3 Questions to Ask Yourself before Responding to your Ex
Updated: May 7, 2021
“It is a cold and wet day ahead of a weekend full of sunshine here in the va…” you manage to hit snooze without opening your eyes which let you doze off for another 7 minutes. You shake away the cobwebs. Take a big yawn to yourself. Stretch and after a few moments of disorientation, you remember your children are at their Dad’s for the next couple of days. You almost breathe a sigh of relief knowing the morning can be done at your pace and not dictated by the hunger of two balls of energy. You love them and miss them but you are getting used to some time alone.
You reach for your phone, check your email and see that your morning meeting has been pushed. The guy you have been chatting with for a few weeks sends a nice good morning text. You don’t reply, it could show desperation. Even though it would feel good, you know delaying it is part of the game.
You smile and close your eyes, hoping it is another nice text from your man friend. You have not felt wanted in years. You have not met in person and there is a pandemic. OK, the distraction is nice. But it is not him. It is the opposite of him. “What now”, you say to yourself as you feel your perfectly harmonious morning quickly running away from you.
You spend the next 5 minutes exchanging jabs with the father of your children. He had an issue with the homework you did while the kids were with you. You got defensive and by the end of the text exchange, you were crying in the shower thinking that this will never end. You fear the father will continue to criticize you and your parenting and no matter what you say, he will not believe you and think you are a good mother.
What went wrong?
We know she is upset with how the conversation went, but she engaged (it takes two...).
Mom made common mistakes when engaging with her ex that morning....
When couples separate, it is common to get caught in a trap of continuing to communicate how they did during the relationship. Throughout the marriage, it might have been quite common to send and receive many messages throughout the day related to the children, work, errands….life. As you both move toward your new life, how you communicate can impact your wellbeing. Just ask the Mom who engaged on text after a restful sleep.
Before responding to a message, ask yourself 3 questions:
1. Does this message require a response?
You will have to use your own judgement here and always consider who it is coming from. You will need to use your filters but what is non-urgent or important to you may be something needed by your ex. For example: the children are safe and having fun and your ex texts to ask how the children are doing. Does this require a response? No but by considering the other parent is likely just missing the most important things in their life, the children, it does not take much for you to text “The children are doing great and we just did an activity together. They say hi and are excited to see you tomorrow.” Stonewalling your ex will often provoke them, making a mountain out of a molehill before your first sip of coffee.
2. Is my response professional?
Communication is key in a relationship or marriage and this is no different during a separation. Respond to messages as you would a work colleague. This shows you are taking the high road. You have just been called a loser, again. If you fall for it, they have won. They know how to push your buttons and once you understand this you can compartmentalize the insults. Even the most innocent messages from your ex can be triggering. And let's be honest, and often the other partner is trying to stoke your fire. Don’t fall for it. Pretend you are replying to an angry customer as your role as customer service agent. Always end them politely and if it is a discussion, you can ask for their input (knowing you won’t like their suggestions!)
3. Is the method of communication the best?
Texting is the worst. Avoiding texting. Throughout the divorce, parents should use software designed for co-parenting such as Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents. You can get used to checking regularly and replying in time that gives the other parent what they need. It is common for one parent to message more than the other and this may irritate the other parent. Just remember some parents have a difficult time of letting go of the control they have over the children when they are with the other parent. Remember that if you case ends up in court, every message could be read and you want to look like the professional.
If you consider these 3 questions, you will have more effective communication with your ex. If you can take little steps to take the discussion from adversarial to a partnership, you might get to sleep in and enjoy those mornings away from the kids a little more. It is also important to set and respect boundaries; but that is the topic of another article...
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