Many of the divorced people I work with have a similar refrain, “I just cannot wait until the divorce is final.” While this monumental moment signifies the end of a lot of hard work and negotiating, it is not the end of your relationship with your ex-partner.
If you share children or pets, your ex will be in your life way past the signing of the divorce documents.
Here's how to handle situations that occur, requiring you to interact with your ex-partner beyond your divorce papers.
There will be events that come up in your life where you might need to choose to have extended contact with your ex.
Some of these are listed below:
- Birth of grandchildren
- Mental health/Addiction struggles of your child
- Local and global emergencies
- Illness of your ex
- Death of your ex
- Loss of employment/housing of your ex
Here are four steps to help you manage any of the above-listed situations. These steps require you to be fully honest with yourself and dig deep into your motivations. I know this work can be painful, but it is essential for you to do it to move through these events with ease. Here are the questions you should ask yourself:
- Why am I engaging in this behavior? Ask yourself what your motivation is for attending an event or interacting with your ex. Are you hoping to redeem yourself with your ex-in-laws? Are you going to show your ex that he never should have left you given how generous you are? Look out for martyrdom in your behavior. Write down in your journal what is motivating you to go to this event or engage in this behavior. If your answer sounds something like, “it is the right thing to do” and not “I want to go,” then do not engage. Step back from the situation and kindly explain that you will not be able to make it.
- How will my behavior impact others? If you share children or friends with your ex-partner you need to ask how your behavior will impact them. The best example of this is when your child is getting married. There are so many decisions to be made when planning a wedding, and having divorced parents can be very stressful for kids. If your child is getting married you can be sure that there will be situations and events that will make you uncomfortable. There may be numerous times when you wish you could simply hide from all the discomfort. You might have the urge to control parts of the experience so you don’t feel so uncomfortable. This urge is completely understandable. I know from personal experience how awkward it can be to have to sit at the same table as your ex’s family as they give you the silent treatment. However, the more you try to accommodate your child’s needs the easier you are making the process for them. By asking them to do what makes you comfortable you are adding more stress. For this one day or one event think about how you can lessen the burden on them.
- What support do I need to help me through this event? The third step purposely comes after the second because I know I am asking you to tolerate a lot of anxiety and discomfort in step two. I know it will be hard to sit with discomfort at the event so I want to make sure you have the support you need. Who are the people in your life that you can reach out to (read friends sections) before, during, and after the event? Create a game plan with your confidantes to get the best support possible. Do you want to bring a friend to the event? Do you schedule a massage before and after the event? Do you listen to a meditation recording before you show up? How can you best take care of yourself and your feelings?
- Is there any unfinished business I have to attend to? Think about whether there is any unfinished business between the two of you that might make the situation challenging for you. Are you holding resentment against your ex that might impact your ability to make a decision about whether you attend the event? Are you wanting to go see your new grandchild, but still so angry at your ex you do not want to run into them? Are you waiting to hear that your ex left your friend’s New Year’s party before you go because it will ruin your time if they are there? Resentment makes your life and all your interactions more challenging. By working through this resentment, you will have more flexibility when deciding how you want to respond to unforeseen experiences with your ex.
Life post-divorce is complicated, but following these steps can make the future way easier to manage.
In my program, I offer a clear plan on how to let go of resentment. Reach out to me and I will send you the steps.