Most parents hope their relationship with their former spouse will improve after the divorce is over so they can work together in matters involving their children. However, some divorced adults emerge from the divorce with lingering resentment which can interfere with the attitude needed to cooperatively co-parent. For these parents the arguing and acrimony that ensues takes its toll on their and their children’s mental and physical health. Breaking the cycle of negative interaction and achieving a level of mutual cooperation is a challenge no divorced parent can afford to miss.
Positive change can occur in one of two ways. Parents can change their internal state by letting go of unresolved anger or bitterness, or if that is not possible initially, they can change their behavior, which will eventually lead to improvement in their feelings.
If you find yourself getting upset at the mere thought of talking to your ex-spouse, one coping technique involves taking some deep breaths and relaxing. It takes practice for this technique to work, so rehearse it prior to telephone calls, exchanging the children and other meetings involving your ex-spouse.
A second technique involves slowing the pace of conversation so you have time to think about what is being said and determine the optimal way to respond. It’s okay to say, “I see your point and understand the reason you’re upset. Let me think about how we can resolve this and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” Use this time to calm yourself and review your options, so that you will not make any rash or unwise decisions.
Some adults ruminate over their anger. They become too focused on negative thoughts about their ex-spouse that keep feelings of resentment alive and burning. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to learn to interrupt this cycle of negative self-talk and replace it with statements that assist coping and promote self-confidence. Instead of telling yourself how much you hate your ex-spouse, it is more productive to tell yourself that you can handle your feelings or that you can deal with someone that is unreasonable without becoming difficult yourself.
In order to cooperate with your ex-spouse it is necessary to understand what he or she is telling you. This requires listening attentively to what is said and giving feedback, which results in the other person feeling acknowledged and understood. Feedback can be phrased many ways including, “I see what you mean,” “I understand this is important to you,” or “I had no idea you felt that way.” This kind of affirmation results in your ex-spouse knowing that you understand his or her point of view.
Improving communication with an ex-spouse can be challenging, but it is necessary. Chronic arguing can result in your child feeling unsafe, insecure and vulnerable. It can also damage your own well being. Learn new steps you can take to improve communication with your ex-spouse. Your child will thank you for the effort and your life will be better for it.
For more information or to make an appointment, please call Swerdlow-Freed Psychology at (248) 539-7777. Our offices are conveniently located at 30600 Northwestern Highway, Suite 210, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48334, and 55 North Pond Drive, Suite 6, Walled Lake, Michigan 48390.