When a marriage or romantic relationship ends on a bad note, both parties involved may have spent months or years disagreeing but they typically agree on one thing; they never want to see each other again! Of course not everyone who decided to end their relationship ends it on a sour note and feels contention toward their former spouse or partner; sometimes the parting of ways is more amicable and even if it is not, if children are involved most adults make the effort to be civil to one another.
There is a lot of pain when a relationship ends and sometimes that makes it hard to think about what is best for everyone involved, especially children. Ideally, adults would always be mature enough to put aside their feelings about each other and think about how their conduct affects their children and the future of those children’s own relationships.
Trying to chat it up with your ex — whom you renamed “jerk” in your phone — could be too big a move to make right away. “Aiming to be friends when you’re feeling betrayed and hurt may feel impossible, so start by aiming to just be civil,” says Deesha Philyaw, who co-authored Co-Parenting 101 with her ex-husband. Try saying hello and goodbye instead of offering stony silence at the kids’ drop-offs and pick-ups, or sticking to the point when talking about their schedules rather than slipping cutting one-liners into the conversation. Not only is this good for you, it’ll help your kids. “Divorce is hard enough for children,” says Philyaw. “Be gracious not because you think your ex wants it or deserves it, but because your kids are watching.”
Divorce can definitely bring out the worst in people. When it comes to dealing with your ex, anger, bitterness, and resentment are common emotions. It’s perfectly acceptable to be mad — especially after you found out he had a more-than-friends relationship with a colleague — but you have a choice about how to express it. Unhealthy anger, such as those frequent screaming matches, won’t erase the past and will only keep your relationship on hostile ground. Dr. Rabinor suggests trying a mindful breathing exercise the next time you’re ticked off (like when he drops off the kids an hour late) to keep you from reacting with rage in the moment. Then, you can respond in a way that’s more likely to lead to a resolution, by for example, acknowledging the emotions that lead him to stray.