Have you ever experienced working with a difficult ex-spouse? Do you find it challenging to set boundaries and detach yourself from him or her emotionally? A friend of mine divorced about five years ago. She and her wasband have a son. She found it challenging to detach herself emotionally from her wasband whenever they discussed parenting issues. The conversation always seemed to end up in an argument and fighting often occurred between them. The hurt from old wounds of the past continued to have a grip on her whenever they’d talked. Even though she told herself she wasn’t going to allow him to get to her, he did. My friend often comes to me and ask for advice. Here are 10 tips I share with co-parents who are struggling with a difficult ex-spouse.
TIP 1: Redefine Your Relationship with Your Ex-Spouse.
- Redefine your relationship with your ex-spouse. When you divorce, your relationship with your spouse changes. Establish new ground rules and boundaries and determine your expectations of your ex-spouse.
- Decide what kind of relationship you want with your ex-spouse. For example: do you want to remain friends and be interested in what happens in each other’s lives or do you want very little contact except as it relates to the children? You don’t have to be friends and like each other in order to cooperate and work together.
TIP 2: Limit Contact with Your Ex-spouse to Reduce Stress.
- Ask yourself how much contact with your ex-spouse can you handle? The less contact you have with your ex, the less conflict you’ll encounter which limits your stress. For instance, you may want to limit contact to email and or texting instead of cell phone.
- Ask yourself do you need to reschedule talking about specific issues with your ex-spouse until you feel you are ready to deal with them? Maybe you need to allow yourself more time to process an issue or to pray about it. It’s okay to postpone a conversation with your ex-spouse if you’re not in a place to talk about it.
- Listen within and honor yourself and your needs. Be reasonable.
Tip 3: Set Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse
- Keep between-home conversations focused on just parenting issues.
- Schedule regular co-parenting meetings. This helps anticipate parenting matters and communicate expectations (When parenting concerns come up, they should be discussed during co-parenting meeting, unless there is an emergency).
- Try not to engage in personal topics. Redirect the conversation, “I hear you”, “I appreciate your concern. Let’s focus on what’s happening with the kids right now.”
- Ask ex-spouse to text you first to see if it is okay to come by instead of showing up on your doorstep. If not, give them another option.
TIP 4: Be Nurturing and Be Rational.
- Nurture your emotional side, and try to make decisions with your rational (mental) side. While it’s good to make sure you nurture your emotional side, remember to remain rational when it comes to making decisions concerning your children and what‘s in their best interest and well-being.
- Separate how you feel about the past with your ex-spouse from how you act. Don’t allow your buttons to be pushed or give in to anger or guilt. Practice remaining calm and grounded and think before you act.
TIP 5: Be Constructive.
- Make a commitment or agreement with yourself to practice self-discipline and to behave in a nondestructive manner, regardless if your co-parent is able to do so or not.
- Be responsible for your actions, choices, and words.
- Refrain from striking back.
- Remain rational when you are upset.
- Make decisions that are based on what is right, even when you feel you’ve been treated unfairly.
- Overcome evil with good.
- Be willing to listen to and negotiate about your co-parents concerns.
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