Today we discuss how to stop bad-mouthing your ex. This a podcast interview with Chere Williams for Grace For Single Parenting.
Jennifer: Hi this is Jen for Grace for Single Parenting where your Single Parenting collides with God’s Grace.
Today I have my first guest. I’d like to welcome Chere Williams from Faith Coffee and a Kid. Chere has been blogging for Christian single moms for over a decade.
I met Chere earlier this year when I had the pleasure of having one of my articles as a guest post on her site called Preventing Discontentment from Growing in Our Hearts.
I think you’ll really enjoy my conversation with Chere today. We talk about how to Stop Bad Mouthing Your Ex. This is a common habit a lot of single parents struggle with. About halfway through we discuss how even calling our Exes by the name of Ex is negative and the effects that can have on our children.
Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Chere to Grace for Single Parenting.
Chere: Hi, my name is Chere Williams and I’m a single mom. I have a 13-year-old daughter and we live in Maryland.
One of the things that I love to do is to write this blog that’s called A Single Christian Mom’s advice on making life easier. I started the blog around the time she was about two is when I became a single mom. So the idea was to kind of build this community and this platform for other single parents.
My real goal was to basically help other single moms know that they’re not alone on this journey. And for me, it was a time when I really dived into my faith and to let people know that you’re not alone on the journey, that you do have a partner and that partner is with you all the time. So that was kind of the way the blog started, and it just evolved from there.
Jennifer: Nice. So you’ve been doing that for a long time. 11 years then?
Chere: Yeah, about 11 years. I became a single mom before my daughter was two years old. And so it kind of began at this time where like everything was just like kind of crazy. You know, I was a first-time mom living four hours away from any family.
My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and it was just like all of these things at one time. And the blog kind of started. I always liked to write, but I never really thought about writing. And this one day, it was an awful time. And my grandmother passed away at this point and I was on the couch and my daughter had left with her dad and I was looking at her Bible and I picked it up and I started to read it and I saw all these notes that she had and I was just thinking about how she had always turned to God and how at this point it was something in my life that I just knew that God’s presence was there and that I knew I needed to depend on him to get through this journey.
And so as that developed and I started going to church and really diving into scriptures it became on my heart to share that. And so that’s how the blog started.
I became a columnist from moms of faith. I did mom mentors for Graham Blanchard, who’s a Christian publishing company and then did some stuff with Grace Hill media. And it just evolved from there.
But again, my main goal was just to build a community with women. Because it’s amazing, you know, with my experience with the blog is just how many women are facing these same issues with co-parenting being a single parent.
I hate when women feel like their families are not told they’re whole. And so that was kind of the goal of the blog to kind of say, Hey, you know what if the dynamics changed, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have this healthy thriving family.
Jennifer: I think that’s so needed right now too, especially trying to be a part of the church as a single parent. And you felt like, you know that you’re not really whole.
Chere: Yeah, exactly. That’s really needed, you wouldn’t think that that would happen. Do you know what I mean? Because it’s supposed to be kind of like embraced, but there’s a lot of judgment, you know? And it’s unfortunate because one of the things I found is it scares women away from the church then.
Like, oh, I don’t want to go because they’re feeling like all these eyes are on them and they are looking like the Scarlet letter is on their head.
Maybe this isn’t the ideal situation, but ashes don’t have to stay that way. We can build beauty from the ashes and we can rebuild something different.
And it’s really unfair and it’s not a good representation of who we are as Christians. So that was one of the reasons I wanted to start the blog is to say, I’m sure maybe this isn’t the ideal situation, but ashes don’t have to stay that way. We can build beauty from the ashes and we can rebuild something different. And not to say that doesn’t come without its challenges. But it’s possible.
Jennifer: I think that’s great. So, when I was on your blog, I ran into your eBook that I mentioned a minute ago and you have 15 Tips to Avoid Single Mom Burnout that’s coming out shortly.
And you have like a little glimpse of what those tips are, and I noticed a few of them such as “Put Yourself in Timeout.”
You have some cute names in there, like “Break Free From Sinking Thinking” or ”Nurture Your Temple.”
And there was one that I wanted to dive into a little bit if you don’t mind, which was “Don’t Bad Mouth Your Ex” and “How to Find Healing From the Wound.” And that’s one that I think is a really good one for a lot of us because I think that a lot of single parents get stuck in that, right? It’s really hard to break free from those previous relationships. And I’d really like to hear your point of view.
Chere: Sure. Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because the topic of your child’s relationship or their father, the relationship, it’s such a hot topic, right?
I mean, it just brings out so many emotions and it’s complex. It’s oftentimes painful. You know, there’s multi-layers that are going on and you know, it’s rough. And I think a lot of women struggle with it.
Co-parenting takes so much patience, cooperation, respect, kindness.
I think co-parenting is something that takes so much patience, cooperation, respect, kindness. And that’s not always an easy place to get to. Because let’s face it, the relationship didn’t end because everything was going well, you know? So to think that co-parenting is just going to be like easy, it’s just crazy cause it’s not going to be. But it doesn’t mean that it has to be awful either. The one thing that I talked to so many women who’ve been divorced for years and like something will come up about their ex and it’s like you could literally see the transformation in their face.
You can feel the emotion that comes through. And so it’s painful. And what I wanted to do, because I find it that we don’t do a service to ourselves by a holding onto anger, and bitterness and resentment. We’re affecting our kids, we’re affecting ourselves, we’re affecting our ex. And the thing is, if we want healthy children, we should try at least to have this healthier relationship with their father.
And I think it’s healthy to say how we’re feeling. I think it’s not good to suppress it, but I think when it starts to consume you, it becomes really toxic and venomous.
One of the scriptures that I read that really stuck with me was Galatians 5:15 and it says, if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.
And I thought that resonated so well with just that process of coming to a point where you’re not constantly biting each other. So eventually that’s going to seep out into different areas of your life and your family’s life. I found that to start the healing process, it really begins with me.
And that’s not gonna happen overnight, but it can happen. It comes to a point where I have to make a decision, either I’m going to stay in this place of anger, bitterness and resentment, or I’m going to move to a healthier place so that I can bring my family to a healthier place.
And so one of the things that I was thinking about is how when your child falls and gets a boo-boo. What are the three things that you do? You clean it, right? It forms a scab and like you tell them, do not pick at that scab. And the other thing is you let it heal. And so I felt like this process is something that’s practical that we can think about when we’re like deciding to change the way our interactions with our exes.
Jennifer: So what would you say to someone who says, I just need to vent? Is that like picking at the scab, do you think?
Chere: Yeah, definitely. But here’s the thing we don’t want to oversimplify it, right? Because there are some situations, especially when you first come out of a relationship, there are so many different emotions that you’re going through and you’re going to be angry or you’re going to be hurt. You’re going to have the emotions that come with that. The idea though is to get to a better place.
And so the first step that I have is cleansing the wound. And what I mean by that is like when my daughter would come home with tons of cuts and bruises from school, like they were always climbing trees and creaking and you know, straight from mom’s heart, but she’d come home with these, and her knee would be messed up.
And the first thing that you do is you take them to the bathroom and you wash the knee out. Or you wash the wound out. And the idea is to remove all those impurities so that they don’t continue to infect the wound. And I think that’s what we have to do when we start to start this process of healing is that we need to start cleaning out the wound. And I believe that begins with us.
Because a lot of times it’s not really the other person. It’s not the person that we’re mad at.
A lot of times we’re mad at ourselves. And so first we need to take a look inside and say, Hey, what do I need to clean out so that I can deal with this in a healthy way?
Because all of that is like residue from the relationship that you had that’s still there. This is a process, it’s not done in a day or two, it can take months, it can take years, but it really does start with that self-reflection and that accountability.
And I think you have to be generous with your forgiving of yourself for anything that has gone wrong. Cause it does take two to tango and we sit here and we play the blame game a lot, but that doesn’t really get us to the place that we need to be to move forward.
I feel that the impurities are those things that like keep us in that circle of that hamster wheel of going around and around dealing with the same issues over and over again and not really dealing with the core issue, which is like figuring out in ourselves like, what do we need to do to react differently?
What do we need to do to forgive ourselves or to take accountability and responsibility to move forward in a different way? And to honor what we’ve been through as well. I think that’s really important and that’s more in the third step, but I think that’s part of the first step.
The first step is brutal because I think it’s hard to take that honest look at ourselves. And I’m not saying to take everything and be like, Oh, this was all me. But really just being honest with yourself. That’s not always easy to do, but I always feel like when we are, we come to a better place.
The second step is don’t pick out your booboo. And what I find is, even with myself, it’s so easy to pick out a scab.
There’s something about scabs that are so tempting. And I think that’s why we’re always telling our kids when they fall, don’t pick it, that it won’t heal. It’s the same thing with our ex. It’s like if we continue to pick at that scab, it’s never going to heal.
One of the things that I find is finding the triggers and the different types of things that kind of trigger the emotional outbursts. It’s kind of like that irritant and when you know it, then you see it, you’re less likely to react to it. If you train yourself to say, Hey, you know what, I’m just not going to react to this. And not like we were talking about venting.
