Your Ex: Who's In Control - You or Them?

Read this article to better understand control issue's within yourself and your ex. Stacy Phillips teaches you how to identify the controller and deal with it, which empowers you throughout the divorce proceedings and the rest of your life.

By Stacy D. Phillips, certified family law specialist
Updated: August 27, 2014
Dating after Divorce

Your Ex

The following is an excerpt from the book, Divorce: It's All About Control—How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars, by renowned family law specialist, Stacy D. Phillips. In Chapter Four, Phillips helps the reader understand how those around him/her may be controlling their divorce. This excerpt is the second in a series of six from the “Who's In Control—You or Them? chapter. Though you ex may overlap into more than one category, helping to define which “type” he or she fits within will, according to Phillips, aid you in better understanding and dealing with your ex and your control issues.. Ms. Phillips says:

Though there are many different types of behaviors ex's may employ to wrestle for control, I have narrowed the field to an interesting few.

The “Intimidator”

This is the ex who goes out of his or her way to make you think he or she is more powerful. They do things like make inferences that you are less than worthy, that they are better off than you—this could be financially and personally (i.e., a better paying job, a more prestigious occupation). This type often does not bully openly, but finds covert ways to assert himself or herself and always feels the need to play the “one-upmanship game.”

The “Passive Aggressor”

They are the hardest and the most devious of all the ex types. They volley for control by engaging in passive acts like showing up late with the children. They “set you up” by playing the “who, me?” game with tactics like out-spending the other parent on the children for holiday or birthday gifts. Where the Intimidator might boldly enter a parent-teacher conference with a new mate on his or her arm, the Passive Aggressor will sit down to the conference and a few minutes later have his or her new mate show up. Or he/she may have her/him waiting outside, stationed precisely where the ex will cross his/her path. This type often uses quiet methods to snatch control. They craftily strategize in the background using friends, family, business associates, and the truly innocent victims, the children, to carry out their attacks.

The “Terrorist”

This type is usually very vocal and obvious about intentions to assert or gain control. The Terrorist often makes open threats—physical, mental and emotional—and can act on them. Terrorists should be watched carefully and taken seriously, for they tend to be fiendish and compulsive about maintaining control. The Terrorist will stop at nothing to steal control. They may threaten to turn you in to the IRS, tell the children your darkest secrets, or even suggest that they will kill you. Do not ever let this type think they can control you. Stay strong and calm, always, no matter what attack they launch. If you feel you are in physical danger, do not hesitate to seek assistance, and I mean immediately.

The “Manipulator”

This ex type is clever, charming and often seductive. This group can lure an ex in, only to pounce or pummel him/her. The Manipulator, similar to the Passive Aggressor, plots and carefully plans control strategies. Manipulators want one thing: control and more control. They can use the children (or unsuspecting others) in their quest to gain it. That includes those who interact with the children such as caregivers, teachers, coaches and others. If no children are involved, this ex will use the couple's friends and business associates to rally for control. One way is to hire away those who you thought were loyal employees, like the housekeeper (for more money). This type can never seem to relinquish control. The more they get the more they want!

The “Victim”

There are more control Victim types than most would think. This type sets up their ex to make them feel as though they are always being abused by their ex. Closely aligned with the Passive Aggressor, they control through the back door, so to speak. They may attempt to make you feel guilty. They may purposely lose their job, have their car repossessed, or be seen sitting forlornly in familiar places like the country club, the family restaurant, at weddings, funerals of mutual friends, etc. They want one thing: pity. If they can evoke such an emotion from you, they have emerged victorious in the control department.

The “Cooperator”

This is the ideal ex, the one most people complain that they do not have—the ex type everyone longs for! The Cooperator is the person who is so “self-contained” he/she neither feels the need or desire to control the other person. Cooperators are flexible with plans and arrangements regarding the children, thoughtful and gracious in all dealings with extended family and friends, and sincere in a desire to work through the “aftermath” of divorce (whether it is dividing assets, paying off bills, or working out differences with a mediator, counselor or lawyer). The Cooperator is the ex type that wishes to move forward in his or her life productively, and even wishes the same for his or her ex.

See if you can identify which ex type you have! Also, see if you can identify which ex type you are! Keep in mind, your ex may overlap into other sub-types. For instance, your ex may display characteristics of the Victim, yet be masterful at the Manipulator game. The goal for you is to stay in control without toppling your ex's right to his or her own sense of control.


Read the other articles in this series:


Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women's Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine's North American Advisory Board. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm's Divorce Magazine profile here.


For more articles on relationships before and after divorce, visit www.divorcemag.com/articles/Relationships.

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March 30, 2007

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