Ex-Etiquette where there are no children involved
Divorce without children
If your divorce does not involve children from the marriage or the relationship, there is technically no reason to maintain contact with your ex. That’s the good and the bad news. The good news is that you won’t have to deal with your ex again. The bad news is that you have to acknowledge that it’s really over. Whether or not you remain friends with your ex is up to you. You don’t get extra points for an amicable relationship with your ex. The most important part of divorce is that it gives both parties an opportunity to move on with their new lives.
It’s easier to move on if you sever ties completely. Often an ex will maintain contact because they don’t want to move on.
Ending a relationship can be difficult, even when the relationship is painful. Some even prolong adversarial relations because it’s some form of contact.
Your ex may want to maintain in a friendly relationship. Sometimes this includes sex. Clearly they’re not moving on and there’s a possibility he can manipulate you into believing that there’s still ‘something there’ and a chance of getting back together.
Many people who try to stay friends after divorce are doing so in hopes of either rekindling the relationship or using the other person as a crutch until someone better comes along.
But what happens when it’s the other person who moves on first?
Being friends with your ex
Good for you if you can make the transition from ‘divorced’ to ‘friends’, especially if you have children and especially if you were married for a long time. But be sure that you’ve established your new, separate life before you make this transition. If you become best buddies too soon, your relationship with him could become a social crutch, or something you hide behind in place of creating a life for yourself.
The important point about being friends with your ex is that the relationship should evolve naturally. Don’t force it.
Also, it will not happen immediately – it cannot. You will need some time to ensure the relationship evolves into something clear where you can be friends.
In the beginning I recommend going cold turkey and not seeing your ex at all. Break all contact, delete him off Facebook and stop stalking him at the supermarket. Use the exercise on setting boundaries to set crucial boundaries with your ex.
When you have a new relationship you must honor your divorce. That means putting your new partner first. Any new relationship takes time to develop and you don’t want an ex hanging about in the wings to jeopardize things. You judge whether a natural friendship with your ex is healthy or not. If it interferes in your new life or your new relationship, end it.
Sex with your ex
Sometimes partners continue their sexual relationship after a break up. Sex relieves the loneliness and maintains ‘closeness’ with someone. Because you’re less familiar with each other after a break up, sex can feel more passionate. This is probably because it’s born of neediness and not love. Some couples will ‘use’ each other in this way while they’re breaking up. This prolongs the inevitable. I know of women who continue to sleep with their ex-partners long after they’ve remarried and had children. One such woman was Sue.
Sue continued to sleep with her ex-husband Ed on and off for 3 years even after Sue had remarried. It was very detrimental to both of them moving on or committing to their new relationships. When Sue’s new husband found out about her affair with her ex-husband, he ended their relationship immediately. Sue’s life became turmoil as she went through her second divorce within the space of a year.
This is not moving on. You need a clean break. You need closure. Don’t waste your life clinging to old relationships.
Women are often susceptible to sleeping with their ex during the Panic/negotiation phase of the naked divorce Grieving Cycle as a way of getting back together. For a woman, sex might mean all kinds of things and she’ll imbue it with all sorts of emotions. But it might not mean anything to the man.
- Understand the phases you’ll go through after your divorce. Understand your hormones and those angst-ridden feelings and where they come from. The next time you feel compelled to contact your ex, ask yourself:
- Do I miss being with him or do I simply miss being in a couple?
- What if he says: “Let’s give it another go.” Will I be able to change what didn’t work the first time?
- If you’re leaving the outcome of your relationship in his hands, ask yourself: What do I want? Is he the man I want to be with for the rest of my life, even if nothing changed?
- How does being single make me feel?
If you are harboring resentment and anger towards your ex
Consider the impact of resentment and anger on your life. If you’re bitter and filled with resentment, remember that not forgiving someone is like taking the poison hoping your ex will die. You’re the one getting hurt by your bitterness. Your life is being ruined.
Complete the program, come to terms with your divorce, put it in the past and move on with your life as a different, more empowered woman.
If you simply can’t be friends
Be civil. When you bump into your ex, greet him, shake hands or hug him if you’re both comfortable with this, in same way you would greet a business associate.
If you’re paying child maintenance, alimony or spousal support, make sure you pay on time to eliminate any need for contact.
Ex-Etiquette where there are children involved
Don’t expose your children to marital conflict
When children are involved in divorce it’s very important for parents to behave civilly. I accept that this can be hard. It might always be hard. But there will be times you have to see your ex, perhaps when you communicate about the children’s health, school work and schedules, or during custody exchanges, or even sports, religious and academic events. In these cases, the rules are easy:
- Be civil. Don’t speak badly of your ex in front of your children ever. Even though he’s your ex, he’s your child’s father and your child deserves to be able to love their dad without you poisoning the well. Whatever your relationship with your ex, always tell them their dad loves them. They need and deserve this.
- Use tact. Don’t share details of your ex’s behavior with your children. Remember the oldest rule in the book: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Be nice. Don’t argue with your spouse in front of your children or on the phone. Be polite in your interactions. This not only sets a good example for your kids but can also encourage your ex to be gracious in response.
- Look on the bright side. Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members. Encourage children to do the same.
- Work on it. Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your ex as soon as possible. Watching you being civil and caring towards one another will reassure your children and teach them a great life skill, too.
- Make sure your marital settlement agreement (also known as a custody order or divorce agreement) spells out all details. While this sounds harsh, it helps avoid misunderstandings in the future. Honor your financial obligations and custody agreement, but wherever possible, work things out directly with your ex. Be flexible when you can be, and if you can’t, stick to the schedule the court assigns. If you don’t like the schedule, change it through the court system as a last resort, and with your ex. Don’t involve the children if at all possible.
- Don’t give your children false hopes of their parents reuniting. This may mean putting some distance between the 2 of you. It’s more important for the children to accept the reality of their new life no matter how painful it may be. This way they can move on. The divorce affects them, too. If your children believe there’s a chance you may get back together, they’ll also be fretting about another break up.
If you find you’re always locked in a battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose. It’s in your children’s best interests to have a lasting, good relationship with both parents. Keep your long-term goals in mind – your children’s physical and mental health and your independence – and avoid disagreements about daily details.
If your ex does push your buttons, think ahead before you see him.
- What are the triggers?
- How will you keep the peace and stay calm?
Your happiness and the happiness of your children and, yes, even your ex, should be the broad brushstrokes in the big picture of your new lives after divorce.
Working amicably with your ex after a separation or divorce is sometimes a tall order, but you have the power and insight to put your own feelings aside and do what’s best for your kids. Learn how to make the process of co-parenting easier on everyone.
Though divorce with children can appear more complicated, divorces without children can be equally complicated. There is the possibility of never seeing the person you once shared love and a life with ever again.
Till next time!