Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person can face. Even divorces where both parties are eager to separate come with complications—both during the process and in the years following it. In America, a divorce takes place every 13 seconds, which amounts to over 6,600 every day and nearly 46,600 each week. Despite these numbers, people who face divorce often feel alone and like no one really understands what they are going through.
It is a tough road to go down, fraught with unexpected emotional moments. When children are involved, the obstacles are even greater. With all the negative emotions tied to the divorce itself, it can often feel like nothing positive will surface, particularly when it comes to your relationship with your ex-spouse.
The truth is that there are several reasons to maintain positive interactions with your ex, whether children are part of the picture or not. It is very possible to find a happy place in your relationship with your ex-spouse with some time, optimism and work. Here are a few ways to establish and maintain a positive relationship following a divorce:
- Focus on yourself. When you were married, you had a say in what your spouse did, particularly things that impacted your life together. Jobs, finances, and homes were all part of the daily discussions (and arguments). Now that you are divorced, there is really no reason to worry about what your ex is up to—at least in matters that do not have a direct impact on your own well-being. Instead of wasting negative energy worrying about what he or she is doing, refocus those thoughts on yourself in a positive way. Over time, you will find that what your ex does, or does not do, has little emotional effect on your life.
- Compromise. Even if you often butted heads during your marriage, it is never too late to work together for a common good. This is especially true in the case of divorces with children. Try to accommodate your ex, and vice versa, when you are given the opportunity. The little bit of cooperation you demonstrate is a way to extend the olive branch of peace—leading to a healthier, amicable relationship.
- Keep in touch. If you have children together, you have no choice in this matter. You will both be tied to those kids for a lifetime of birthday parties, graduations, and births of grandchildren, if you are truly blessed. In this case, be as positive as possible. If you simply cannot forge a friendship with your ex, at least remain civil at family gatherings or school events. Even if there are no children in the divorce arrangement, don’t completely lose track of your ex-spouse. Remember that you shared a life together and that eventually hostile emotions will fade away. It is completely possible to have a supportive, strong friendship with an ex if the post-divorce relationship is cultivated over time.
- Smile for the kids. This goes along with the point above—but extends beyond in-person meetings. Stay positive when it comes to what you say about your ex, even when he or she is not around. Your kids love you both; don’t make them feel like they have to choose sides. If both parents are actively involved, your kids will fare better in academics, social growth, and their own relationships. Model mature, adult-like behavior when it comes to your ex. If you have a problem with something directly related to the kids, take it up with your ex directly. Avoid going through a third party in the form of your kids. Remember that they are not responsible for either parent’s actions so avoid involving them in any arguments, large or small, with your ex.
- Bite your tongue. While it is important to watch what you say around your kids, the same is true for all acquaintances in your life. Depending on how long you were married, you and your ex may have many mutual friends, possibly even co-workers. Once again remind yourself that these people had nothing to do with the break-up so they should not have to hear you complain about it. Of course you will always have close friends that are perfectly happy to hear you vent but make sure you know where to draw the line. Besides, why waste your precious time on anything related to your ex? Make a decision to channel your emotions into positive conversations and moving forward to the next exciting chapter of your life.
- Pursue goals. Perhaps there are things that you left undone because of the constraints of your marriage. Maybe you wanted to go back to college but your spouse said “no” because of the cost. Maybe you wanted to live in a particular neighborhood, or geographic location, but your spouse did not. There may even be goals that you have in mind that were never squashed by your spouse, but ended up taking a backseat because of the way life wandered. The time following a divorce is a good one to revisit those goals and reestablish benchmarks to reach them.
It takes some time to adjust to divorced life, even if you were only married for a short time. That adjustment takes a physical and emotional toll, but you can make the best of it with a positive approach. Even if your ex-spouse insists on negativity, continue killing him or her with kindness. You will feel better about yourself and your future if you keep looking on the bright side.