Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tips For Positive Communication With Your Ex

I started this post LAST September, but never published it... I STILL can't speak to my ex 10 months later. Our communication is very very sparse and rudimentary and almost always only a few lines about whether/when the boys are being collected. That's it. No pleasantries allowed (his request). I still live in hope that this will change and we can become civil and then hopefully even friendly at some point again in the future. (In fact listening to Gwen Stefani's 'Cool' makes me tear up because that's what I 'd like).
And after all the obstacles
It's good to see you now with someone else
And it's such a miracle that you and me are still good friends
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool

And I'll be happy for you
If you can be happy for me
Circles and triangles, and now we're hangin' out with your new girlfriend
So far from where we've been
I know we're cool
Anyway the point is how does one really communicate with an ex? How do you get past the anger and hurt and be sincere and practical? Here's what I have found... Maybe he will read this and start trying to treat me differently. One can only hope...

If your marriage to your ex spouse produced children then nothing is more important than maintaining a civil relationship with your ex. It is essential that all parents work together for the welfare of their children. If there is poor communication with your ex-spouse and resentment between the two of you, you are not the loser, your child / children is. These tips will help you put aside any negative feelings you have toward your ex. Effort on your part to build a new and productive relationship with your ex will help all involved in the healing process and moving forward with life.

1. Consult a therapist.
If you find that the two of you have a hard time discussing important issues regarding the children, seek help from a third party. Don’t be afraid to consult a therapist or a friend you both have a trusting relationship with.

2. Set clear boundaries.
Communicate with each other and set clear boundaries about the roles you will play in your children’s lives. It’s important that you each understand the value of your relationship to your child and respect that relationship.

3. Don't bring up old issues.
When solving problems don’t bring up the past. Discuss the issue at hand and excuse yourself from the conversation if you are unable to remain calm and business like. View your ex spouse the same way you would a business associate. Make appointments to discuss issues, meet in a neutral location and always be prompt and courteous. Never allow yourself to resort to name calling, blaming, cursing or yelling. Keep negative emotions out of the equation and deal with them on your own time.

4. Be empathetic.
Be willing to see the situation from your ex’s perspective. They have concerns and fears just like you do and recognizing that will help you feel more empathetic and open to finding solutions to any problems that might arise.

5. Consider what is best for your children.
Most importantly, always consider what your children would want. You may find it hard to even be around your ex but making the needs of your children your main priority will help establish the kind of relationship that benefits them.

More Ex-Spouse Tips

Don´t Expect Too Much
Be realistic in your expectations. You were married to this person and probably know them better than they know themselves. Therefore you can probably predict their behavior and response to certain situations. Don't deliberately try to antagonize or upset the other person to get revenge. Learn the true meaning of forgiveness and get on with your life. If you harbor unforgiveness and bitterness, it will hinder your future. Let go of the past and look forward to the future. Give your ex time for his/her wounds to heal. Don't expect too much from them. Take it one step at a time and try to work toward a harmonious relationship for your children's sakes. Sometimes you may be able to compromise on issues, other times you may have to agree to disagree, but try to find a workable solution. Just don't expect too much cooperation too soon. Be sincere at all times and don't play games!

Discuss Issues
Discuss issues together. If your child is facing a problem in school, social life, or at home, let the other parent know. Think it through together. Both of you should have your child´s best interests at heart and even if you are not able to come to an agreement on how to handle the situation, both of you know what is going on.

Keep the Other Parent Informed
Keep the other parent posted on the little things. Send copies of report cards, drawings and graded papers on a regular basis. Kids often will not share all these things if they have limited time with the other parent. Make a special place to put items from school or home and be sure that the child remembers to take these items with them when they go on the visit. This gives the non-custodial parent insight into the little things that are going on and can help conversations when the parent and the child feel awkward.

Avoid Mudslinging
Engaging in mudslinging in front of the children is a big mistake. Children suffer emotionally when they hear one parent badmouthing the other. Name calling also increases the ill will and escalates conflict with your ex. Try to work together, not against each other. Everyone loses in mudslinging and name calling. You want to win, not lose. Forget the past, move ahead toward a peaceful future.

Communicating Negative Messages
Be careful not to use your child as a message bearer to communicate with your ex-spouse. If your child delivers a negative message for you, your child risks receiving the brunt of the other person's anger. Keep your children out of your domestic squabbles. They will only confuse and upset your child who is trying to be loyal to both of you. Communicate negative messages yourself by whatever means is appropriate, just make sure it does not include your kids.

Forget Past Mistakes
Don't bring up past mistakes and injustices. Throw away your laundry list of complaints and stay focused on the topic of discussion. Forget past mistakes, deal with the present. Hopefully they have learned from their past mistakes. It is time to forgive and forget.

