It is no secret that communication is the key to a healthy relationship. However, communication is also key to a healthy (insofar as it can be healthy) separation. A breakdown in communication during a relationship can lead to separation and a breakdown in communication whilst going through a separation can lead to heightened emotional stress and difficulties being able to resolve your matter.
As such, we have set out below, our 10 top tips for communicating better with your ex in no particular order:
1. Accept the situation and acknowledge that you cannot control the way your ex communicates with you
Though many of us wish we could change things with the wave of a wand, such magic only exists in the realms of Harry Potter and fantasy. Nobody can control another human being. This means that nobody can control the manner in which another human being communicates. Your ex may never change, no matter how much you wish they would. If you can learn to accept and acknowledge that, then you can learn to ignore any poor communication that is directed at you and focus only on the communication that is important and relevant.
2. Recognise that you can only control how you react to the communication you receive from your ex
Only you are in control of you. This means you can control what you do and what you say. Whilst you cannot control how another person communicates with you, you can control how you react to that communication. If you are receiving poor communication, it will almost never assist the situation to respond with poor communication.
3. Do not threaten, name call or belittle
There are precious few, if any, situations where threats name-calling or belittling will assist anyone to resolve a dispute or improve communication. Even if the other party’s approach is to do this to you, avoid stooping to this level. It might feel good in the moment, but ask yourself “will this actually make a difference”? The answer will almost always be no.
4. Approach communication as if it is a business transaction
Family law is emotional, it deals with people, emotions, children, separation – the hard stuff. What follows is that communication becomes emotional, it is only natural. We have found however, that by keeping communication as business like as possible (without sounding like you are aggressively wrapping up a merger and acquisition), this can assist in taking some of the heat out of it and foster a better communicative relationship over time.
5. Do not use your children as leverage
One of the most damaging things that we see is a parent (or both of them) putting their children in the middle of their dispute. This only damages the children and will only serve to brew bitterness and resentment that leads to damaging and toxic communication.
6. Be patient and give space
It is only natural that things will be raw at the beginning of a separation and maybe even for a significant period of time after. Be kind to yourself and patient and give yourself and the other party some space. If it is too difficult to communicate in person initially then send a polite text message or email.
7. Do not flaunt your new partner to either your ex or your children
When parties separate, one or both parties may eventually move on and start a new relationship. If a new relationship develops quickly, this can be understandably a difficult time for the other party. The unfortunate result can sometimes be the hurt party reacting bitterly and can have a negative effect on communication. Introducing a new partner quickly can also be quite hurtful to your children. As such, accept and acknowledge that a new partner may hurt feelings and do your best to be respectful of that and consider how serious the relationship is before introducing a new partner.
8. Consider getting help from a professional
There are counsellors, mediators and dispute resolution practitioners who specialise in helping parties going through separation learn to communicate better with one another. By taking the step of getting help early, you can learn strategies to communicate effectively which may assist in achieving a quick resolution.
9. Do not put down your ex in front of others
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. If your ex or your children gets wind of you putting your ex down in front of others, this can be quite emotionally damaging and breed bitterness. If in doubt, take a step back and ask yourself whether a put down will really assist in changing the situation.
10. Consider the importance of body language
So much of communication is non-verbal. Body language can play an important part in relaying a message, as can the way in which the message is relayed. As such try to sit with an open stance and relaxed as often sitting closed off may deliver the message in a more aggressive manner than that which it is intended.
The above are not hard and fast rules, but just some tips to consider when communicating with your ex. If communicating by text or email, after a heated exchange or with a heavy topic, write a reply and do not send it. Leave it overnight and come back and consider. The take home message is that communication is key, so any strategies to help you communicate more effectively will be useful and assist in your family law matter.
Should you need any assistance please do not hesitate to contact one of our team members at Southern Waters Legal.