Where do you start with how to deal with your ex?
Dealing with your ex can be improved with two words: Effective Communication.
Children benefit when parents treat each other with respect and can cooperate. This can be a tough thing to do as a relationship breaks down.
Understanding your personal style of communicating will go a long way to help you make things more comfortable when considering how to deal with your ex.
Poor communication makes things difficult and feeds conflict, creating power struggles. It can even drive some people away from their children.
Roadblocks to communicating effectively
- One or both parents have negative or hostile reactions to each other.
Suggestion — try saying it in an email or a letter (always keep a copy for reference when discussing issues later).
- Interference or distractions from the outside.
Suggestion — use a neutral location to meet, for example, a cafe; suggest both parents turn off their mobile phones.
- Always being in a hurry does not allow effective communication to occur.
Suggestion — Arrange in advance a time to speak — not at changeover time.
- Parents need to be clear about what they are saying.
Suggestion — Prepare, write down the issues you wish to cover and tick each off as you go through them.
- Parents have different words to express themselves.
Suggestion — Keep it simple. Reconfirm your understanding of the conversation with the other parent ‘Do I understand this correctly…?’
CAUTION!! Where high conflict, abuse or domestic violence is involved, communication with your ex may not be possible.
After separation, you need to be able to discuss issues that affect the children without being stuck in old battles.
What is important is how you handle your differences — not that they exist. Remember that sorting out issues is part of everyday life.
There is almost no end to what sparks conflict during separation:
- Differences of opinion.
- Complaints about how agreements/arrangements are carried out.
- Criticism of behavior/attitude.
- Doing the opposite of what was asked.
Avoid ‘Hot Spots’
Button pressing is where you feel you are being deliberately aggravated by your ex.
This might include:
- Reading what your ex has said about you in documents that you believe not to be true.
- Purchasing things for the children without discussing it with you first.
- Returning children without their clothes or other items they left with.
- Deliberately bringing up past arguments or differences of opinion.
Recognise the trap before you take the bait; write a list of situations that you find yourself reacting to.
Write what it is you do to push their buttons.
Power and control struggles
When separated parents deal with power and control issues it is important to understand the way it appears to the children.
Typical power and control struggles are:
- Coercion and threats — using physical violence or verbal threats.
- Intimidation — put-downs, breaking things or acting aggressively.
- Economic abuse — withholding financial payments.
- Emotional abuse — name put-downs, criticising and making the other parent feel guilty.
- Children — denying involvement, threatening to take the children away, alienating the other parent.
Any conflict that comes up should be sorted out quickly — don’t let it go on and on until someone reaches boiling point.
Steps involved in dealing with issues:
- Let go of the old stuff — how you used to do things. Avoid using the words never, ever or always and you. E.g. ‘You always make promises you can’t keep.’
- Think about your own actions and reactions. Work on things you can control. If you become upset, stop — and continue when you have calmed down. Speak calmly, breathe slowly.
- Pay attention to your physical and emotional health. Look after yourself. Role-play — practice with a friend or counselor what you want to say and how to respond in difficult situations.
- Let your children know you both love them and will always be their Mum and Dad, no matter what happens.
- Agree on short-term arrangements then look at longer-term solutions.
- Focus on needs and interests, for example, ‘The kids need to see both of us regularly’ rather than taking a position which invites arguments, for example, ‘I want the kids every other week.’
Sadly, there NO quick fixes or miracles in these situations. You can do all the right things and still not have immediate results.
With some patience and communication, things do get better.
To speak with a Mackay Family Lawyer please reach out and book an appointment on our website.