It’s no secret that a divorce can bring out the worst in people. From arguments about assets, custody and old relationship issues, exes can get caught up in the bitter feelings. Communicating with your ex, though, doesn’t have to be hostile. Learning how to put hurt feelings behind you and working together as former spouses and often co-parents can help improve your health and well-being.
It’s easy to misinterpret the meaning of your words when your voice is raised or your tone is sarcastic. Do your best to talk softly and keep conversations cordial. When people raise their voices, it is even more difficult to come to agreements when trying to co-parent or discuss upcoming events or post-divorce details, such as exchanges in personal property.
Pay close attention to your body language and tone and do your best to talk in a polite manner, recommends Woodward, Pires and Lombardo Law Firm in Naples, Fla. When you make the effort to speak softly and politely, it is likely your ex will do the same.
As the toll of a divorce weighs on your emotions, know that your ex is facing the same challenges. When speaking with your ex, do your best to validate his or her feelings. Offer words of support, such as, “I know this is difficult,” or, “We can both make it through this trying time,” to show that you still care for your ex-spouse’s well-being. Although you may be dealing with resentment, guilt or even anger, show that you understand and empathize with how your ex is feeling while communicating. Your efforts will likely encourage your ex to communicate in the same respectful manner.
Have Realistic Expectations
After a divorce, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. Make sure your expectations for communication with your ex are realistic, says therapist Elly Prior, founder of Professional-Counselling.com. Acknowledge that there may be times you may want to lash out at your ex and say hurtful things to him or her, but refrain from saying something you will later regret. Know that it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings, but that it is not appropriate to lash out. Keep your communication cordial to avoid any future disagreements or arguments. If possible, find a support group or trusted friend to talk with when you are overcome with bitter and angry feelings. Surround yourself with positive people and maintain close friendships with those who understand the challenges you are facing while communicating with your ex, says Prior.
Keep Conversations Brief
If you and your ex are unable to communicate cordially, Woodward, Pires and Lombardo recommend keeping your interactions limited. Instead, keep the conversation light and focused on custody arrangements and family needs. Avoid oversharing or snooping into each other’s personal business when conversing. When bitter feelings are weighing on your mind, it’s often helpful to keep the conversation professional and brief to avoid disagreements. When tensions are high, know that unleashing anger will not help you heal or help your children to adjust to the family changes, according to Liana Lowenstein, a Toronto-based child psychotherapist. If you and your ex find that you are unable to communicate cordially, consider setting up a meeting with a mediator to work out unresolved issues from the divorce.