By Ian Shann, the principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth, offering affordable and effective divorce and family mediation for separating couples.
Are you wondering how to build a relationship with your ex after divorce?
If there are no kids involved it can be a piece of cake – you can simply pack your bags, sign the separation papers and move on.
But that’s seldom the case. When kids are involved, it’s a totally different ball game.
By now, the legal disputes, including where the kids are to live, what are schooling and extra-curricular arrangements, child support etc., have probably all been settled. Your family may have gone through a turbulent, emotional and, perhaps, even ugly period.
It’s often in everyone’s best interests to put emotions aside, let the dust settle and restore peace and normality in everyone’s life. This, however, is much easier said than done and both of you will have to make a consistent effort to achieve that.
There will be school functions, sporting events, birthdays and even some unavoidable joint family gatherings – it may be impossible to not cross paths at some point. Remaining civil during these events is an absolute must if you wish to establish a healthy relationship with your former spouse.
Here are 5 things you can do that will help you to build a relationship with your ex that is both civil and healthy.
5 Ways To Build A Relationship With Your Ex
#1 is definitely not to bad-mouth your ex to anyone, including on social media and particularly in front of your children. The kids love you both equally and they must never be placed in a position where they feel as if they have to take sides. Avoid talking negatively about your ex or gossiping about them in front of your kids.
#2 is not to deny your ex contact with the kids to punish them for whatever you think they may or may not have done. Some parents try to use this as a means to get at their ex, which often upsets and affects the children the most. This also does nothing to build a cordial relationship with your former spouse. Do not ask the children to relay messages and never ask them to report back on what your ex says or does.
#3 is to remain as civil as possible with each other not only in front of the children, but at all times. The time for shouting, arguing and finger pointing should be over by now. Continued bickering will only increase the tension for you and the children. You can all do without that. It’s actually quite easy when emotions are kept at bay. That is the hardest part. If even if you hate your ex, treat them as an associate – neither as a friend nor an enemy. Remaining cordial will also allow you to retain your status and dignity among your relatives and social circles.
#4 is to stick to the terms you have agreed to as per your divorce. Even more so, show empathy and be flexible in your arrangements to accommodate their plans. Things can change for you and for them and being flexible with each other when things come crop up unexpectedly will help both of you. This simple tip will help to eliminate further conflict and will go a long way in building a healthy relationship with your ex.
#5 is give yourself space and time to adjust. It’s never going to be a super simple and quick transition from life partners to co-parents. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to have the perfect post-divorce relationship. You’re bound to have some good days and other not so great days. The key is to keep working through them and on your newly-established relationship with each other. Always communicate as openly as you can, stay civil and try to understand their point of view.
After a divorce, it is a natural reaction to not want any ongoing relationship with your ex, but re-establishing a healthy relationship will speed up the healing process not only for the children but for both of you as well.