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Is Talking With Your Ex-Spouse Normal?

by Scott Thompson, studioD

Talking with your ex-spouse on a regular basis is normal in the sense that a lot of people do it. The real question is whether talking to your ex-spouse is healthy and productive or painful and damaging to yourself and your relationships. The answer to this question depends on the quality of your interactions with your ex.

Not Married but Not Really Divorced

Many people stay married to some extent after the divorce becomes official. Some people still fight with their exes for years after the divorce, compounding the emotional damage that led to the divorce in the first place. Some still rely on each other for the things a spouse provides, such as emotional support or help with errands and emergencies. In certain cases, one or both ex-partners cling to hope of a reconciliation, which can interfere with new relationships. Fighting with your ex all the time is clearly destructive, but staying entangled in more pleasant ways can be destructive too. The idea of staying best friends with your ex-spouse may be comforting, but it can also get in the way of moving on, building a new life or meeting a new partner.

Parenting Together After Splitting Up

If you have children with your ex and both of you are committed to your responsibilities as parents, then some form of ongoing contact is simply unavoidable. The ideal co-parenting situation is one in which both parents respect the boundaries of the new dynamic while cooperating in their parenting roles. This can range from a warm, friendly and mutually supportive relationship to an impersonal yet respectful effort. Mutual hostility is harmful to children and should be avoided if at all possible.

Forging a New Relationship

Whether you have kids together or not, if you want to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex-spouse, you need to start by clarifying the boundaries. Friends count on each other for certain types of support but also understand that there are limits. You don't walk into your friend's house uninvited and start going through the cabinets in search of a snack. You don't throw an emotional scene when your friend starts dating someone new. Similarly, you don't expect your friends to drive you on all your errands. In all your interactions with your ex, you should ask yourself whether you would interact with a friend this way. If the answer is no, then the behavior is more likely to be harmful than helpful.

When Friendship Is Impossible

If you don't think you can keep talking with your ex without getting entangled in one way or another, you might need to set firm boundaries. Although this is likely to be painful for both of you, it's better than protracting the suffering by dragging out the process of splitting up for years. If you don't have children together or any legal or financial issues to work out, you might want to cut off contact completely so both of you can move on. If you need to remain in contact but don't want to get entangled, you can choose to communicate exclusively in writing or you can deliberately use an impersonal tone when you do have to talk, concentrating on the business at hand. If you have a disagreement, use the same respectful yet assertive approach you would use with a stranger and avoid fighting by ending the conversation if you need to.

About the Author

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.

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