Divorcing parents can benefit from learning about how to gray rock their ex. Whether or not your ex is a narcissist or abuser, “grayrocking” can be an effective technique in communicating.
In an ideal world, once you divorce you don’t have to speak to your ex again. However, if you have children with your ex, you’ll need to find a healthy way to communicate.
What does “gray rock” mean?
At first, gray rocking was used as a technique to communicate with narcissists. Rather than responding to a narcissist’s attempts to rile you up by attacking and blaming, it’s been found more effective to ignore most of what they say.
Although it is very common to see your ex as a narcissist – selfish, self-centered and no longer caring about you at all, only about 1% of the population has narcissistic personality disorder.
However, the techniques of ‘grayrocking’ can be helpful regardless of whether your ex is actually disordered, merely has traits, or it just seems that way due to the intensity of a divorce.
How to Gray Rock
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when interacting with their ex during a divorce is taking the bait and getting sucked into an argument. It is difficult to break the cycle of intimate communications that characterized a marriage or long term relationship.
It can feel weak to ‘let them have the last word’ or not respond and rebut every accusation that they make.
However, there is real strength in refusing to engage about petty nonsense. For people leaving an abusive dynamic, it can be a matter of survival and protecting their mental health not to engage with their ex.
We often tell our clients to let 90% of what is directed at them fly right past them … most of the communications from their ex don’t require a response. The accusations, baiting, threats, demands and rehashing of old history are mostly designed to get a reaction and keep you engaged with a person you are trying to separate from.
The principle of grayrocking is to only respond to what is necessary, and to respond as minimally as possible. A simple ‘thumbs up’ emoji or “OK” is often sufficient – even in response to a lengthy rant.
Gray Rock Responses
- That’s not correct
- I’m sorry you see it that way
- thumb’s up emoji (this can feel very empowering, especially when it’s a response to a long tirade that’s meant to get you upset)
- choose one phrase and continue responding with that phrase throughout the interaction – as in the “see you at 6” response seen in the texts above
Getting The Hang Of The Gray Rock Response
Gray rocking can take practice, because your ex likely knows how to push your buttons and how to make you angry. It’s hard to take a minute and think through how to respond. While you’re getting the hang of it, it might be nice if you can have a friend or family member read your ex’s texts and emails before you. Having a little bit of perspective can help you decide what requires a true response and what doesn’t. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- is this related to the kids?
- is a response absolutely required?
- what portion of this text requires the response? (hint: only the logistics of childcare – when, where, how will we exchange the kids, get them to the appointment, take care of their health needs)
Remember – you have chosen divorce because no other action has created a healthy, happy and successful relationship. Your only option to protect yourself is to remove yourself from the unhealthy relationship. Don’t let the divorce suck you back into the same dynamics that you are trying to escape. Change the way you relate to your ex and develop new patterns to protect yourself and find happiness and health.
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