- It can be hard, but it matters to treat your ex-partner well.
- If you can "remarry" as parents, that joint concern can benefit the children.
- Specific acts of courtesy can have symbolic power by showing mutual consideration.
Here’s a common question a newly divorced single parent will sometimes ask: "Why would I want to treat someone well who I wanted to divorce and am glad I did?"
The answer is: You might not—except if you have children. In this case, you must divorce as partners, but remain "married" as parents, finding ways to work harmoniously together for the sake of your kids.
So, what is the best way to treat the other parent? Treat your ex-spouse as a valued ally on whom you depend to work toward a common objective—the welfare of the children.
To maintain and cultivate this alliance; if you can, treat him or her diplomatically by demonstrating acts of consideration that convey the ongoing value you still place upon this relationship.
(If you are remarried, explain to your new partner how important it is to maintain a working alliance with your ex-spouse. Explain how showing consideration for your ex-spouse is not a matter of romantic caring for him or her. Consideration for your new spouse is a matter of love. Consideration for your ex-spouse is a matter of maintaining a well-working alliance for the sake of the children.)
It may sound too old fashioned and trivial to matter, but quality of the divorced parent relationship has a lot to do with courtesy each parent shows the other. "Courtesy" refers to specific acts that signify consideration. Successful alliances are maintained by a meticulous show of consideration, and they quickly deteriorate without it.
Obviously, the relationship between divorced parents does not always run smoothly, any more than the course of true love, which in this case ended in divorce. However, with effort and attention, there are some specific acts of courtesy that signify consideration and tend to support a strong working alliance between two divorced parents who are still wed to doing their joint best for the children’s sake.
Ten Articles of Consideration
To help start you thinking about what these acts are, reflect on the ten "Articles of Consideration" below, and see if you are willing to sign them for the sake of allying with your ex-spouse, for the sake of your children.
- "I will be reliable." I will keep the arrangements I make with you and the children. You can count on my word.
- "I will be responsible." I will honor my obligations to provide for the children. As agreed, I will provide my share of their support.
- "I will be appreciative." I will let you know ways in which I see you doing good for the children. And I will thank you for being helpful to me.
- "I will be respectful." I will always talk positively about you to the children. If I have a disagreement or concern, I will talk directly to you.
- "I will be flexible." I will make an effort to modify childcare arrangements when you have conflicting commitments. I will try to be responsive to work with unexpected change.
- "I will be tolerant." I will accept the increasing lifestyle differences between us. I will accept how the children live with us on somewhat different terms.
- "I will be supportive." I will back you up with the children when you have disciplinary needs. I will not allow them to play one of us against the other.
- "I will be involved." I will problem-solve with you when the children get in difficulty. I will work with you to help them.
- "I will be responsive." I will be available to help cope with the children’s emergencies. I will be on call in times of crisis.
- "I will be reasonable." I will talk through our inevitable differences in a calm and constructive manner. I will keep communicating until we work out a resolution that is acceptable to us both.
By subscribing to the ten articles of consideration, you model behavior that you encourage in return, and you strengthen the alliance with your ex-spouse, as he or she is encouraged to do with you. Both of you do this for your children's sake.