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There are two types of people in the world pertaining to Kardashian drama; those who sit back in disbelief, pointing fingers and assuming the unassumable, at the co-parenting chaos ensuing between the power couple formerly known as Kimye. And the rest of us, who have already been divorced, are hardly surprised by the drama and, unfortunately, know exactly what she’s going through.
For those of you living under a rock, I’ll summarize the exact details of said chaos:
Kanye has taken to social media to publicly attack, criticize, try to apologize, and then go back to criticizing Kim Kardashian, her parenting choices, and now, even her family. It’s like watching a very glam train wreck headed for the side of a Calabasas mountain in slow motion, and while this fodder has made for unique Instagram meme content, the sad truth is that none of this is funny—at least, not to those who have walked in Kim’s shoes with an ex-spouse before. What Kim Kardashian is experiencing at the hands of her soon-to-be-ex-husband, in front of all the world—and her kids—to see, is known as post-separation abuse/control.
Post-separation control, also known as coercive control, is defined as “a form of abuse that some ex-spouses use to maintain power and control over the partner they are separated or divorced from, long after a relationship or marriage is over, common at the hands of people with high-conflict personalities or more specific personality disorders.”
I’m a Certified Divorce and Co-Parenting Specialist and my book, Moms Moving On: Real-Life Advice on Conquering Divorce, Co-Parenting Through Conflict, and Becoming Your Best Self, comes out March 15. Most of my clients, followers, and readers have come to me saying things like, “I was never even a Kardashian fan before, but I just feel so bad for Kim,” or “Oh my goodness, I feel like I’m watching the celebrity version of my exact life.”
Others, however, have made claims that I’m here to refute, such as “He’s crazy and just doing that for press,” or, “She probably deserves it,” as some very salty men have commented on my Instagram feed. And listen, I’m not here to diagnose or delve deep into Kanye’s mental health struggles, but regardless of what they are, it doesn’t make it okay to berate an ex and their parenting choices in any way, shape, or form. While some might think that because this kind of abuse isn’t physical, it isn’t that big a deal, the control is often executed in ways that could only be described as psychological and emotional terrorism, which is far harder to prove—thus making it far harder to stop.
How does post-separation control rear its ugly head? Let’s go back to where a lot of this started for Kim and Kanye: TikTok.
In early February, Kanye posted a plea on Instagram asking his followers to explain why his daughter was put on TikTok against his will. Well, Kanye, sorry, bud, but unfortunately, regardless of what anyone’s opinions are on letting children use TikTok, your ex-wife is under no obligation to justify what she does in her home, with her children, to you or anybody else*.
And this is precisely where this type of coercive control begins.
“Why do you let our child eat sugary cereal in your house? You’re a terrible mother.”
“I don’t want my kids watching those shows in your house.”
“What kind of parent are you if you’re wearing those outfits around my kids?”
If you’re divorced from or divorcing a high-conflict personality type, I know you know exactly what I mean.
Sure, these statements seem pretty harmless until you give into one or two of your ex’s demands and start to find that no matter what you do, the demands, threats, and insults continue, making you feel as if you’re still married — or worse, emotionally obligated — to the person you fought so hard to leave. The person engaging in this type of abusive control will undoubtedly insist that their demands are “what’s best for the children,” completely ignoring that what’s best for the children in any divorced family is having parents who are not constantly at war. These types of psychological abuse tactics very closely mirror the tactics used in psychological torture, which Biedermann’s Chart of Coercion — a tool designed by sociologist Albert Biedermann in 1957 to demonstrate and explain the coercive methods of stress manipulation used to torture prisoners of war — lists as:
Monopolization of Perception
Induced Debility and Exhaustion
Threats, Occasional Indulgences
and Enforcing Trivial Demands.
Love her or hate her, Kim’s response was the type that any divorce industry expert would have given as well, highlighting the fact that Kanye’s attacks on his daughter’s mother would leave much deeper wounds than any caused by TikTok:
“Kanye’s constant attacks on me in interviews and on social media is actually more hurtful than any TikTok North might create,” Kardashian West wrote. “As the parent who is the main provider and caregiver for our children, I am doing my best to protect our daughter while also allowing her to express her creativity in the medium that she wishes with adult supervision — because it brings her happiness.” Kardashian West went on to write that “divorce is difficult enough on our children” and that her estranged husband’s “obsession with trying to control and manipulate our situation so negatively and publicly is only causing further pain for all.”
She’s not wrong, and neither is my point about a coercive or emotionally abusive ex never knowing when to stop and always finding something to fight about. Since the TikTok drama, Kanye has also taken to social media to trash Kim’s boyfriend, Pete Davidson, threatening to attack him and calling him names, as well as publicly humiliating other Kardashian confidantes all while insisting that everyone is out to get him. Hate to break it to you, Ye, but the common denominator of all this drama is you.
So what do you do if you’re a regular person trying to navigate a regular divorce with someone engaging in post-separation abuse/coercive control?
Acceptance, On Two Levels
To properly handle this type of abuse, you first have to accept that it’s happening. You know deep in your gut what feels like an infringement on your territory or an attack on your character, so please don’t rely on other people validating whether or not this is, in fact, a form of abuse. It is.
The second form of acceptance you’ll need to harness is the kind that comes from accepting that no matter what you do or don’t do, whether or not you constantly bend to the needs of an abuser, you will not change who this person is or how they try to treat you.
Physical and emotional boundaries are critical when you are co-parenting with a high-conflict, controlling ex. If there is a threat of physical violence, a protective order will make a world of difference in your life. The other kind of boundaries, the ones needed to stop you from being emotionally bowled over by your ex’s nonsense, range from giving up the need to answer to your ex’s demands, muting his texts and emails as not to let yourself get triggered each time they come in, and remembering that you do not need to step into the proverbial ring any time this person wants to box. Remember that these boundaries are not there to change him but to change how you react. Stay consistent.
*Follow Your Parenting Plan
Earlier, I mentioned that how you choose to run your household and parent your children is absolutely not your ex’s business — unless there are specific parameters set forth by your attorneys in your parenting plan or divorce agreement. If your ex makes a demand that is not clearly listed in your plan, that’s their problem, not yours.
Stay On Higher Ground
Your ex can belittle you, trash you publicly, and try to attack your character, but actions speak far louder — and make a much more lasting impact — than words. Avoid the need to stoop to the level of your high-conflict ex, and one day, your kids will thank you for always being the safe port in their chaotic divorce storm.
Teach Your Kids Critical Thinking Skills
If your ex is trying to attack or control you by bad-mouthing you to your children, this is when critical thinking comes into play. Teach your kids to think for themselves, make decisions on their feelings, and analyze evidence before deciding what’s true.
Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Leaving a marriage to someone like Kanye is often as hard as being in one — until you learn to take back your control. The day you put up those emotional walls, learn to block out the noise, and remember that just because someone says something doesn’t make it true, a whole new life begins.
Image: Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images