I've been divorced for over 7 years. And by most standards, my divorce was friendly. We have a solid relationship. We are co-parents of an 11- year-old and we work together well in coordinating her care, share similar values, and communicate reasonably well.
At the same time like any relationship, we have moments where the communication is not so good, in fact, it's horrible. Moments where we both feel misunderstood and not heard; angry or sad over our struggle; or just plain frustrated. And still more moments where we feel threatened and worry over the long term impact of our relationship on our kid.
I have to give us both an "A" for effort. We try really hard. We are both truly committed to our daughter and often stuff it because it's important for us to lead by example and we are trying to have our divorce have minimal impact on our daughter. But as they say, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. And sometimes, that's what these conversations feel like hell!
These disagreements can be intense because you are uncertain about your relationship with this individual. It feels really vulnerable to share with your former partner what is going on in your life. You feel like they didn't care then why would they care now. And if your divorce was messy, all the past hurt and pain make it hard to trust that this person is truly trying to work with you for the good of your child or children.
And for some of us, this is the way we always communicated with this individual. We are trapped in repeating this pattern of always fighting or arguing.
The key to good communication in any relationship is to be committed to, well, good communication and of course to be more committed to the well-being of your children than sticking-it to your ex. And that can be hard especially if you feel he is sticking it to you. It's a natural defense mechanism of self-preservation to want to give as good as you get if not better so you will be safe. And somebody has got to take the high road. So it might as well be you. Besides, watching you communicate in cool, calm, and collected manner will really stick it to him!
Seriously, there are things you can do to support good communication and step out of your past patterns of disagreement.
1 – Inhale and then, exhale. Stop talking and just breathe. Sometimes we are so quick to react we don't take the time to pause and give ourselves and our former spouse space. This alone is a game changer since conscious breathing calms the heart rate and slows the mind, it will give you space to actually think of a response rather than lash out on auto pilot.
2 – Get curious instead of angry. Ask for clarity even when you think you know the answer. Ask why. Ask for the rationale. Ask what result or goal is he trying to reach. Ask how he expects you to help.
3- Let your feet do your talking. If you feel your temper, your voice, the bile rising in your throat, leave - politely. No hang ups, no storming out, no drama. She who disagrees and runs away lives to say her peace another day. It's ok to say I am not in a place to have this conversation or I can't do this right now. Re-group, re-charge, and re-engage when you are ready. Be sure that you don't leave him hanging. That will just make the next conversation even harder.
4 – Let go or be dragged. Forget the many years this man was your partner. He is no longer your spouse. Get to know his wants, needs, and wishes in this moment. Probably the reason you aren't together any more is those things changed for one of you. Let go of the past, neither of you are the person you were in the marriage.
You and your ex may never become BFFs. You may not be able to share openly about the joys and the fears you each have with regard to your children. But you can reach a point where communication is civil and effective and supports you both in doing what is best and needed for your children.
It's important for us to remember that this isn't just about you or him. It's about our children. And we want them to model good communication and appropriate behavior. We want to give our children solid relationships skills so they can end this cycle of divorce and broken families.
The best thing we will ever do in life, is equip our children to exceed beyond our dreams and expectations. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is learn to communicate in a way that honors the thoughts and opinions of others, and allows our own self-expression in an effective and powerful way.
Coach Ivy is starting a Meet Up Group in the Columbia, MD area providing pre- and post-divorce support. Click here for details. http://www.meetup.com/Divorced-Single-Again-in-DMV/events/140220642/
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