No Bad-Mouthing
Be careful about saying unkind things about your child's missing parent. Try not to even think them or it will eventually come out. The mouth tends to speak what is in the heart, so keep your heart clean. Children need to be taught to respect their parents, even when one of them tends to act like a jerk. In time your children may see the truth for themselves, but hopefully by that time they have matured enough to realize we cannot control another person's behavior. Teach them to love and respect all people, even when that love is not returned. Don't put your child in a position of having to take sides against the other parent. They should love you both.

Communication is Important
If you and your ex are unable to carry on a civil conversation, you may need to find other ways to communicate information such as through letters or notes. If it is a very hostile situation that could end up in court, be sure to make copies of all your written communications to have as evidence should you need it. Some people have to communicate solely through lawyers, which is sad because the two adults are acting worse than a couple of two-year olds fighting over the same toy, except it is a child. If the other spouse insists upon acting like a child, then you need to be the grown-up and, by example, teach the other parent how to communicate. Set a good example for your children and exhibit some maturity in handling your side of the situation. Show them the right way to handle negative situations, not the wrong way, which is stooping to the other parent's level. Respect yourself even if your ex doesn't show you any.

Don't Cut Your Ex Out of the Loop
Keep your ex-spouse informed about everyday happenings and problems concerning your child. This includes school events and extracurricular activities. You may not want him there, but your child probably does. Put your selfish feelings aside and consider your child's well being. And it will go a long way in building a peaceful, harmonious relationship.

Stay Calm
If your ex tries to get you upset or angry, stay calm. Don't respond to his anger or engage in a confrontation he is trying to get you involved in. Be sincere and calm in your response. As the old saying goes, “kill them with kindness” (not literally of course!) Deal with the situation the same as you would with a hostile customer at work. Don't take it personally even though it is directed at your personally. Tell them you are sorry they feel that way but the situation is out of your control, the situation can't be undone, you are not able to discuss the issue with them, or whatever the rationale is. When dealing with men, remember that men are factual and respond to facts, not emotions. Getting upset and angry only fuels their fire more because men, by nature, are usually not geared to handle emotional issues, which leaves them even more frustrated and angry. Therefore you end up in a vicious cycle from which you need to remove yourself. Take away the fuel and the fire will die out.

No Accusations
Hurling accusations such as “You are selfish, and that is why you are constantly late picking up Ryan” is not helpful. It would be better to address how you ex-spouse's behavior affects Ryan (“He said he feels bad because he is late for basketball practice and the coach gets mad.”)

What your ex should know
Never tell your children to keep something secret from your ex. Your ex and the world at large have a right to know whatever your child knows. Telling children to keep secrets is harmful to the child´s development. Children are innocent and will tell every thing they know to anyone. This is normal, do not tamper with it. Telling children to keep secrets makes them vulnerable to people who want to exploit them and makes them feel guilty when they talk to their other parent. If you do not want your ex to know something, do not let the children know.

Your Child Is not a Message Center
Never use your child as a message bearer. Your child will inevitably end up in the middle of the war zone, which is not fair. Children should not be exposed to their parents' immaturity. Try to find an appropriate method of communication that does not put your children in the middle. Leave a message on an answering machine or write a letter and mail it if necessary, but don't rely upon your children to communicate your messages. The message can be forgotten, misunderstood by the child and miscommunicated to the other adult, etc. If it is important, put it in writing. Just don't rely upon your children to deliver it or it may get lost or forgotten.

Meet at Least Once a Month
Be open to meeting regularly each month with your ex and discussing how the kids are doing. Do this in a "businesslike" manner when the children are not present. If you sense problems or difficulties with the arrangement or a difference in household rules, bring them up! Letting them sit and simmer will only cause an uproar later. Remember that you both have your children´s best interests at heart and meeting each other half-way is the best way to resolve most conflicts.

When the children complain
When the children complain about the care they are getting from your ex, talk to your ex about what the children are saying. Do not accuse but do explore. Often children think you want to hear something bad so they tell you something. Sometimes it is made up, other times it is inflated. By talking together without accusing, you insure that the children do not grow up manipulating those around them.

Forget Perfectionism
Trying to be perfect in order to look better than the other parent is another big mistake. That is a pretense that will quickly falter. Just relax and act naturally. While we should always strive to improve ourselves, setting too high of a goal for yourself adds more stress and pressure that you do not need. Be satisfied with being the best you can be


  1. Three years down the line and we can still barely talk to each other!

    But yes these steps are perfect and what I TRY to do!

  2. i would add to your list that "time is a great healer". if much time has passed and you are both in stable healthy relationships it does make the edges softer.

  3. I think to keep to the issue at hand is a good idea, no need to discussing anything but the kids.