So you’re committed to an amicable divorce. Congratulations! Maintaining a friendly relationship with someone who used to be your spouse is never easy. It’s worth doing, especially when there are kids involved. No matter your intentions, an amicable divorce can turn nasty quickly – usually due to poor communication. Keep your split civil with these simple tips.
Put Things in Writing
Even when things are amicable, divorce can cause a lot of tension. When your emotions are raw, it’s too easy to say something cruel or nasty to your ex without thinking it through. Relying a lot on written communication is one way to minimize the chance of saying something you regret.
Make an agreement to communicate regularly by email, especially about sensitive topics. This gives you both a chance to express everything you want to say without interrupting each other. It might also be easier to be kind to each other in writing than it is in person.
For example, maybe you really disagree about the holiday schedule. Write out a full proposal about what you want to happen and why you think it’s fair. Include some language about how you know you’re both motivated to spend time with the kids, and that you want to make the holiday schedule work for all of you. Reread the email before sending it to make sure it’s calm and polite. Your ex can process everything you said before responding.
When you were married, you crossed paths every day. It was easy to exchange information and compare notes about something going on with the kids. Now that you’re divorced, staying on the same page takes real effort. Things that you should remember to tell your ex could slip your mind, and vice versa. Then the blame game starts.
That’s why it’s so useful to schedule regular just-because checkins. These could be weekly phone calls, or biweekly emails, or whatever works for your family and your needs. Use each checkin as a time to touch base about any issues going on with the kids, and to look ahead to any challenges that might be coming up for them. Even better, meet up in a neutral place like a coffee shop and talk face-to-face so your kids know you can still be friendly.
Be Honest With the Kids
While you’re focused on having good communication with your ex, don’t forget about communicating with the kids. Having an amicable divorce is great for children in a lot of ways. They’re spared the fighting and tension that kids of nasty divorces live through. But watching their parents go through an amicable divorce can be really confusing for kids, too. If Mom and Dad get along so well, why are they getting divorced? Is it my fault? And if they’re still friends, can I get them back together?
As you work on communication with your ex, make sure to do regular checkins with the children, too. Encourage them to ask any questions they have. Talk about how you and your ex are still family, but you can’t live as spouses anymore, and that’s okay.
Have a Place to Vent
You got divorced for a reason. Even if it’s amicable, you’ll have plenty of low and frustrating moments while dealing with your ex. They might drive you absolutely crazy. In those worst moments, yelling at your co-parent would feel great. They might even deserve it! But in such an intense situation, just one fight could be destructive. It’s not worth ruining your treaty with your spouse just because it feels good to tell them off.
In order to maintain good communication with your ex, you have to have somewhere else to go with your negative feelings about the situation. It could be a friend who is always willing to listen to you talk, or a therapist or another type of counselor. A support group for people going through a divorce is another option. If all else fails, write or draw about your feelings in a journal – anything to keep you from exploding on your ex or kids.