How to Remain Friendly With Your Ex for the Sake of Your Kids
It Does Hurt That Your Relationship Is Over
No matter the reason, or who left who, when a relationship dies, there is sadness, anger, grief and guilt.
If you were in a relationship that involved children, the hard part is that there is a part of you that cannot move on because your children have another parent in their lives. That parent is your ex.
If you are having a difficult time getting past the relationship, professional counseling may be in order to assure that you acquire some healthy coping skills and defense mechanisms.
Admit to yourself that the relationship is over. Admit to yourself that you and your ex are no longer a couple. It can be hard, but it can also be the beginning of a healing process.
It hurts that something ended, but when you have children, you must be healthy for them. This means being honest that the relationship is over.
Set Boundaries With Your Ex and Keep Them
Your primary goal should be having a neutral and safe relationship with your ex for the sake of your children.
If you or your ex has boundary issues, this is a good time to set limits. You are no longer in a partnership together, so you need to be mindful of that. Here are some good places to set limits:
- Pertinent Phone calls and texts. These should only be about your child/ren and not about either of your personal lives. It is not your business who they are dating or what their plans are during the weekends that you are not having to coordinate children events. Calls should be normal daytime hours, same with texts. The only exception is if there is an urgency with your child. An urgency means a legitimate situation, not using your child to pander to the ex for attention.
- Appropriate conversations with your children. All children deserve to have good relationships with all of their family. It is not fair to your children's sense of worth if you or your former partner say derogatory things about each other to your child/ren. Love should not be a battlefield to your child/ren. They should feel free to love without fear of reprisals or condemnation. Keep your adult conversations about your ex away from your children and keep it with the adults. After all, it was an adult relationship, and your child/ren are not adults. Even if you have adult children, they never need to hear negative thoughts about your ex.
- Make requests polite, and if need be, in writing. Asking for a favor from your ex can be a challenge for some but if you remain civil, it will go a lot smoother. Simply explain and then ask. An example is: On July 14th, my sister is getting married to James. She wants the child/ren in the wedding, but that is your weekend. Can we trade weekends so that they can be a part of the wedding? If you say yes, I will let you know the rehearsal schedule. Know in your heart that it is the other parents' right to say yes or no. Don't become angry at them. They may have significant plans that weekend as well.
- Be open to trades and arrangements that deviate from the court papers. Life happens. Things change and people change. Child/ren get involved in sports, which takes a lot of time away from family. It is a great habit and hobby to have, and both of you should be happy when a child wants to be a part of extracurricular activities. Both parents should agree on the child's schedule being important, and both should be willing to make sacrifices for the child to attend events. Even if that means seeing them less or differently than what the custody decree allows. My sister and her ex attend all school events, concerts and meetings together, even though they have both moved on and have new partners in their lives. The kids are some of the happiest, well adjusted kids I have ever known.
- Don't become angry or hostile. Your ex may do some things that make you feel angry or incensed. Don't show those feelings to your child. Ask yourself these questions before you go any further: ♦Was it something that endangered my child/ren? ♦Was it something that could have caused my child/ren harm? ♦Am I being jealous or overly sensitive? If your child was not in danger, if no harm came to your child, or if it is not a violation of a court order, let it go. A friend was angry that her ex was having his girlfriend over when the children were over. She ranted and ranted to her ex, and he married the lady so that she would have nothing to complain about. In less than a year, they were divorced, so her children got to experience two couples' divorces. Not a great plan. Keep it to yourself about the dating or marriage of your ex to your children.
- Include your ex in your child's life. This includes birthday parties, family events, school events, worship events. Any activity where the child is, though it may be awkward, invite your ex. If they ask to bring a date, the answer is yes. They probably feel weird too, and having someone there for them is supportive to them. Besides, you are no longer with them, right?
- Don't bait or "egg on" your ex. It is not fair when you do things to provoke anger or jealously in your ex. It is childish and very immature. Keep your feelings and your actions in check.
- Don't forget to be thankful to your ex. Especially if they do something nice or unexpected. A simple thank you suffices, but make sure it sounds genuine.
- Send completed school work and photos with your child for your ex. They deserve the same pride proof in the child that you have. Don't deprive them of the child and their life.
Explain Your Goals to Your Ex
Helping relations is to get on the same place of understanding. A great example conversation is something like this:
"I know we are no longer together, but I want to make sure that our kids have a safe place to be when they are with both of us. I want to work with you to make sure that the kids are comfortable and that they don't feel like they are living in a war zone. Let's make the past the past and go from here. I have made mistakes, and I want to set some boundaries and create some understandings so that we can do what is best for our child/ren. I don't ever want either of us to be a reason that our child/ren is/are unhappy"
Your goal as a parent should always be to make sure your child/ren are happy, safe, taken care of and well adjusted. By teaming up with your ex, it will eliminate the children attempting to play you against one another. It also allows for a dialogue with your ex about events in your childs' life as they happen.
Don't Be Afraid of Counseling
Counseling is helpful. It gives us a safe place to explore ourselves and our feelings and work through issues with an eye to the future. If your family is coping with many issues, then counseling may be something for you or you and your ex and your children to look at in order to create healthy relationships while learning effective ways to communicate.
Bringing this up can be hard, but you can do it. An example is: "I know that we did not work out because of problems in our relationship, but I would like to get counseling together so that our child/ren can heal from our time together coming to an end, and so that we all can get ideas for making this work out." Counseling also will give everyone a chance to be heard, which is important after a relationship ends.
Don't Embarrass Yourself or Your Ex
Seeing your ex with a new partner can be a punch in the gut. You don't have to act like it is a punch in the gut. Wish him or her well, but don't act like a moron. You are the ex, s/he has moved on, and you should as well.
In case you are wondering what embarrassing your ex could me, let me explain. This includes things like you misbehaving in front of the children, not sharing embarrassing or intimate stories about you, and or your ex, and or your children, and moving on with your life. Don't act like a child and expect to be treated as an adult.
The hardest thing I ever did was to shake my ex-husbands' new girlfriends' hand and say "I am so happy to meet you. I wish you and x all the very best." You know what? I did it in a sincere and genuine tone. It put everyone at ease.
How do you get along with your ex?
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