Communication, Family Ties, Relationships, Saying Goodbye

The Ex Factor


Tips for maintaining a workable relationship with your ex

When a relationship ends, there may be negative feelings and unresolved conflicts. If children are involved, their wellbeing must be considered when former spouses/partners interact after a split. This article will help identify some tools you can use to achieve a peaceful resolution to the end of a relationship, and to cope with challenges and frustrations.

1) Define your boundaries

What role will you now play in your ex’s life? What role will s/he take on in yours? Perhaps you want to remain friends, or maybe you feel it’s best to remain at arm’s length. If you have children, co-parenting is going to link your separate lives. What will be best for everyone involved, especially the kids? Give some thought and discussion to how your relationship will change, and how you can respect one another’s boundaries with respect and civility.

2) Communication is key

Some couples are able to keep healthy channels of communication open, discussing issues like child visitation and finances cooperatively. Others struggle with hostility and find it difficult to engage in any manner. If you have reason to communicate with your ex, it’s worth the effort to help keep the interaction civilized and focused on the issue at hand, such as visitation. Negative communication is stressful for everyone, and can result in long-term emotional repercussions for your children.

3) Put aside your pride
When your ex may have caused you emotional pain, or when you feel the separation or its effects are unfair or undesirable, it can be almost impossible not to engage in the blame game. Ultimately, this only causes harm to you and your children. Your self esteem suffers and your kids feel torn and confused. Hold your head up. The view is much nicer from the high road, I promise you that. Even if you are not in a place of forgiveness, you can present yourself as calm, respectful, and agreeable when possible.

4) “Wonder what she’s up to…?”
Whether it is driving by your ex’s home to see whose car is in the driveway, checking Facebook status, or quizzing friends about his activities, preoccupation with your ex is not a healthy place to be. Curiosity, nostalgia, even sparks of jealousy are normal feelings after a breakup. Acting on those feelings, or even worse, losing yourself in their grip, can be a sign you could benefit from some support in your healing.

5) Take care of yourself
A breakup or divorce can feel like a sort of death. There is often a grieving process, almost certainly some stress from adjusting to life without your partner. It is vital that you remember to keep yourself well, both physically and emotionally. Eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family when you need support. Seek therapy if you would like to speak to someone who can help you through this journey.

6)  When it isn’t working
What if your best efforts to interact with your ex are not reciprocated? Your boundaries are not respected, communication is full of anger and blame, and the kids are being pulled into the middle of your battles with your ex. Plan B: all of the above tips still apply, but in cases where you and your ex cannot communicate without hostility and you find yourself stressed, frustrated, and even afraid for the safety of yourself and your children, it’s time to think about external support. Couples therapy can help the two of you learn to navigate your separation more amicably, and therapy for your children can provide support as well. Family court can offer a mediator to assist with staying within the terms of your divorce and child custody agreement. And in the most extreme cases, the court can revise agreements, enact restraining orders, or help you both adhere to the terms of your separation.

Most often, time is what is most needed to help heal old wounds as your relationship with your ex is redefined and you both move on. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it – whether you would benefit from a neutral, supportive environment to establish new tools for dealing with one another after separation, or you require intervention to turn down the heat of past pain and anger – we are here to help. Narrative.Contemporary Therapy Collective at (619) 261-4221 or