You probably know by now that just because you are getting divorced, doesn’t mean you never have to speak to them again. If you have kids, it is a certainty that you will need to speak with your ex to coordinate pickups, school events, medical issues, etc. Until all of your children are 18, you are, for better or worse, stuck with each other to some degree. But you are also getting divorced for a reason and in the beginning, you may have a hard time talking, texting or even emailing your ex without it turning ugly really quickly. You both know exactly how to push each other’s buttons and that can be a recipe for disaster. As a result, there are certain principles you should follow in talking with your ex that will prevent unnecessary conflict and at the very least not hurt your case, which makes your attorney’s job much easier.
Always Choose the High Road
Decide today, decide right now, to always, always choose the high road. I understand that this is much easier said than done, but it can be a mantra that takes you from a 10 to serenity now. Understand that this doesn’t mean lay down or just keep taking abuse, but it does mean disengaging when things get hot. Divorce is emotional—its personal and a divorce situation is often a powder keg waiting to blow at even the slightest provocation.
When children are involved, the momma and papa bears come out and are willing to fight to the death, sometimes at the expense of the very children they are trying to protect. It may be hard to hear this now, but what you say, what you do, how you talk about and react to your spouse in your children’s presence will affect them for the rest of their lives. It will change how they relate to you and your spouse. It will likely impact the relationships they may have in the future. It feels good sometimes to make that snide remark or send that biting text, but only hurts your kids, whether you realize it or not.
Taking the high road is not about being passive or taking it from your spouse, it’s about choosing your children’s wellbeing first. Even if you are in the habit of terrible fights with your ex, choose to change that behavior now. Not only will it help you in court, but it will be the best thing you can do for your children in the long run.
Flip the Dynamic with Your Spouse
Whatever is normal between you and your spouse needs to change. No matter what has happened between you, you need to constantly remind yourselves that the only thing that matters is your kids and making sure they are raised properly and negotiating a mutually agreeable settlement to end your relationship. In this context, it is better to think of your spouse as someone you must work with, but don’t like very much. You can’t just go off on them every time they bug you, you’d get fired. When tempers flare, step away and allow some time to regain perspective on what your overarching goals are. Sarcasm, cynicism, and snide remarks need to be held in, it’s simply not productive to your end goals. Save all that for when you are blowing steam with your friends. Remember, this is like a business deal and you both will be happier when you can put this behind you. More importantly, it will leave the smallest impact on your children.
Showing Respect is Not Rolling Over
If don’t have kids with your spouse, you never have to see them after the divorce is finalized and it may not matter how you treat them. However, if you do have children with your spouse it’s no longer a zero sum game and an all-out war will leave collateral damage—namely your children. So, the uglier you make things with your spouse, it’s often the children that suffer the most. Remember you still have to deal with your spouse on a weekly, if not daily, basis if you have kids with them. Do you need an enemy? Do you want one?
Instead of waging war, acknowledge the good parts. Give them credit where credit is due and put the stuff that bugs you aside. Remember that your ultimate goal is to make a deal in your divorce that works for you, saves you money in legal fees, and spares your children an ugly custody battle. Bad mouthing your spouse, especially to your kids or in front of your kids is going to impede that and make it much harder. From now on you need to think strategically. How are you going to create the conditions for getting what you want out of a divorce settlement?
Even worse, acting angry and going off about how horrible your spouse is will create an environment that will not be good for your kids. It will hurt them and maybe, your relationship with them. Kids don’t understand what is going on, they just understand they are hurting. Don’t make it worse. If you don’t have children with your spouse, do you want waste another minute of emotional energy on your spouse? Churning the bad feelings between you two is not going to make you happier in the long run, will end up costing you more, and may prevent you from moving on. It’s not worth it.
Showing respect to your ex is not about rolling over, it’s about being a grown up. Sometimes, you’ll be the only one in the room and that’s okay. Your kids will appreciate it, even if it takes them a while. The court will recognize it and if things get sticky, the court will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. In the end, you will be the one who benefits the most, because you will find it easier to move on.
Neutralizing the Other Side’s Anger
Anger usually rears its ugly head in almost every case. There are so many triggers due to the history between spouses. When one gets angry the default response is anger, it’s only natural. Anger is contagious. When things are chaotic and we feel frustration and uncertainty, it makes us angry. Unfortunately, even the simplest divorce cases will make you feel this way, which means there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. Since there is plenty to get angry about in a divorce, it is critical that you develop strategies and techniques to defuse not only your own anger, but your spouses as well. Two angry people will never get anywhere in divorce negotiations. You need to flip this paradigm on its head and think about things differently. It’s natural to respond to your spouse’s anger with more anger, but it escalates matters and impedes progress. When your spouse erupts in anger, the best response is no response at all. Anger as an emotion is expressed to provoke a response, if you don’t respond, eventually, they will go about things a different way. I know, sounds too good to be true. I can see the skeptical look on your face, but give it a try and see for yourself, you might be surprised. Try it for a month. It will be hard not to jump to your own defense, but in time you will see that you are conditioning how you spouse deals with you and responds to conflict.