Your Ex-Husband’s Harassment: How to Deal with It Emotionally and Legally
Nobody ever talks about the harassment you face after your divorce. A common misconception is that once a woman leaves their marriage, the bullying from their Ex will stop. However, in reality, harassment, intimidation, and hostility often escalate for women who choose to leave their husbands. Rooted in an abuser’s desire for power and control, harassment, in some cases, becomes a form of retaliation after divorce. When an abuser senses a challenge to their control, they resort to harassment to create an environment that feels unsafe. This article will define harassment, explore its underlying causes, and provide guidance on addressing both the emotional and legal aspects of dealing with your ex-husband’s harassment in particular.
Remember, you are not crazy, and you are not alone. Divorce is never easy, and it becomes even more challenging when your ex-husband refuses to let you emotionally or psychologically move on from the marriage. This struggle is further complicated when you share children. Your Ex may be doing any number of things from unwanted, hostile, or abusive behavior to stalking you, issuing threats, invading your privacy in person or through unwelcome electronic communication. Adjusting to life after divorce is already demanding, and having to deal with ongoing control from your ex-husband can feel overwhelming.
How to Deal with Your Ex-Husband’s Harassment Emotionally
So, what can you do? When your ex-husband won’t leave you alone, and his actions become potentially dangerous, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. First, and foremost, take care of yourself, establish firm boundaries, and confide in someone you trust. Remember, there is only one of you, and it’s crucial to protect your Inner Warrior.
You didn’t leave the marriage only to continue being torn down and controlled by your Ex.
The new you, on your healing journey, deserves nurturing and support. Find what makes you feel good, whether it’s using positive affirmations, engaging in physical activities to release negative emotions, expressing yourself creatively, or finding a supportive community or divorce recovery group will strengthen and uplift you during difficult times.
Taking Care of Your Inner Warrior
Say this in the mirror: “
With each passing day, I grow stronger, building upon the strength I gained yesterday.”
Recondition your Inner Warrior who has been impacted by your Ex’s abuse. Remind yourself, you have transformed throughout the marriage and especially after leaving it. You are incredible for taking that courageous step and leaving your unhealthy relationship. Shower yourself with self-love and work towards truly believing in your worth. Positive affirmations can help rebuild your self-esteem.
Some people find peace and release through physical activities to channel their frustration or anger. Remember, it’s normal to feel upset about your situation. So, find an outlet that works for you, whether it be running, joining a fitness class, kickboxing, or engaging in any activity that pumps you up and brings positivity. If physical exercise isn’t your preference consider yoga to help you self connect or meditation to bring you peace. Or explore creative outlets such as journaling, painting, reading, or watching movies that evoke emotions.
Equally important, seek social support from friends, family, or support groups. If your previous community was impacted by your ex-husband’s isolation tactics, it’s time now to reconnect or find new connections. Falling down is part of life, but having someone to lean on during challenging times can make all the difference in the world.
Establishing firm boundaries with your Ex is easier said than done. However, if you can’t set boundaries with him, set them for yourself to clearly define what you will not tolerate. If cutting off all communication is necessary, communicate this to your Ex. If he only brings harassment and negativity into your life, consider severing ties. This process may take time, starting with not answering his calls or texts. If you have children with your ex-husband this option may be harder. We recommend you consider a parenting app like Family Wizard, that keeps your Ex and you in your lanes and segregates all contact to the parenting platform. For some of our clients, this is the only method that works with an abusive Ex.
While your children remain a priority, you must protect yourself to be the best mother for them. If you don’t want to see or be around your ex, create a drop-off system for the children, involving a trusted family member or friend to handle pickups or drop-offs. Choose a neutral location for these exchanges to minimize contact with your ex. Determine what you want, communicate it clearly, and set your boundaries. It won’t be easy, but remember, you’re creating the life you deserve.
Confide in Someone Your Trust
If your ex-husband continues to harass you post-divorce, confide in someone close to you. You do not have to face this alone, and having someone who empathizes with your situation and can ensure your safety is crucial.
