How to manage difficult conversations with an ex partner
The reality is difficult conversations are, well, quite frankly difficult and something I am sure we all guilty of doing our upmost to avoid. They are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and no one’s idea of a good time. They are also very often, exactly the kind of conversations you end up needing to have with your ex. Knowing how to handle those conversations, and how to talk to your ex without losing control or making yourself crazy is an essential post-divorce skill.
This is a skill you can learn. You can learn how to have rational conversations with your ex. You can do that even if you and your ex haven’t had a civilized conversation in years. However, and this is especially so if you have children, you will need to start being able to have these conversations.
Learning this new skill, will take time and patience and yes even some practice. You will also need a bucket full of self control ! The good news is however that you end by reducing the stress that surrounds having to have these conversations but also brings about a happier you, a happier ex and ultimately and this is the big one, happier children.
So why do we find these difficult conversations such an issue well,
You may need to convey unpleasant or challenging information (e.g. your child needs braces/ school trip and your ex needs to pay a portion of the cost); or
You may need to talk about subjects that you KNOW you disagree on (e.g. you want your kids to go to private schools and your ex wants them to go to public schools); or
You may need to solve a problem that requires your cooperation even though you and your ex can’t stand each other (e.g. your child is acting out at school and you need to figure out what to do about it.)
So how is the best way to go about having these difficult conversations:
1. What's the point you want to make ?
What do I want or need to achieve in this conversation?
Will having this conversation help me get what I want or need?
In other words, you need to know your objective BEFORE you have the conversation!
Do you need to tell your ex something important about your kids? Are you trying to persuade your ex to do something? Are you facing a problem that only both of you can solve?
What is the point of the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish?
If you don’t have a very specific reason to dive into a difficult conversation with your ex, then why do it? That’s especially true if your ex is difficult, demanding, or intimidating.
Similarly, if having the conversation isn’t likely to help you do whatever it is you want or need to do, why have it?
What I am trying to convey here is that if you don’t NEED to talk to your ex about uncomfortable subjects, you don’t necessarily have to.
On the other hand, if you and your ex are on friendly terms and you want to talk about other things, that’s is great ! But if not, then having a clear objective for your conversation – especially a potentially difficult one! – can save you an enormous amount of grief!
2. Know how to talk to your ex without creating a fight
1. know your objective
2. have the conversation in a neutral place
3. prepare in advance
4. stick to the facts
5. avoid name calling, accusations
7. Go in to the conversation with an open mind
Nothing about divorce is easy. That includes talking to your ex after you’re divorced.
If you’re lucky, willing to compromise, and have an ex who is somewhat reasonable, you can find a way to talk to your ex that’s not difficult, awkward and uncomfortable. That will make most of your conversations easier.
Yet, no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you are still going to have to have difficult conversations from time to time. That’s just life.
In spite of your best efforts and intentions, not all of those conversations are going to go well.
But, hopefully, by limiting your difficult conversations to those which are truly necessary, and by using these tips to help keep the conversations on track, the difficult conversations you have with your ex will be a lot less difficult.
If you need help communication with your ex partner about the divorce or children, or any other aspect, contact Your Divorce Coach.