Arguing With The Ex: Know When To Walk Away

arguing with the ex

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Arguing with the ex is a pretty common occurrence, given the fact that one main reason people get divorced is because they argue excessively. So, the interactions that were present in the marriage are usually similar in the divorce. Add resentment, hurt, and angry feelings into the mix, and arguing with the ex can get pretty ugly.


But since disagreeing and arguing is present in every relationship—even in couples who are happily married, conflict resolution is really important. What I mean by that is, it’s normal and even OK to disagree and argue…IF you know how to resolve the issues productively.


I’ll never forget an argument I had with someone I know (not my ex). I decided to tell her what was bothering me, and I decided to tell her in a really, really nice, non-threatening way, because what I wanted out of it was for her to understand my feelings, validate them, and maybe think twice about what she was doing. She was important to me. If I didn’t care about the relationship, I wouldn’t have said anything.


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Founder, Dear Divorce Coach


The result was a disaster. She got angry with me and the conversation ended badly. What I realized after we hung up was that this woman does not know how to communicate effectively. She has no skills in conflict resolution whatsoever. It was depressing to realize it, because if you can’t tell someone close to you how you feel without the person becoming defensive, angry and unable to have any empathy or self-awareness whatsoever, then it’s just unhealthy for both people, and the relationship suffers.


So, here is what I learned. When you are arguing with the ex (or anyone you are close to) and it’s not going well, your best option might be to walk away.

Here are 6 signs to look out for, that might make you realize that the conversation can only get worse, and that you should consider walking away:


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1. The person becomes defensive.

He or she makes every excuse to defend and justify his or her behavior, and doesn’t have the self-awareness to just say, “I’m really sorry if that hurt you.” Instead they say things like, “You just don’t get it.” Or, “I’m doing the best I can. I’m busy, I feel overwhelmed, I have a job” or “I’m a single parent.” Or “Fine, I’m just a horrible person, right?” They can’t see beyond themselves to open their mind to the other person’s point of view.


2. The person is unable to actually listen to what you are saying.

People who listen say things like, “I hear what you are saying.” Or “Thank you for telling me that. I didn’t know you felt that way.” People who don’t have the ability to listen, brush over what you just said. All they are hearing is negativity and their coping mechanism is to talk instead of absorb what is being said to them.


3. They are unable to empathize with what you are feeling.

Even if they disagree and can’t see your point of view, the person is unable to say, “I’m having a hard time understanding how you are feeling, but I am trying.” Or, “Although I disagree with you, I do respect how you are feeling.”


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4. The person is unable to stay calm.

They get angry, they might yell and scream, and they might call you names and start insulting you or pointing out other things. “Oh, I wish I could be as perfect as you!” or “Stop being such a bitch.”


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5. The person brings up the past.

They view the argument as an opportunity, a field day for drudging up what happened when you were married.


6. The person is resentful or upset that you have these feelings.

This is usually typical when the person is a narcissist, because everything has and will always be about them. You having an issue just doesn’t fit into their life. You shouldn’t have these feelings, according to them.


I personally think there is nothing more frustrating and depressing then realizing you just can’t change someone who doesn’t have self-awareness and the ability to resolve conflict. So, that’s why walking away is sometimes the best option.


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If you just accept that you aren’t going to change the person, that there is a reason you got divorced, (the person not being able to resolve conflict productively being one of them) and that the argument you just had validates it, then there can be a certain peace that comes to you. In other words, it’s easier to take the loss, (meaning accepting that you are never going to make the person understand how you feel) than to keep trying to help someone change and grow for the better. Fixing him or her isn’t your job. That’s why you got divorced, because you couldn’t. No one can, except that person (and maybe their therapist.) Walk away. You’ll be a lot happier. Trust me.

Like this article? Check out, “8 Reasons Your Ex Is Angry And Hateful Towards You”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    5 Responses to “Arguing With The Ex: Know When To Walk Away”

    1. C

      Jackie, this is one of your best articles. Thank you for this helpful advice. IF your ex-spouse falls into this last category, how do you productively interact with him to make ongoing decisions?

      • C

        I should have read your “20 coparenting tips” article before I commented before – I think that article helps to keep in in perspective. I need to accept that issues probably will continue and I need to stay focused on a swift solution that is best for the kids while minimizing discussion.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        The best advice I can give for people who cannot communicate effectively is email or text. Verbal communication with people who are unreasonable is really difficult and gives them the opportunity to go off on other tangents. I’d say spell out the issues in a text or email and make it black and white. Hope that helps.

    2. Dor

      You can’t change someone, they have to change themselves. Everyone is capable of change.
      Yes, better to walk away during an argument with your ex. My ex and I argued on the phone when he left the hse and filed for divorce. We then only texted which wasn’t good and that ended.
      No communication for 4 plus years was difficult. Had to pay a lawyer to communicate. Find what works best for you.

    3. Leslie

      I have all of these problems with my husband (from whom I’ve been separated from since 2021). Not listening/not interested, defensiveness (so much!), has no empathy at all, and as soon as defensiveness arises, in comes blaming and lack of calm. I couldn’t take it anymore after 40 years together. He will not work with a therapist or communication coach.


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