Our Twitter feed has been full of great tips for dealing with ex-spouses this week! Whether emotionally or legally, dealing with your ex after your divorce can be a bumpy””but often necessary””ride. The most common reason an ex stays in your life after the relationship ends is shared custody of the kids. If you have children together, your life will likely never be completely free of a former spouse””even after the kids enter adulthood.
Maintaining a civil relationship with an ex””in most cases, except instances of abuse or violence””can benefit everyone involved, particularly children. It may not always be easy, but here are a few tips for dealing with an ex in ways that everyone can live with:
- Do not badmouth your ex in front of your kids: Face it””everyone is human. And all of us are tempted at times to express anger, frustration, annoyance, or sadness when the kids are going to visit the ex. For your children’s sake””and for your own mental health””please refrain. Seriously. It will not help you, and it certainly is not good for the children to feel stuck in the middle. In fact, try and go the opposite direction. Be generous. Let your children know your ex””their mother or father””loves them as much as you do, even if””inside your head””you have negative thoughts. Try to remember that the most important people in this relationship are your children. They will watch your actions as well as listen to your words. And it is not just the kids who will benefit. Avoiding arguments, harsh words, and negative emotions will reduce your own stress. Find someone to confide in””a good friend, family member, or therapist””and save your negative thoughts for a better setting and recipient.
- Adjust to changes and be understanding: Your ex is dealing with his or her life too. There may be times when he or she is late for the children’s drop-off and pick-up. Or maybe there is a work conflict or an after-school activity to navigate around. Try to be flexible and understanding. Life happens, so be open to changes and adjust as best you can. If unplanned changes to parenting schedules and visits seem to be happening often, it might be time to review arrangements. If your ex is late to a few drop-offs, the world will not end; however, if it is a precursor to more serious behaviors or habits, consider whether there will be long-term effects. Again, the most important person here is your child. Will this behavior eventually impact your child negatively? If not, do your best to be flexible, even when it is hard.
- Find neutral help: If you are finding it beyond difficult to maintain civility””and believe us, it happens””find someone who can act as a go-between or mediator for you. This can be a friend or family member, but it should be someone who both of you like and respect””and importantly, someone who can be neutral. This neutral party could then attend drop-offs and pick-ups or any additional meetings between the two of you regarding your child’s upbringing. Often, involving someone who is not directly affected can defuse a tense situation and keep everyone calm.
- Keep the lines of communication open: Whether your child is having a hard time adjusting to the divorce, is involved in sports that bring frequent schedule changes, or even is having problems in school””you and your ex will need to be able to communicate. The first step is to find the communication style that works for both of you. It could be that email is easiest because face-to-face dredges up too many emotions. It could be that you need a neutral third party we discussed above. Either is fine. Just pick what works for you and the kids and make sure to keep talking. If you see a potential problem at your home with your child, make sure you let the other parent know. If your child is interested in joining a sport, and the games will require out-of-state travel, talk to each other. Communication in any fashion that reduces stress, prevents misunderstanding and ensures both parents know all they need to know to effectively address a child’s needs is the ultimate goal.
Your marriage may have ended, but you will always have your kids in common””and that means a little extra challenge when you are adjusting to life as ex-partners. Whether it is scheduling joint attendance at events, juggling the challenges of daily scheduling or child-rearing challenges, you and your ex will want to develop new””and perhaps unexpected””coping and communication skills to make sure children grow up with as much involvement and interaction from both parents as possible, despite the divorce.