Redefining your relationship with your ex post divorce can be challenging, and is a process that takes time and patience. If you have children together, the ability to respectfully co-parent is important for personal well-being, as well as your children’s sense of security. Parents who are separating understand better than most that a divorce with children does not disassemble a family—rather, it reconfigures the family dynamic. Most likely, your children’s other parent will remain in your life in some form, and learning to peacefully get along in order to provide the best for your children is important. Below are three pieces of advice to help facilitate a healthy relationship post divorce:
Create an Environment that Supports You
Having friends and family around you that are available to offer support is huge. Going through a divorce is only the legal step of ending a marriage. There’s an emotional step that also needs to be overcome post-divorce that allows you to cut ties and truly remove yourself from the emotional grip your ex may still have on you. This is a process that can take years, which is why having a community of people who can help you work through this process is invaluable. There are inevitably going to be bumps in the road as you and your ex try and learn how to navigate your new relationship as divorcees with children, and seeking sound advice from others can help make this process a bit smoother. You also want to surround yourself with people who will build you up in this new stage of life, and help you create a “new normal” separate from your ex.
Establish Ground Rules
Transitioning from the title of husband and wife to single individuals is challenging and will likely be a learning curve for both parties. Depending on how long you were married, it’s likely that you and your spouse created a certain level of dependence and routine together—these emotional and physical ties and habits can take time to break. Establishing certain ground rules to allow you the time and space to grow apart in a healthy manner can help with this. Certain rules that may be helpful are as follow:
- Physical Boundaries- When you eventually get your own place and live separately from your ex, allow that space to be your own. Aside from coming by to pick up or drop off kids, your home should not be a shared space for you and your ex to spend time with the kids. After living together, having a private space that is your own, and without memory of your ex, is helpful in establishing independence. Not having these physical boundaries can make the process of moving forward difficult and confusing. If your ex spends a lot of time at your new house, it can be easy to fall back into those old routines that you were used to as a married couple, which is a false sense of reality.
- Emotional Boundaries- Even if your divorce is amicable, there needs to be a period of time where you essentially train yourself to look elsewhere for emotional advice or comfort. It’s natural to fall back into a habit of calling your ex for support during hard times, but you need to remember that they are no longer the appropriate person for that. In addition to this, don’t get too involved in your ex’s dating life. Until the time comes for your children to meet any boyfriend or girlfriend, keeping a distance and not prying for information that could create a sense of jealousy or betrayal will help you both to get along better. For the first few months or even years after a divorce, setting ground rules for conversation on the phone, or how long you spend time together, may be a smart decision. As life moves on and you begin to move forward, you may not need to be as firm in these rules, but starting out it’s an effective way of creating enough space for wounds to heal.
Affirm your Ex’s Relationship with your Kids
In most cases, having a healthy and thriving relationship with both parents is the healthiest scenario for children of divorce. While your spouse may not have been a suitable husband or wife, that does not by default make them an unsuitable parent. Unless abuse is involved, it’s important for both parent and child to continue growing in their relationship.
One of the biggest fears for parents who are going through a divorce is the idea that their relationship with their children will suffer due to damaging remarks and shared custody. One of the best things you can do for your children and your ex-spouse is to affirm their relationship, and to be an advocate for their quality time together. Even if your personal relationship with your ex is tense, agreeing to keep those frustrations at the door when you’re home with your children, and not dragging them into the middle of your struggles, can create a sense of trust between you and your ex-spouse. Acknowledging your ex’s relationship with your children will likely aid in tearing down barriers, fear and anger, and will create a sense of trusted partnership in co-parenting.
Redefining your relationship with your ex after your divorce can be complicated, and will require patience, time, and a willing attitude to do what is necessary. If you have children with your ex, co-parenting and having a respectful relationship is important for the entire family. The attorneys at Pacific Cascade Family Law understand this is easier said than done, but encourage you to take on this transition one day at a time.