Ways to Remain Civil with Your Ex During and After a Divorce

The reasons for couples getting married and divorced in Massachusetts can vary greatly due unique and different circumstances.  Oftentimes the impact of a divorce can leave irreparable scars and emotional wounds that require time to heal, for both parties. During this process, there are several reasons why you may want (or have) to continue to interact with your former spouse during and after your divorce. If you have children, communication is likely unavoidable and occasionally awkward. You will probably have to interact with a former spouse pursuant to co-parenting responsibilities or events and celebrations for your children that you must both attend. Whatever the reason, it helps to find ways to remain civil with each other, despite how you may be feeling towards him or her. Oftentimes, when couples go through a divorce, the negative feelings they may have towards one another become clearer, stronger, and more obvious than ever before. If you are struggling to play nice with an ex-spouse, here are some tips:

Control Your Emotions

Due to the circumstances that led to your divorce, either you or your spouse — or potentially both of you — may be harboring feelings of guilt, regret, betrayal, or any number of emotional reactions that occur when you face your ex. It’s very important to be sensitive to each other’s feelings, emotional scars, and battle wounds when interacting with one another. It also helps to avoid talking about subjects that trigger outburst, anger, and other unsettling emotional reactions.

Keeping the purpose of your interactions in mind can help you focus and enable you to minimize areas that trigger the out-of-control emotions that have led to quarreling in the past. If your ex-spouse is difficult to get along with and is known to push your buttons whenever the two of you interact, it may be better to avoid talking about subjects that tend to spark reactions and result in shouting matches. It’s far better to come prepared when you know you are going to meet with your ex-spouse; this way you can remain civil when interacting with one another, and focus on what is most important- your children's well-being.

Doing something to help you calm your nerves and stay grounded before communicating with an ex is helpful. When your emotions are high, you can be prone to misinterpret the words and actions of your former spouse. This leads to unnecessary conflicts and turmoil, which makes it increasingly difficult to remain civil when interacting with them.

Communicate Tactfully

If you must interact with your spouse during instances when you have to spend an extended period of time together, like a child's birthday party, or other shared event, it may be helpful to reduce anxiety and excessive emotional turmoil by speaking to your ex in advance regarding your intentions, as well as how and why you need to interact at various events. Being mindful of your own tone and your choice of words can help prevent flare-ups and allow your interactions and communications to flow more smoothly.

Seek Outside Support

If you need to attend an event where you know your ex-spouse will be present, you might want to consider bringing someone who can serve a supportive role and stay by your side. You will feel more comfortable and in control when interacting with your ex-spouse when you have the support of a parent, sibling, or friend — especially if it is someone who understands the emotional impact that your divorce has had on you.

Oftentimes spouses who have more abusive tendencies tend to throw their weight around and behave in ways that overwhelm, undermine, and devalue others, or purposefully create additional turmoil. Having someone attend events with you can help you avoid your ex-spouse before any major conflicts and emotional outbursts take place.

Plan your Interactions in Advance

As unnecessary as it may seem, sometimes it’s better to have a plan of action before interacting with your ex-spouse. Something as simple as jotting down the topics that you need to discuss with your spouse can reduce feuding in the end. Making a list of talking points beforehand will allow you to remain focused, get to the point, and interact in a more refined manner. You may also consider setting yourself a distinct time for the interaction to end, and informing your spouse of that before the conversation starts. “I want to be upfront that I have an appointment at 4:15, and so I’ll have to leave at 4” can go a long way to keeping discussions on track and also setting the expectation that you have a boundary to abide by, even if the other person chooses not to. Letting them know at the start of the conversation may help ameliorate possible accusations that you are “walking away,” “leaving when it’s convenient for you,” or any one of a number of other accusations people make when they are trying to control a conversation or interaction. Setting the boundary early (which includes asking and coming to an agreement with your ex about how long you will both need for the dialogue when you are planning it) can help defuse pushback. If you both know ahead of time that you are meeting at 2 and have to leave at 4 (for example), the likelihood of friction is decreased exponentially.

Avoid Exposing a Date to Your Ex-Spouse Too Soon

If you have only recently divorced, one way to trigger an awkward and unpleasant reaction from your ex-spouse is to bring around a romantic date too soon. If you must continue to interact with your ex for any reason, bringing a new date along may be something to avoid for the time being. The presence of a possible love interest will likely upset your ex-spouse, and more importantly it might trouble your children. If you are required to interact with your spouse at an event because of your children, it's important to keep your child and their emotional well-being in mind. When you and your ex-spouse attend your children’s events, be present to support the children (without any ulterior motives).

It’s very possible that your first joint celebration with your ex-spouse will be uncomfortable. Planning ahead will reduce the stress and anxiety associated with interacting with your spouse post-divorce; it will also keep the situation civil throughout the duration of the event. The key — especially in co-parenting arrangements — is to keep the children in mind above anything else. Always.

Remain Civil When Dividing Assets

Couples that accumulate and share a large number of assets throughout their marriage have more to dissolve and deal with during a divorce. Some couples not only have children together, but also purchase property, start businesses, and work together on a regular basis. Dealing with distribution of these assets in a civil manner is very important, as the process can become very costly by way of high attorneys fees and high stress if parties cannot come to an agreement without court intervention.

Keep Your Cool

Thinking before you speak and remaining practical and level-headed when interacting with your ex-spouse will help give you clarity in what you want to express. It will also assist you in refraining from expressing any deeply-rooted negative emotions at inappropriate moments. It’s vitally important to maintain calm and control your temper. Keep hurtful or instigating words from escaping your mouth if you want to have smooth interactions with your former spouse.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes speaking to a marriage therapist, grief counselor, or psychologist can assist you in sorting out your emotions and reducing the impact that the divorce has on you. A professional can help you develop ways to bounce back and to cope with the divorce in a healthy way. The healthier you are emotionally and psychologically, the easier it will be to cope with your ex-spouse and remain civil while co-parenting or during other interactions.

Interacting with your ex can be very uncomfortable, but you are always in control of your own actions. Finding a way to be pleasant and polite — even when your spouse may not display the same type of behavior — will defuse ongoing conversations and topics that result in arguments and highly-conflicted outcomes.

Julia Rodgers Mavrides Law top divorce law firm

Julia Rodgers is the firm's business director. You can read her full bio here: https://mavrideslaw.com/about/rodgers-julia/

To speak with a lawyer about divorce or a child custody matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston or Wellesley, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at info@mavrideslaw.com

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