Divorced Girl Smiling: Want a better co-parenting relationship? Tips on talking to your ex

Ask any divorced man or woman, “Do you get along with your ex?” and you will probably get that familiar eye roll. It’s sad, but the reality is, most divorced couples struggle when it comes to communicating. Here are nine tips for talking to your ex that might improve your co-parenting relationship.

1. Never say the words “It’s your fault.”

Suppose your child forgot his or her school project at your ex’s and came home to your house after school and cried about it. If you call your ex and say, “It’s your fault,” will that really solve anything? Maybe it is his or her fault, but does it help to point that out? People who are told “It’s your fault” tend to get defensive and angry Besides the fact that the statement doesn’t change what happened, it also weakens your ability to co-parent in a productive way. If something bad happens, forget whose fault it is and focus on how to fix it or minimize the damage.

2. Think before you speak

Men and women tend to get very emotional when talking to their ex, probably because there’s a certain level of resentment that is always lurking in the back of a divorcee’s mind — things that could stem from years and years ago. If your ex says something that makes you want to shout, “Are you crazy?!” take a deep breath before you respond and think about two things: the impact it will have on what’s going to happen next, and the effect that statement could ultimately have on your children. It helps to write your feelings down in a journal or tell a friend.

3. Leave the past in the past

When having a discussion about your children or your divorce, it does not help in the least to bring up things from the past. For example, if your ex is asking for more custody than you feel comfortable with, don’t say something like, “You never spent time with the kids when we were married! Why do you want more time with them now?!” Drudging up the past is unproductive and will cause your relationship with your ex to unravel. You got divorced because of the past. It’s over. Neither of you need to recap it.

4. Try to think of your ex as a business associate.

When you’re at the office trying to work something out with a co-worker or a client, do you scream and yell? Do you start crying? Do you say cruel things to hurt that person? Do you hang up on them? No. Treat your ex as if you are at work, trying to do your job as best you can. Parenting is a job, too, and treating your ex as you would a business associate will help you co-parent in the most productive way.

5. Say “I’m sorry” if you owe your ex an apology

If someone did a study of the hardest things for people to say, I’d have to bet “I’m sorry” is right at the top of the list. Why is it so difficult for people to apologize?

Taking blame and accountability takes self-awareness and courage. So, next time you do something to your ex that you feel warrants an apology, do the right thing and say it. Not only will your ex appreciate it, which will make your relationship so much better, but you’ll love yourself!

6. Speak calmly and don’t shout

How you say something is just as important, if not more so, than what you say. If you shout, your ex won’t even listen. All he or she will be thinking about is the shouting. If you really want your ex to hear you, speak softly.

7. Don’t talk negatively about anyone in your ex’s family

You didn’t divorce your in-laws, so leave them out of all conversations. People who get divorced all of a sudden love their family more than ever before, probably because they need them so much. So if you even hint that his or her family has done something wrong, be prepared to take the wrath for it!

8. Take the word “deadbeat” out of your vocabulary

In the divorce world, the word “deadbeat” is the lowest of the lowest thing a person can be. So, calling your ex a deadbeat is like punching him or her in the gut. There really isn’t even a four-letter word that is worse than deadbeat. If you think your ex is a deadbeat, either call your attorney or complain about it to a friend (or your therapist).

9. Just be kind

Being plain old nice is probably the best tip for having a good relationship with your ex. Kindness and treating someone with respect, regardless of what happened in the past, and in spite of any bad feelings you harbor, can only help you have the best possible relationship, which is great for you and even better for your kids. And if your ex isn’t kind in return, so what? You’ve lost nothing!

If you have a divorce story to tell, a question or a piece of advice that might help others, feel free to reach out to Jackie@divorcedgirlsmiling.com

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