‘Tis the time for New Year’s resolutions. Our perennial attempt to lose weight, pay off debt, quit smoking, become organised and spend less time at work.
For divorcing and divorced couples, one of the best New Year resolutions you can make is to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner. Dealing with a difficult ex can be very discouraging, frustrating and defeating. Your efforts to minimise conflict may not be returned. Attempts to foster a working relationship with the ex, for “the sake of the children”, may prove a thankless task.
“..the rewards for you ...and your children can be significant”
But the rewards for you and in particular your relationship with your children can be significant. What parents do during and after a separation or divorce – how they parent, how they handle their emotions, how they relate to each other and work together – is the key to their children’s resilience in coping with their parent’s separation or divorce. Research has shown that it is not the divorce but the way you divorce that impacts children
The following five tips may help you to minimise if not resolve that conflict with your ex.
1. Try and respect your ex-spouse/partner and his/her household - find ways of being respectful rather than resentful. Do not personally criticize them, but don’t make excuses for their behavior either.
2. Do not allow financial issues to control your behavior – Live with the agreement reached or the order handed down by a Judge that has addressed financial arrangements. Do not let your attitude towards it, after the fact, taint your relationship with your ex or your children. If you came to an agreement with your ex, live up to that agreement. If you have a court order, follow that order. No amount of anger over financial issues is worth contaminating your relationship with your ex or your children.
3. Work at forgiving - Hurt feelings from the past is the number one reason you and your ex overreact with one another. Do your part by striving to forgive for the offenses of the past and present. This will help you manage your emotions when dealing with your ex in the present. It also helps cut down on the degree of stress you will have during and after the divorce.
4. Find Common Ground - This good business principle applies to parenting as well. Even if you disagree with the main point, find some common ground and work from there. Be willing to see the situation from your ex’s perspective and to give a little instead of taking much. You may no longer be married but the concept of give and take is still very important.
5. Put your children first - You may find it hard to even be around your ex but making the needs of your children your main priority will help establish the kind of relationship that benefits them. And parents who manage to put their children first will minimise the effect of separation and divorce on their children.
Therefore, resolve not to argue in front of children, use them as a sounding board, bad-mouth to them about the other parent, or make them in any way part of the divorce. Resolve to do what it takes to improve the quality of your parenting relationship by communicating and interacting as best as you can with your ex.
And if there is ongoing conflict, be sure to notice your own role in it. Effort on your part to build a new and productive relationship with your ex will help all involved in the healing process and to move forward with their lives.