I remember being on a conversation with a friend and everything was like totally going fine with me and my ex and she started talking about something that was going on with her and her daughter’s father.
And it reminded me of something that happened a while back and it triggered something and I could feel that same sense of anger coming up. I thought about it and I thought, I’m really just picking at the scab.
And so if we’re trying to like shed this skin of this toxic part of the relationship that we had, it’s not going to happen if we continue to pour this old stuff into what we’re trying to create. So that’s the second step. And I think that’s one of the most important steps. Stop picking away at everything. It’s really easy to do that.
Jennifer: And also it’s a habitual thing too, right? Like maybe how long you were with the other person, you might be even in a habit of nagging or, you’re used to things being a certain way and you have to also let the other person grow.
Chere: And you know what? I think like we have to give ourselves grace and we have to give them grace as well. And that’s not always intuitive and this is why it’s so important. I talk about this is like we have to look at the new relationship in spiritualizing instead of humanizing.
Because in our flesh, I think it’s very easy to react and go off on certain things. It could be a funky text that takes us back, you know what I mean? And so it’s really important to remember we are created in God’s image and if you can look at the other person and remember that in that time. And maybe, we don’t really want to look at it like that, but that is the truth.
And so when we dishonor somebody, we’re really dishonoring God. We’re told to be the peacemaker, we’re told to seek good and to have our conversations seasoned with grace.
And I don’t think it’s easy to do that all the time, especially in these situations when we’re looking at it just as ourselves and not looking at it through a spiritual lens because when we look at it through a spiritual lens is going to change the way we react to that person.
I think if anything that’s really important to do because I don’t think you can do it on your own all the time. I think you need to be in prayer about it. Like when you’re going to court with somebody that’s one the most terrible times, you know, because you’re going to court with somebody that obviously you once probably loved and it’s just such a high strung time.
You’re stretched emotionally, financially, and every single way. And so when you’re finally done with that, you come off of that, you don’t just get over it.
You think about it for a long time. I could not get to a place where I was like, okay, I forgive you. And I remember it was like this anger was inside to the point I remember being at church and asking people to pray for me. And sometimes that’s what it takes.
That’s what I mean about the first step in cleansing. Like breaking down those walls and looking, taking an honest look at yourself and seeing where you’re at and like asking for that help and going outside of yourself.
That’s really a part of the healing process is looking at them in a different lens. And that, that kind of parlays into the third step of letting it heal.
It doesn’t happen overnight. But we have to give herself permission to breathe out all the toxic stuff that has been built up for so long. And I think that when we are able to let that wound breathe and give it time and know that there’s going to be bumps along the way, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t get to a good place.
And just remembering that these wounds are things that are going to help you. The Bible talks about trials and how like trials give us perseverance and it takes us to a good place so that we can see what God can do for our lives.
And I think that in this relationship with the co-parenting and trying to figure out a different dynamic, we can take all of that and bring it into a place that will help us get to the next level.
And then the last thing that I have in my book, and I talk about this and it kind of deals with the spiritual part, is I really challenge everybody to do a 30-day prayer project and for 30 days, if you’re in this place with your ex where it’s just like so bad, I really mean this, pray for them.
And that may not seem like the easiest thing to do and maybe it’s not, but even if it means praying with your children at night and putting in that special prayer for their father, do you know what I’m saying?
I think that’s like the biggest thing to take away from this is that God can and just to know that all the bad-mouthing and all of that, it’s not who you are. You’re better than that.
And that’s the advice that I give women, who are in that space right now is to really think about when you are in this place of bad-mouthing, how do you feel afterward?
At the moment you may be feeling vindicated, but after that, I really don’t think anyone feels that great afterward, because it’s not who you are, it’s not who you’re created to be and it doesn’t represent that light that we are supposed to be.
And again, I don’t think it happens overnight, but just remember that when you bad mouth your ex or your [pause] and you know, we probably should stop saying the word ex because when you think of the word ex it’s like you’re exed out.
Jennifer: I have never liked that word ever. I don’t ever use it. I just always say my children’s father, I don’t ever say it, I’ve never liked that word. I don’t know why.
Chere: It’s very negative, it kind of makes you feel like you’re just exed out. You know, when you have a child with somebody, I mean it’s special, right?
Like it’s like that one person on the planet that you have this connection with for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not. Like it’s there and like you’re probably going to share things, you’re going to probably share grandchildren and marriages and, and you know, like when we look at people as our ex, we kind of dehumanize them.
Jennifer: Yes, so powerful.
