When a marriage or any relationship is over, it can be difficult to communicate with each other in a productive way. There are so many emotions that are left over from your past experience that it’s hard to put that aside those emotions and focus on the present and future. It’s likely that your ex has a pattern of responding to you that isn’t healthy and it’s easy for you to become triggered and emotional. Then you react in an emotional way and before you know it, you’re escalating into old fighting patterns.
But there are specific ways to communicate with your ex that will prevent you from falling into old bad habits. Here are three steps to more positive communication with your ex:
Step 1: Start with something positive, specific and connecting to reduce the reactivity of your ex. Here are some examples:
- I can imagine you’re working really hard these days with your new schedule.
- The kids really liked the cookies and cream ice cream you bought them yesterday.
- You picked the perfect book for Sally to read!
- The kids really enjoyed you taking them to the park the other day!
You want to show them that you’re coming from a place of respect and collaboration. You’re sending a clear message that this is not an attack. This may be awkward at first but it will get easier with practice.
Step 2: Be clear and specific when you’re asking for something
Qualifiers like, “I was wondering” or “I’m just checking” or “I think” lead to confusion. It can sound like the subject is up for discussion. Cut out any superfluous words and use clear statements like:
- Are you available to watch the kids on Friday this week?
- Please have your lawyer to get back to my lawyer by Friday at 5pm.
- What items will you be picking up on Saturday?
- I would like to meet your girlfriend before she meets the kids. When can we set that up?
- If I don’t hear from you by Thursday at 5pm, I’ll assume…
This will enable you both to understand what the purpose is for the communication and there will be less misunderstanding.
Step 3: Tie it up with a positive short sentence:
- I’m grateful to have this line of open communication between us for you, me and the kids.
- I know how much you care about the kids and appreciate that this is difficult for you.
- I’m happy that we can work together to come up with solutions for our children.
Then end with, “Enjoy your day” or some other positive ending.
These steps can be used in person or by email. There’s less of a chance of the conversation going in the wrong direction if you’re communicating by email so that’s a safer way to start out. Once you’ve been using these steps for a while, you’ll see how you and your STBX can be interacting in a totally different way than you have in the past. You and your children will be happier and much better off!
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced