Being Petty in Divorce: You’re Only Hurting You

being petty

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

One of my least favorite words is petty, and being petty really bothers me. Sometimes I catch myself being petty, and all it does is make me feel badly about myself. When I see others acting petty, it bothers me a lot. Being petty in divorce happens a lot. I see it.

According to The Free Dictionary, if something is petty, that means it’s trivial, not of big importance. I’m not saying divorce is trivial, what I’m saying is, divorced people sometimes make a big issue out of petty matters. Also, being petty means a lack of generosity.

Here are some examples of being petty in divorce:

1. A guy gives his ex-wife the monthly child support check and takes out $35 because he just bought his daughter a new coat. The guy makes over $400,000 per year and he doesn’t feel like he should have to pay the $35. It’s against the law to take money out of a child support check for anything, but the guy knows the wife won’t call her attorney about $35 because one phone call will cost her hundreds of dollars.

2. A woman just met her ex husband’s new girlfriend and is burning inside. Not because she wants the husband back, but she’s jealous and resentful that he is happy. Where’s HER boyfriend?? The husband asks if he can take the kids on a night that isn’t his, because he and the girlfriend want to take them somewhere special. The wife says no, even though she has no special plans with the kids.

3. A guy just lost a ruling in divorce court and he’s pissed about it. How dare the judge award his ex-wife what he so didn’t want to give her. He’s so angry, there’s invisible steam coming out of his head. His thought process is, ‘How can I get back at her?’ Here’s what he does. He cancels on her last minute when he’s supposed to have the kids, just so she will have to scramble for a sitter or cancel her plans.

4. A separated husband and wife are out for dinner together with their children because their little girl begged for them all to be together on her birthday. The check comes and both decide to split it, until the wife realizes that the guy had a beer and tells him to add that to his part of the bill.


Juli Walton, Divorce Therapist, North Shore Reach


Here is how I feel about being petty. It’s very unimportant, it makes people hate themselves, and the worst one, it’s really, really, really bad for the kids.

I realize that there are so many emotions that come into play when you are going through a divorce. The person you loved more than anyone in the world at one time is now the person who angers you so much at times, you can barely breathe. So, you want to hurt that person (at times) as much as you can, because he has hurt you. Or, he left you. Or he cheated. Or, you’ll never forgive his bad behavior during the marriage. Or, he’s acting so awful in the divorce that you just want to be awful back.

People in divorce want to hurt people with big things and little things. Big things include trying to get full custody and keep him/her from the kids (which is horrific for anyone to do), lying in court, litigating for the purpose of fighting it out, and parental alienation.

But people often times feel like if they can get to their ex with a bunch of little things that will aggravate the person, make that person’s life more difficult, or cause that person to have to spend money, that that will somehow give them some sort of gratification that they need. WRONG!


Feig Mediation Group


It might make you feel better to cheat your ex out of five dollars, or it might make you temporarily happy to secretly know that you have made your ex’s life more difficult. But think about it.

All pettiness does is make the person not like themselves!

In the long run, being petty won’t make you feel better.  It will make you feel worse. Why? Because deep down, you will know in your heart that you were dishonest, or that you exhibited bad behavior, or that you hurt your children. In other words, deep down, you’ll know you acted like a jerk. And looking in the mirror and knowing that never looks good.

Being petty also messes with your karma in life. Do good and good will come to you. Don’t do good and I don’t know what. All I know is, good things come around to people who are do-gooders.



Think about the scenarios I listed above. If the husband cancels on seeing the kids to hurt his ex-wife, he’s really hurting the kids, who have to spend the night with a sitter instead of their dad. Or the mom who won’t let the kids go out with the new girlfriend. That’s a night the kids could have really enjoyed. People are petty because they are angry and hurt and they are in pain. But they don’t realize that the people they love–the kids and themselves, end up in pain because of their pettiness.

What if my ex is being petty?

You can’t control the pettiness of your ex. Who you can control is you. You can decide you aren’t going to be petty anymore. That’s all you have to do. Just say you’re not going to be petty anymore and that’s it. Just say it and you’ll feel better.

Be the bigger person and let your ex be the petty one. He or she is the person who’s going to have to deal with that horrible feeling of feeling like a jerk who just hurt not only his self esteem and his karma, but the kids, too.

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”

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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:

    One Response to “Being Petty in Divorce: You’re Only Hurting You”

    1. Emi

      My ex and I had a collaborative divorce and I really think it cuts down on pettiness. Oh but I have the urge – i really have the urge sometimes. You’re right though – the air is fresher up on the high road!


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