How to Be More Assertive With Your Ex

Stand up for yourself and your kids with these 7 tips

Tired of feeling like your ex has all the control and your 'job' is simply to go along with whatever he or she wants? Break free of those old patterns by coaching yourself to be more assertive with your ex. Start by applying the following tips to other areas of your life, such as arguments with family members or coworkers. Standing up for yourself in other 'arenas' will help you build up the strength and self-confidence to put these skills into practice the next time your ex insists on his or her own way.

7 Tips for Being More Assertive With Your Ex & Others

of 07

Evaluate Your Choices

Worried businesswoman using telephone at work
Hero Images / Getty Images

Part of being assertive is realizing that you have options. You can't control how other people behave, but you can choose your behavior and how you choose to respond when you're angry, upset, or hurt. This often requires you to disengage from the argument in the moment, so that you can take a fresh look at what your options really are. 

of 07

Ask for What You Need

Couple having coffee at sidewalk cafe
Cultura/Robin James / Getty Images

Many of us make the mistake of expecting others to treat us like we would treat them. And while this would be great in a perfect world, it's not realistic. So don't assume that others—your ex included—will automatically know what you need or what you're thinking. Instead, be direct and ask for what you need.

of 07

Use "I" Statements

mature businesswoman gesticulates in discussion
Buero Monaco / Getty Images

Instead of placing blame or starting sentences with "You always" or "You never," make an effort to focus on yourself with statements such as "I feel" or "I've found."

of 07

Frame Suggestions Around What Has Worked for You

Father and son having breakfast together
Westend61 / Getty Images

When we tell people that they're doing something 'the wrong way,' they naturally become defensive. So take a completely different approach: share something you've discovered personally that has worked well for you. For example, "Remember when I was having trouble getting Eddie to eat breakfast? For me, the trick that worked was waiting until after he ate to turn on the TV." This allows you to share your experience in a non-threatening way—while hopefully inspiring your ex to give it a try!

of 07

Share Your Thoughts Respectfully

Couple Discussing over Coffee
Helen King / Getty Images

Especially when you're first learning how to be assertive with your ex, it's important to stay calm and speak from the heart. Use your tone of voice to let him or her know that you have an open mind and that you're just trying to gather more information so that you can resolve this issue together.

of 07

Focus on Your Common Goals

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Young couple sitting on couch
Tetra Images / Getty Images

Use language like, "We both want . . ." to help the other person see that you're bringing this up—even though it's difficult—because you want to reach that common goal of consistent co-parenting.

of 07

Check for Understanding

Couple Talking
Paul Barton / Getty Images

Ask the other person to reflect back his or her understanding of what you've said. Try saying something like, "I want to make sure we're both on the same page. Do you understand where I'm coming from?" This is a ​non-threatening way to invite the other person to share his or her understanding of what you're saying and make sure that you agree on what steps should come next.

Final Thoughts on Learning to Be More Assertive with Your Ex

Think of every conflict you face—from minor conflicts with those closest to you to disagreements at work—as an opportunity to put what you're learning about assertiveness into practice. And the more practice you get, the easier it'll be to put this new skill to use when conflicts arise with your ex or your ex's family.