Chere: Yeah. People in general, I’ll say, who are single parents, I would hope that the language they use about their children’s father, they think about it before they stated it in front of their child, you know.
But I have seen the effects of that because when you think about it, like when you say ex and you’re kind of just like, okay, you’re done, you’re gone. Our children are still a part of them. And so if we are talking about their fathers, you know, kids internalize things. And I’ve seen that, you know, with my daughter’s friends who, you know, have divorced parents and it’s really contentious and you kind of feel with their kids, like there’s this kind of like lack of self-confidence. They feel awful about the relationship and you really see the effects of that, you know?
I might have to change this tip now because when I think about it I think if we want to change our relationship, we do need to change our language too, right? Because language is powerful.
And especially to be awfully, obviously very careful with it around our children because our children are observing us.
And what a great example to show them. Just because something did not work, it doesn’t mean that it has to be ugly. It doesn’t mean that it can’t transform into something else, you know?
Jennifer: And I think that doesn’t have to be shameful.
Chere: Yes. Because there’s so much shame that’s attached to single parenting and divorce.
Nobody goes into anything thinking like, oh, I’m going to get divorced. You don’t go out looking for that. And so I think when it happens, we just have to be more not so judgmental and understanding that everybody’s situation is different and having grace for people but we have to have it within our own circle.
Jennifer: Well, thank you so much. I think that was just so many wise things you said, and I wasn’t expecting all of that. I really did want to talk to you about not bad-mouthing the other parent parlayed into a lot. I learned quite a bit and I think I’m moved to do the 30-day challenge. The prayer.
Chere: Yeah. I think it really transformed my relationship with my daughter’s father. It really did. Because like I found myself just tired, it’s exhausting, right? It’s exhausting to hold that, like the complaints and all of that in.
And so, you know, sometimes you just have to like surrender and just be like, look, it is what it is. You know what I mean? The prayer really works for me.
And I’m sure that I still get on his nerves and he still gets on mine.
Jennifer: Right. You’re not together for a reason. But for everybody it’s different, but everybody kind of has this feeling in them when they see or think of their ex and that doesn’t need to be there, and we don’t want to give that to our children.
Chere: Right, exactly. Because you know what it’s going to shape their relationships to. I think it can be just as damaging.
Like when people stay in dysfunctional relationships and their kids see it and whether it’s emotionally or mentally abusive or physically abusive and people stay there are all kinds of different situations that our kids are watching.
And so it’s really important that we model it in a way that’s healthy for them. And there’s still a way to do that in situations that are not ideal. And that’s what I mean, even in the different tips in the book, I always bring it back to faith because I think everything we do needs to be colored with that.
We’re talking to the audience are probably women of faith and that’s why I know like in my book like there are tips that a lot of women, whether they’re single moms or not could relate to, but a lot of them are things that really affect us as single parents. Like, you know, dating, and not being desperate for a relationship.
And that I think comes again from that healing process, right? So I’ve tried to really look at some of the things that we’ve struggled with, like stinking thinking, that’s a part of this as well because our thoughts determine our actions.
And so kind of just like tying all those things in together was really important for me because I do think as single moms, we carry a lot, whether it’s financially, whether it’s emotionally, mentally, it’s not always easy, you know what I mean? I think like we can get so burned out and when we’re burned out like it affects everyone, you know?
And it especially affects our children, but there’s also that self-care part that we ignore sometimes that we need to love ourselves so that we can love others fully too, you know?
And I just don’t believe that God wanted us to be worn out. You know, we have a purpose and I think we need to remember that to keep going on that path. Like we have to keep ourselves healthy physically and spiritually and mentally.
And you know, this particular topic about stop badmouthing your child’s father is important because I think it is so detrimental and toxic.
Jennifer: I really feel blessed by our conversation and I’m sure those who are listening will be too. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Chere Williams is a speaker, blogger, and writer. She was the owner of the blog, “A Single Christian Mom’s Advice on Making Life Easier,” for the past ten years, and now the newly created, “Faith Coffee and a Kid,” launching mid-December. She also is the owner of Home Sweet Home Binders where she creates fun printables for the home. She’s been listed among the Top 15 Single Moms Blogs in Earnest Parenting the Top 25 Single Mom Blogs in Circle of Moms and recognized in the Top 50 Parenting Blogs in My Kids Need That.com.
She was a weekly columnist for Moms of Faith and a Mom Mentor for Graham Blanchard Publishing. She is currently busy getting ready to launch her ebook, “15 Tips on Avoiding Single Mom Burnout,” and host workshops to encourage women and girls to live on purpose! She lives in Takoma Park, MD with her 13-year-old daughter Anya and their adorable pup, Winter.
Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org