When a relationship ends and you have kids together, dealing with your ex can be a major challenge.
How do you keep your own hurt in that break up from destroying your ability to parent and from effecting your kids?
Studies show that the parent’s ability to get along post-split determines how well the child copes in the long run.
As painful as it is to interact with your ex, and even if you don’t want peace for yourself, then do it for your kid/s.
This is an opportunity for your children to learn valuable life lessons about relationships that will benefit them well into adulthood.
It only takes one person to shift the dynamics in a relationship.
This blog will show you how to build a new (and peaceful) connection so everyone involved can heal.
1. You Have the Power to Change the Story (So Make It a Good One)
Changing your story requires giving up the old one. By focusing on what works, the other person is invited to do the same.
When you’ve been hurt though, changing your story and showing any type of appreciation seems impossible. Yet, with the right support, you can move forward without all that pain following you. There are support groups such as Al-Anon or Divorce Care that focus on positive change rather than obsessing over the past.
There is a slogan in Alcoholics Anonymous called “Act as if” meaning act like you can do something positive even when it seems impossible. In amicable splits, you act like you wish your ex-partner well. With practice, it gets easier and everyone – especially the kids are less stressed.
Start acknowledging what your ex is doing for the kids. Children do better when both parents stay involved after a split. Don’t do anything to damage that. This helps make the transition into your new life less painful for them.
How to Appreciate Your Ex:
- Send a text of appreciation.
- Compliment him/her in front of the kids.
- Help the kids celebrate birthdays and major milestones.
- Thank him/her for what he/she IS doing.
Over time, you’ll start to feel happier because it takes less energy to be positive than it does to be angry. You’ll be less stressed because the focus will be on what’s working not what isn’t.
2. Yes, Manners Still Matter!
When relationships fail, then manners are the first to go.
“Please” and “thank you” get tossed quickly. If you’ve ever answered their calls without saying hello, you’re really in it!
By remembering to use pleasantries you create a kindness toward them that encourages respect back toward yourself.
You may not like your ex but you still need to be polite (live true to your own values, and do it for the sake of the kids).
Acting light and polite means:
- Avoiding topics that create problems.
- Treating them like a kind stranger.
- Assuming the positive, not the negative.
- Focusing on what you can control, not what you can’t.
- Letting go of the small stuff.
It’s tough to argue with kindness. You have the power to be pleasant. Don’t react to bad behavior. A helpful acronym is KISS, Keep It Simple Sweetie!
3. Stop Fighting And Practice Detachment
Fighting takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. It keeps the anger and resentment alive while you continue to rehash the hurt.
Telling your sad story to family and friends is part of grieving but if you’re still telling it years later, you’re stuck. It's tough to create a new life when you keep holding onto the old one.
If you’re having trouble letting go of the past, look at your expectations. Are you expecting them to acknowledge what happened or accept responsibility? If your ex didn’t do that when you were together, chances are they won’t now. These expectations need to change in order for you to find peace.
Look for other ways to get closure. Express frustration in a letter that you’ll never send, or join a support group to resolve what’s unfinished without having to get it from your ex.
4. Take Responsibility (Even When Your Ex Can’t/Won't)
The hardest part of change is admitting what you contributed to the relationship. Seeing your part takes courage but it also builds integrity. It’s not a sign of weakness.
Being willing to face your flaws can heal shame and open the door to forgiveness. Everyone makes relationship blunders but using those lessons to change your behavior builds healthier relationships.
If you can take responsibility for your behavior, the hurt can be healed.
Keep the focus on yourself because you are never in a position of power when you are expecting someone else to change. Expecting others to be different sets you up for feeling powerless, angry and hurt.
Final Thoughts – Dealing with Your Ex Peacefully
Making the effort to be polite creates a new beginning, forming a new type of connection.
It’s an important step for you and your broken family to learn how to co-exist more peacefully. By showing respect, the kids get a healthy example of what mature relationships look like.
As the connection between you and your ex becomes more amicable, co-parenting gets easier. You can back up each other as parents as the kids grow up. The kids begin to trust that light and polite is the new normal because the war has ended. You create a new story for all of you.
Michelle Farris is a marriage and family therapist in San Jose California. She works with individuals, couples and offers online courses. She specializes in anger management and healing codependent relationships. She’s a therapist who “walks her talk” and supports others in transforming habits that hurt. She writes a blog on how to build self-esteem, set healthy boundaries and build relationships without sacrificing yourself. It’s the power of accountability and unconditional support that helps you move forward, let go of the past and truly heal. Visit her website to Get Free Access to Michelle’s Resource Library.