Ways to remain civil with your ex during and after a divorce

By |2017-10-02T11:08:48+00:00October 11th, 2017|Co-Parenting, Divorce, Divorce & Finances, Wellness|0 Comments

The reasons couples get married and divorced are vast and variant.  Oftentimes the impact of the divorce can leave irreparable scars and emotional wounds that take time to heal. During this process, there are several reasons why one would want to continue to interact with the former spouse during and after the divorce. This is sometimes unavoidable and awkward. It is often due to co-parenting issues or events and celebrations that couple both must attend.  Whatever the reason, it helps to find ways to remain civil with an ex after a divorce, despite how one may be feeling. According to Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. and Chip Rose, JD, CFLS, authors of ‘The Psychology of Divorce’, when couples go through a divorce, the negative views that they have of each other become crystallized.  This makes it harder to remain civil when interacting with an ex-spouse. If you are struggling with this area, we have some ways that can help you with interacting with your ex-spouse in a civil way, without making the situation more overwhelming than it has to be.

Controlling Your Emotions

Due to the circumstances that led to your divorce, either you or your spouse may be harboring feelings of guilt, regret, betrayal, or any number of emotional reactions that present in the face of the stimuli (your ex). It’s very important to first be sensitive to each other’s emotions, scars, and wounds when interacting with one another. It also helps to avoid talking about subjects that trigger outburst, rage, and other upsetting emotional reactions.

Keeping the purpose of your interaction in mind can help in staying focused from your end, and able to minimize areas that trigger out of control emotions that lead to quarreling in the past. If your ex-spouse is difficult to get along with and is known to push your buttons whenever the two of you interact, then it may be better to avoid areas that stimulate emotions and result in a shouting match. It’s far better to come prepared when you know you are going to meet with your ex-spouse so that you can remain civil when interacting with one another.

Doing something to help you calm any nerves, and stay grounded before interacting with an ex is helpful. Dr. Russell B. Lemle, Ph.D. (Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco, Chief Psychologist San Francisco VA Medical Center and supervisor of couples and process-oriented psychotherapies), indicates in his article, ‘How Threat Emotions Cause Us To Misread Our Partner’ that when our emotions are high, we are prone to misinterpret our partners. This then causes undue conflicts and turmoil, which makes it all the more difficult to remain civil when interacting with your spouse.

Communicate Tactfully

If you must interact with your spouse during times when you’re forced to spend an extended period of time together, it may be helpful to reduce anxiety and excessive emotional turmoil by first speaking to your ex in advance about what your intentions are, as well as how and why you need to interact at various events. Being mindful of your own tone, and your choice of words can help reduce flare ups and allow your interactions and communications to flow more smoothly.

Seek Outside Support

If you need to attend an event where you know your ex-spouse will be present, it’s a good idea to bring someone who can play a supportive role along with you. That way you will feel more in control when interacting with your ex-spouse with the support of a parent, sibling, or friend present; especially someone who understands the emotional impact that your divorce has had on you.

Oftentimes spouses who have more abusive tendencies tend to throw their weight around and behave in ways that overwhelm, under mind, devalue, or create additional emotional turmoil.  Having someone attend events with you can’t help you avoid your ex-spouse before any major conflicts and outbursts take place.

Plan your Interactions in Advance

As minute as it may seem, sometimes it’s better to just have a plan before interacting with your ex-spouse. Something as simple as jotting down the topics that you need to discuss with your spouse can reduce feuding in the end. Making a list of topics beforehand will also allow you to stay focused, get to the point, and interact in a much more civilized manner.

Avoid Exposing a Date to Your Ex-Spouse Too Soon

If you’ve only recently divorced, one way to trigger and awkward and unpleasant reaction from your ex is to bring along a date soon after your divorce. If you must continue to interact with your ex for various reasons, bringing a new date along is not recommended. The presence of a date will not only upset your ex-spouse, but it will also upset your children if they are present. If you are required to interact with your spouse at an event because of your children, it’s important to keep your child in mind as well as their emotional well-being. When you and your ex-spouse attend your children’s event, show up at the event to support the children with no ulterior motives.

It’s very possible that your first joint celebration will be uncomfortable. However, planning ahead will reduce the stress and anxiety associated with interacting with your spouse post-divorce and will help the situation remain civil—hopefully throughout the duration of the event. The key, especially in co-parenting arrangements, is to keep the children in mind.

Remaining Civil When Dissolving Assets

Couples that accumulate and share more throughout their marriage have more to dissolve and deal with during a divorce. Some couples not only have children together, but they also start businesses together and work together on a regular basis. Dissolving these issues in a civil manner is very important, as they can become very costly if not handled properly.

Remain Levelheaded and Keep Your Cool

Thinking before you speak and being practical and level headed when interacting with your ex-spouse will help in your interactions so that you will have clarity in what you want to say and refrain from expressing any deeply rooted emotions. It’s vitally important to keep your cool and control your temper, anger and rage—stopping hurtful or triggering words from rushing out of your mouth if you want to have smooth interactions with your ex.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes speaking to a marriage therapist, a grief counselor, or a psychologist can assist you in sorting out your emotions and reducing the impact the divorce has on you. A professional can help not only develop ways to bounce back, but also find ways to cope with the divorce in a healthy way. The healthier you are emotionally and psychologically, the easier it is to cope with your ex-spouse and remain civil while doing so.

Interacting with your ex can be very uncomfortable, but you always have control of your own actions. Finding a way to be pleasant and polite, even though your spouse may not display the same type of behavior, will defuse ongoing conversations that result in arguments with high conflicted outcomes. If you’d like to find a therapist to help you cope and communicate peacefully with your ex, we have a variety of resources available.


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