Silence is no longer a viable option when it comes to addressing these issues. It is important for you to find your voice and step forward to speak out against the injustices and hardships you have endured.
Summon the courage to say, “no more” and reject the notion of staying silent any longer. Seek out a trusted friend, family member, support group, or therapist who can offer a compassionate ear. It’s normal to be unsure about whom to trust in such a situation, and if your family isn’t the right choice for confiding in, remember that you have other options available. This is the time to explore the resources within your community for family justice support. Harassment can be frightening and take a toll on your mental well-being, so having someone to talk to is crucial. The more support you have, the easier it becomes to regain your strength.
Susan’s Story: Exercising Legal Options When Dealing with an Ex-Husband’s Har
Sometimes, despite following the roadmap to healing, your ex-husband’s harassment persists. This doesn’t diminish the progress you’ve made in rebuilding yourself; it simply means more action is required. You have legal options to protect yourself from your ex-husband’s harassment and abusive patterns.
Let’s consider Susan’s situation. Susan was married to Ted for eleven years and has a seven-year-old son who primarily resides with her. Despite being divorced for six months, Ted continues to repeatedly call and text her, drive by her house at odd hours without valid reasons, and engage in derogatory behavior, even instructing their son to refer to her as a “bad mom.” During their marriage, Ted consistently belittled, gaslighted, and controlled Susan, and she thought leaving him would put an end to his bullying.
If you have not yet left your marriage but are dealing with abuse, read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take First.”
Susan’s Courageous Steps: Documenting Harassment and Seeking Legal Intervention
Now, divorced and rebuilding her life, Susan still can’t escape Ted’s abuse. Susan is determined to protect both herself and her son. She takes the important step of seeking therapy for both of them. Despite her son’s young age, Susan recognizes the importance of ensuring that he is not experiencing any lasting trauma from the two households he resides in.
Susan also starts documenting every incident of harassment, including nasty texts and call logs. She notifies Ted that she is recording their interactions, capturing video evidence of his demeaning language. She takes pictures of his presence near her home, noting timestamps. This documentation not only creates a record of the harassment she’s facing but reminds her that she’s not imagining any of this abuse, validating her experiences.
Susan recognizes the need for legal intervention and decides to involve the police and file a formal complaint. She also seeks legal advice from an attorney to weigh her options. While she may consider pursuing an order of protection in the future, she begins by sending Ted a cease-and-desist letter, temporarily halting the stalking, texts, and calls. This letter serves as a warning that legal action will be pursued if the harassment continues. Susan understands her battle isn’t over, but she practices self-kindness, reminds herself that she has options, and takes one day at a time.
Empowering Yourself: Seeking Peace and Legal Solutions Amid Harassment
Susan’s story may not mirror your own, but you can still take similar steps to seek and safeguard your peace. It is crucial to document every instance of unwanted contact or advances made by your Ex. If you choose to pursue legal action, having evidence of these occurrences can make a significant difference. You can choose to make a formal complaint directly to the police or consult an attorney to help determine your best course of action. Think about what the best decision is for you and your family. The choice is yours alone to make, and while it may not be easy, you have the strength and will to navigate through this process and find resolution.
Getting a divorce does not mean the harassment from your ex-husband automatically stops. Remember, you are not the same person you were when the marriage began, and you should not endure the same abusive situation. You have options, and steps can be taken to protect yourself emotionally and legally. Prioritize self-care by protecting your Inner Warrior, establishing boundaries, and creating a supportive community as you navigate this challenging journey toward peace and self-empowerment.
Teresa Simmons is a third-year law student in Chicago committed to advocating and supporting survivors of gender and power-based violence. With a longstanding interest in family law, she aspires to pursue a career in this field after graduation. Her goal is to create a meaningful impact by being a voice for those who may struggle to find their own, providing the necessary support and empowerment they need to navigate the legal system and achieve justice.
Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. No matter where you are on the journey, SAS offers you six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe now and stay connected.
*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”