forget receiving a call from a woman I’ll call Carrie. She had recently remarried and needed some marital counseling. But what caught me off guard was the fact that she was referred by her children’s stepmother, Patty.

“I have come to trust Patty and her recommendations,” Carrie said. “But it didn’t start out that way—when she first married my ex-husband, I thought she was the enemy and I was threatened by her. But she has proven herself time and again to be decent and pure of heart. I actually consider her a friend at this point.” Wow! There is power in determined goodness.

What if repentance does not happen in the heart of the destructive parent?

If repentance does not occur in the heart of the destructive parent, the behavior is between that person and God. In the meantime, there may be suffering, but we can trust God to do what is right and to see us through the trial.

What’s In It For Me?

What do we get for obedience? Another passage in the Bible, (Proverbs 25:22) concludes that the Lord will reward those who do good to those who are evil. The evil of some parents can be overcome in this life with good, others cannot.  Either way, the Lord will notice your sacrifice and reward you. 

Until then we can live this way (see Romans 12:14-20):

  • Bless and do not curse.
  • Do everything we can to live in harmony.
  • Do not be proud. This includes being willing to associate with the other parent despite their behavior.
  • Do not become conceited.
  • In public, be extra careful to do what is right.
  • Do not take revenge.

 

What’s Next?  Actions Steps For Couples

  1. Maintain flexible boundaries.At times we will choose to “go the extra mile” and at other times we will say, “No.”
  2. Notice our part of the ongoing conflict.Any time we try to change a difficult ex-spouse—even if for understandable moral reasons—we inadvertently invite resistance.  Learn to let go of what we can’t change (if we couldn’t change him or her when we were married, what makes us think we can now?) so we don’t unknowingly keep the between-home power struggles alive. 
  3. Keep “business meetings” impersonal to avoid excessive conflict.Face-to-face interaction has the most potential for conflict.  Use phone, email, or fax when possible.  Keep children from being exposed to negative interaction when it’s within our power.
  4. Use a script to help  manage ourselves.Before making a phone call, take time to write out our thoughts including what we’ll say and not say. Stick to the business at hand and don’t get hooked into old arguments.
  5. Wrestle through forgiveness.Hurt feelings from the past are the number one reason ex-spouses overreact with one another. We need to do our part by striving to forgive our ex for the offenses of the past (and present). This helps us manage our emotions in current negotiations.

 © 2011 by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved.

Related Posts on This Topic:

Stepfamilies: The Loyalty Burden of Care

Helping Children Cope with Separation and Divorce

Editor's Note:

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Written by Ron Deal

Ron Deal

Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of FamilyLife Blended™ (a ministry of FamilyLife®), a popular conference speaker, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s, books, and curriculum for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, and the book The Smart Stepfamily Marriage. His one-minute radio feature FamilyLife Blended can be heard daily on radio stations throughout North America and online. © [2016] by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved.
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