Dealing With a High-Conflict Ex-Wife During the Holidays

Updated on March 13, 2018

No Peaceful or Easy Feeling

The court order says very specifically that Christmas with the kids begins at 6:00 PM on the last day of school. Yet there you and your husband sit, in the ex-wife's driveway, staring at a dark and empty house. The "ours" children you have with your husband are in the backseat asking where their siblings are and wondering why they are not coming out the front door.

Your husband shakes his head because the thousands of dollars he spent on lawyer fees for a new court order did not improve the situation. You resist the urge to flip the bird to the dark house and swallow your anger. Your children are once again missing their brothers and sisters on yet another holiday. As your husband backs out of the driveway you turn to deal with the tiny tears in the backseat and vow this will not ruin the upcoming celebration.

Sound familiar? If yes, this article is for you! I will outline some steps for stepmoms to take that will save your sanity during the holidays.

Experienced This?

Does the ex-wife in your life ignore the court order and withhold the children on holidays?

See results

You Didn't Cause It

If you read my first article I suggested you, the stepmom, cease all contact with the ex-wife as of yesterday. I continue to endorse that statement, especially during the holiday season. You will soon see that even if both your and your husband do not contact the ex-wife she will manufacture "evidence" and drama to justify withholding the children for the holidays. (Photo of actual messages received from the ex-wife I deal with. Names changed to protect the children. Yes holidays have a very specific section in the court order and no, it never makes a difference.)

If you are a sane and decent human being and act accordingly, there is absolutely no action on your part that has any influence or control over the actions or behaviors of the ex-wife. You and only you are responsible for your actions and behaviors. The ex-wife, and only the ex-wife, is responsible for her actions and behaviors. Make sure your behaviors reflect the best version of you (no yelling cuss words at that empty house during the Thanksgiving exchange!). Make peace with whatever shit show the ex-wife decides to unveil during the holidays and understand all that drama is hers and hers alone.

When the ex-wife goes low, do not go high. In fact, I advocate to not do anything at all. Let her sit over there and look like a lunatic all by herself. Do not react in any way. Do not speak to her. Do not call her out on her behavior. Do not feed the drama llama. As a veteran stepmom of 8 years I can say with confidence that during all the holidays over the years not one single action my husband took resulted in a different outcome. The only thing engaging in "the fight" changed was the fact that the children had to endure more heart ache and drama. The ex-wife still did not follow the court order and in the process our holidays were miserable due to the constant back and forth.

You Can't Control It

As much as the ex-wife may allude to your ability to completely control your husband you actually cannot control anyone but yourself. (I've personally been accused of completely controlling and changing my husband and all I can think is: WTF? I can't even get him to remember milk at the grocery store! Mind control my ass!)

Sane and decent people want the children to have both parents in their lives and they want the children to have happy holiday memories rather than ones full of drama and anxiety. You will drive yourself to the looney bin if you constantly try to control the outcome by somehow forcing the ex-wife to follow the court order. If the ex-wife is going to hold the children hostage for the holidays there is nothing you can do or say to change her mind.

The best you can do is have the police arrive with you for the exchange and have them document the refusal. In some states the police have the power to do something but in most states they do not. Be sure to get an official police report and then file a motion for refused parenting time. Any make-up time ordered by the court will all be after the fact and you will never get that holiday back.

Lost Holidays

How many holidays have you lost due to the ex-wife?

See results

You Can't Change It

For a truly bitter high conflict ex-wife, no amount of time is going to make her behavior better. If she kept the children on holidays out of spite when they were 2 and 4 years old she will keep them out of spite when they are 12 and 14 years old. Time does nothing to ameliorate the apparent need for revenge, especially if the ex-wife has a personality disorder. (Think Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)

Understand that no amount of giving the ex-wife what she wants by switching weekends, giving her extra money, doing a favor for her, giving her extra time, accepting her offer of extra time or literally any thing else on the entire planet is going to suddenly change the ex-wife into a reasonable person. Nothing. Full stop. You cannot change crazy. The months leading up to the holidays are often rife with mini-dramas leading up to the big holiday drama. If you are dealing with an ex-wife with a personality disorder there is absolutely no "best" way to handle the situation that will prevent the big holiday drama. You do you and let the ex-wife live in her own drama.

Decide What To Tell Your Children

If you have children from a previous relationship or children with your husband you have to decide what and when to tell them about the upcoming holidays. Young children will not be as aware that siblings are missing during the celebrations but older children, especially if they also have two homes, will understand that some family members are absent from the home.

You and your husband must decide together how to approach the other children in the home about the situation.

Christmas Holidays
Christmas Holidays | Source

Accept Reality

The children of the ex-wife are going to miss out on holidays and family traditions. You cannot go back in time and give the kids a different mother. Even when all the children are 18 and you no longer have to abide by a court order dictating exchange times and holidays, the ex-wife will still be the mother of these children. You will be free of her but they have to deal with her and holidays for the rest of their life. This petty and childish holiday drama will not magically end once the children are all adults.

It is not fair to the children to endure this kind of hostility, especially during the holidays, but this is their reality. You and your own children, spouse, and extended family do not have to be miserable for every holiday for the next decade because an adult (aka the ex-wife) cannot act like a decent person. The only thing you can control are your actions and feelings. Be a good person to the kids and let the rest go.

It will be easier for you as a stepparent to accept this reality than it will be for the biological parent who is missing out on holidays with the children. Absolutely offer support and comfort to your spouse when things get tough. However, try not to let the grief and sadness take away your personal joy for the holidays, especially if you have your own children or "ours" children. Being a stepparent is one of the hardest things you will ever do and self-care is an imperative part of being the best parent or step-parent you can be. The holidays are particularly difficult when parents are divorced and this is especially true if one of them is hell bent on revenge and punishment. Take back your personal power and enjoy the holidays despite the drama!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Steve Campbell 

        19 months ago

        My ex-wife continues to try and control me. She stalks me, knocks on the window to my apartment at odd hours of the evening, sends unsolicited text messages, contacts family members, and even attempted to communicate with my first wife via FB. We have a six year old child whom I love more than anything in the world. I feel I can never do enough for him, because his mom demands that i spend more time with him even though I am a fulltime student. The arrangement in the divorce decree stipulates we have shared custody and visitations with me every other weekend. My lawyer also entered visitation every Wed-Thur 6:00 PM. However, during my divorce, I worked as a truck driver, and I could not maintain visitations on Wed evenings thru Thursdays. Not if I wanted to stay employed. This is also the case now that I am a student. Nonetheless, during the summer break I spend all my with my son. This more than makes for loss time but my ex is always acting as though I don't spend enough time with him. I am tired of her behavior but do not know what to do. For example, I am currently on spring break but she does not understand that this does not mean I am taking a break from schoolwork or projects. She will send a text asking that I get my son from school, so he does not have to stay for after-school care. She works odd hours but will not say no to work assignments even if it will mean she cant get him from school. She has a daughter age 14 but my ex expects me to drop what I am doing and drive nine miles to get my son from school. I have done this many times only for her to tell me, keep him overnight because I am tired. I know I am a good father to my son. I want what's best for him. I just don't need her intervening in my life and in my relationship with my son. All responses are appreciated.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)