When a couple is going through a divorce, they are typically not on the best of terms. The couple’s relationship is probably at its all time worst—worse than during the end of the marriage.
Couples often show their worst selves during a divorce, and that includes what I call “The unsolicited attack.” Let me explain.
Picture this. You are sitting in front of the TV late at night. The kids are in bed and you are finally de-stressing from the day, trying not to think about work, finances, your upcoming court hearing, the fact that you are in this nightmare dating scene now, and other stressors relating to life and/or your divorce.
All of a sudden, you hear on your phone that you received a text. What a nice break! It’s probably one of your friend or someone you just met on Bumble. You take the phone and to your dismay, the message is from your ex.
It gets worse. It’s a scathing, mean spirited message, telling you how awful you are and how much he or she can’t stand you. It goes on and on, includes many expletives and it makes you sick as you read it. It is so full of hate, anger and bitterness that you are cringing.
You get the feeling maybe he or she has been drinking because why else would they all of a sudden go on this unsolicited attack? You weren’t even in conversation with him or her.
I hear stories like this from men and women all the time. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s disturbing. It’s upsetting. It’s creepy.
A person’s first instinct in receiving an unsolicited attack, which could be by phone, text, email or social media, is to attack back. Send back a response. Defend yourself. Hurt back.
But, that is absolutely the worst thing you can do, in my opinion. Here is my advice for unsolicited attacks: DO NOTHING. Do not reply. Do not type one key. Leave it alone. An unsolicited attack deserves nothing from you. Don’t even type something short, like “ *uck you,” “you’re an idiot”, or even “get help.” I know you want to, but it isn’t wise.
An unsolicited attack is the result of harbored resentment that is coming out for one reason or another. The person might have had a really bad day, he or she might be unhappy about something having nothing to do with you. He or she might be hurting, either because of the divorce or something unrelated. Maybe life isn’t going well. Maybe he or she is falling apart.
So, he or she is looking for someone to blame and who better to do it than the bitch (or asshole) who ruined his or her life by divorcing them? Instead of taking some responsibility for the unhappiness, or perhaps coping in a healthy way by going to church or working out or talking to a therapist or even seeking comfort from friends or family, the person chooses to lash out with an unsolicited attack.
The unsolicited attacker wants to battle. He or she wants a fight. They want you to attack back so they can then attack again. They need to release their anger and they are trying to use you to do it. Don’t engage!
If you realize that the unsolicited attack has NOTHING to do with you, you will feel better. I would actually go so far as to say you should feel sorry for the person sending the words of hate and anger. And, just focus on trying to forget about it.
Now, if the unsolicited attacks get to be a regular occurrence, you might have to reach out to your attorney because no one should have to deal with that abuse. But, I think ignoring the unsolicited attacks (not giving them the attention the sender so obviously craves) will most likely result in the person not sending them anymore. It’s kind of like a toddler. If he or she has a temper tantrum and you ignore it, they see that the behavior doesn’t get them their desired result, so they stop.
The best advice I can give for receiving an unsolicited attack besides ignoring it is, try to think of it as HIS or HER PROBLEM and go back to what you were doing: trying to find your own peace by working on yourself and your new beginning. And of course, focusing on the wellbeing of the kids.
One thing I recommend is to keep the texts/emails. You never know when you might have to use them in court. It’s sad, but wise.
Lastly, if you find yourself writing an unsolicited attack text or email, that’s perfectly OK. Just hit “draft” and don’t send it. EVER. Write whatever you want! God knows, I do. But then put it in a drawer. It is very therapeutic to write your emotions down, it’s another thing to send poison to others.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.