Peaceful Divorce

Stop Fighting with your Ex! Communication Strategies for Moms that Actually Work

Getting a divorce doesn't mean you never speak to your ex again, especially if you share any amount of custody. Now more than ever, you need communication strategies that bring out the best in everyone - you, your ex and your kids. It only takes one argument to slip out of control and make your life (and your children's lives) extremely difficult. Learning new strategies of communication with your ex is a worthy goal if you want a life with less stress and more ease. Below are some simple suggestions that will help you have empowered conversations you can feel good about, without any melt-downs or added stress.

Great Communication begins long before the conversation begins. Think back to the last time you had an argument with your ex: were you tired? Stressed? Frazzled by the kids? Worried about money? Chances are, you weren't at your best. The pressure of living a divorced life, especially when there are children involved, can be very intense. Ironically, just when they need it most, this is when most moms stop taking care of themselves! Communicating well with your ex post-divorce means you need to do even more self care than before - and when you do you will see positive results in your communication with your ex (and anyone else for that matter). So, long before you pick up the phone, return that email or have a face-to-face with your ex, check in with yourself. How's your self-care going? Are you getting enough rest? Drinking enough water through the day? Do you have the emotional support you need? Are you eating healthy foods? What habits or vices do you have that are draining you? Taking excellent care of yourself doesn't have to be expensive or take long, but it does take a conscious effort. Start today and you'll soon see how much easier it is to navigate tricky conversations with your ex.

Know what you want.Being clear with yourself about why you are communicating with your ex will alleviate a lot of arguments and give you the results you want more often. When you are clear with your intention, and you stick to your intention, even tough conversations can become easier. Before your conversation, take some time to ground yourself: stop what you are doing and quiet your mind. Take some deep, cleansing breaths deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth; allow your breath to relax your body. Next, place your hands on your heart and ask: what is my intention with this call/conversation?' The answer should bubble quickly to the surface. Pay attention! If your intention is something unproductive (such as: I want him to feel guilty; I want to rub something in to him; I am so angry with him and I want to yell at him) it's not time to have a conversation. Don't beat yourself up for feeling this way, simply acknowledge to yourself that it's not the best time to speak with your ex. Take a couple of days if possible, treat yourself gently and increase your self-care. Try again later when you are feeling more rested and balanced.

Get Curious!Curiosity is a great communication tool. It helps set the tone of the conversation, as well as giving you important information about the other person. Curiosity can be used to reduce reactions as well. When you're feeling like you want to react to something your ex has said (reacting is different than responding. Reacting is emotive and usually not a productive habit) take a deep breath and get curious about what is going on. Simple questions like: 'what would feel good/fair to you?' or 'do you want some more time to think about this?' not only show your ex that you are trying to create a win-win environment, but it also gives you really valuable information.

Mind Your Manners. As hard as it might be at times, treating your ex with respect is an absolute must. You don't have to agree with or even like your ex to treat him or her with decency. Even if you're not receiving the same treatment, it's important to your personal integrity and health to take the high road (and, if you're not getting treated well by your ex, limit your contact until his or her behavior changes. It's important to your well-being that you are treated kindly too.)

Watch Your Words. There are just some words and phrases that are off-putting to ex-spouses. These words and phrases are subtle, but they pack a big punch. It's best to avoid them if you want less stress and more ease in your life. Phrases like: 'my children' vs. 'the children'; 'my money' or 'the money you owe me' vs. 'child support'; 'my new boyfriend' vs. 'Bob'. Given the choice, always go for neutral words and phrases - you'll save yourself the frustration of arguing about semantics and keep the conversation on track.

Have some exit strategies at the ready.You already know by now that conversations with your ex can spiral out of control very quickly, so come prepared with some good exit strategies. You can use these phrases to help end a dicey conversation with some grace, ease and sanity. Here are some examples: 'I'm glad we're talking about this but I need to go now. Can we continue it later this week?'; 'We're not really being productive at this point. Let's talk next week after we've both had a chance to calm down'. Keep the phrasing as neutral as possible, but be firm. You know when you and your ex have hit the point of no return. Don't belabor the point, just end the conversation before it gets too out of control.

You deserve to live a life you love and enjoy. If conversations with your ex are getting in the way of that, now is the perfect time to learn the art of empowered communication. The strategies mentioned here will help you get off to a great start! You can learn more about positive communication with your ex at my site, SoloMama.com

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Comment by Kenneth Friedman on August 11, 2008 at 10:22pm
Really great, Jeanie! So often the former spouses remain stuck in the same dysfunctional communication patterns that killed their marriage.
Comment by Cynthia Tiano, Esq. on August 6, 2008 at 1:16pm
What a great article, Jeanie! Full of inspirational and practical information. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! It is now featured on the main page.

Cynthia

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