The relationship with your ex
While you may not have a tremendous amount of respect for your ex as a person, you can talk to them respectfully as the parent of your children.
Managing your relationship as adults
“Think about whether you would speak to anyone else in the way you speak to your ex. Help your children learn about respecting others by showing them that you can have a respectful relationship with their other parent.”
When discussing issues or addressing disagreements, avoid making personal attacks including statements that judge, criticise or assign blame to one another.
Address the issues
Find a way to address issues related to the divorce or separation instead of hanging on to the anger and hurt. Dealing with your feelings will also help you to be less reactive when issues arise involving your children or your ex. Remember, moving on is important for both you and your children.
Redefine your relationship
For many parents it is helpful, especially in the early stages of separation or divorce, to handle issues between each other in a business-like manner. Avoid conversations that address old issues, personal information or encourage conflict. If it is difficult to separate your emotions from the situation or person, ask yourself how you would handle a similar situation with a work colleague. Sometimes it may be helpful to think about how you would want the situation handled if the roles were reversed.
Change your expectations
Following divorce or separation, some parents try to control one another by resorting to manipulation, confrontation and criticism. Don't put energy into trying to control your ex or the situation. The most you can do is be the best parent you can.
Dealing with conflict
When a relationships breaks down, it can be a very tough time, and you may have little reason to trust one another as the partners you once were.
You may have every right to hate your ex, but you also have a responsibility to work together to make sure your children grow up in a happy relationship with both of you.
- What is making you angry? Knowing what is at the base of your anger is an important step towards resolving it. Are there things that still need to be said? Write them down, talk to a friend or think about using some professional support such as counselling, to help you.
- Anger and conflict can be addictive. Like every other addiction however, it is harmful. You may find the downside is increasing unhappiness with yourself and real damage to those around you, especially children. If this happens, get some help to deal with it.
- Point scoring is tempting in any conflict, but who gets hurt? You may think it is your ex but what if it’s your children who, ultimately, get hurt the most?
- Have a ‘time-out’ rule. It’s tempting to respond angrily to a text or email but wait until you have calmed down. Look at your response again with an objective eye. Would you send it to someone you work with? How would you explain it to your children? If the same happens in direct contact with your ex, simply step away. Explain that you will contact them once you have had time to think.
- Think about what you are teaching your children. Do you want them to use your tactics? If they see that the way to deal with conflict is by having and maintaining a war, how will that affect their lives – and potentially their relationship with you and with others?
- Don’t dwell on your anger. It’s tempting to sit and mull over every unkind word or action or to plot your response. When you start to slip into doing this find a distraction. Call a friend, go for a coffee or for a walk. Don’t let your anger own you.
- Conflict and bitterness affect your personality and may affect your physical and mental health. As a parent, you need to be around and well to raise your children. Spend your time thinking about reclaiming your personal happiness and your future, not dwelling on past hurts.
- Work on your self-esteem. Sometimes hanging on to anger and hostility can be about having hurt pride, feeling betrayed, embarrassed, or having failed – or simply feeling that you have been used. Being able to like yourself can help a lot. Look at the things you have done and do well, believe in yourself and your talents. Get a friend to help you see things positively, or think about getting help from a professional.