This is the third time this month you have been late picking up the kids. You are going to have to figure out a way to be more on time,” I said coldly. My former spouse just looked at me with a mixture of embarrassment and exhaustion. After the kids were gone and the house was quiet, I made my way outside to sit on the deck and stew. For the first ten minutes all I could think about was how inconsiderate my former spouse was. I have a life, too. How selfish my former spouse can be, not even considering me and my circumstances. I ruminated in my self-righteousness for another ten minutes…
Then, a very faint voice started to grow louder and louder in my head. It was as if I sat on the remote control to my TV and happened to land on the volume button. This almost imperceptible voice steadily grew into a roar that I could not ignore. I was searching for the “mute” button to silence my mind, but couldn’t find it. I kept hearing, “It’s not all about you.” I was so caught up in my own self-righteousness, I failed to even consider my former spouse’s own circumstances: the long hours on the job, the grind of the daily commute, the struggles to make ends meet, and the trying to spend time with the kids. Nope, it was all about me. I suddenly felt very small and petty.
Dealing With Your Former Spouse
How you deal with your former spouse is a significant factor in your recovering from divorce. Divorce is a very contentious time and it strains human relations to the extreme. How you deal with, and manage, those relations with your former spouse determines how smoothly a recovery you have from divorce.
Here are four things you can do to help ensure your recovery and a more peaceful future when dealing with your former spouse:
1. Be Charitable
It is so easy to get caught up in who is right and who is wrong that you can forget that your former spouse is human too. It is easy to see all their imperfections and fail to consider that they have struggles, pressures, and feelings. Our Lord calls us to be charitable — even to those who mistreat us.
“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28
A little patience, understanding, and flexibility will go a long way in creating a cooperative relationship with your former spouse. That will benefit everyone, including your kids.
2. Be Proactive
It is much better to avoid a difficult situation than to walk into it over and over again. Identify those areas of dealing with your former spouse that always seem to create tension or difficulty and then take proactive measures to address them. If your former spouse is always late dropping off the kids, offer to pick them up. If your former spouse seems to forget that your home is their “former” home and acts like they can do or say whatever they wish when they are there, pick-up and drop-off the kids at a neutral location, such as a shopping center parking lot. If every phone call degrades into an argument, communicate via email or text. By being proactive and creative, you avoid a lot of hardship and strain.
3. Set Boundaries
After divorce, you have to remember “you are not in Kansas anymore.” You are now in a different, and often strange, world. It can be very unclear how to act or what to say. This uncertainty and confusion can be the cause for disagreement and misunderstanding. By setting clear boundaries on what you are willing to accept and not accept, can help everyone understand how the post-divorce game of life is to be played. Once both you and your spouse understand the ground rules, things between you will go much smoother. You may need to be the person that has to set the boundaries and enforce them.
4. Communicate Effectively
Let’s face it, communication was difficult when you were married. Don’t expect it to get any better after you are divorced. It is very common that after a divorce, any type of communication with your former spouse is difficult. The trust level necessary for effective communication is usually at an all-time low. Find a means of communicating that will cause the least amount of fighting and sniping. For many, email is effective. It gives you time to think about what you are going to say, allows you to review your thoughts before sending, and gives you the option of if and when to respond. What you are shooting for is a means of communication that creates the least tension and the most harmony. It may take some trial and error, so be patient and keep trying.
Peace Promotes Healing
When you and your former spouse are at odds with each other, all the wounds from the past remain open and raw. A key to healing yourself is to heal the relationship with your former spouse. This can be difficult at first; however, the more you take the lead and set boundaries for acceptable communication, head-off difficult situations, and show flexibility, patience, and understanding, the more you are allowing healing to take place between you and your former spouse, and ultimately yourself.
Question: What is the relationship like between you and your former spouse? How has it evolved since your divorce?
© 2015, Vince Frese