If you have children with your divorced spouse, the Courthouse for finalization of the divorce isn’t the last place you will see him. The old ways of communication that you used as a married couple will no longer work. You won’t see each other at the breakfast table and dinner table to exchange news. You won’t be able to diffuse anger with touch. You won’t finish each other’s sentences. Instead, you will probably both be defensive and territorial. You will want to continue to ambush each other to prove that the fault in the divorce was his, not yours. In short, unless you come up with a new plan, you will be stuck in Divorce Mode with this person for the rest of your life.
This post is to help you out of Divorce Mode and into Friendly Coexist Mode. There actually are some high-functioning people who have attained this elevated state and I have observed how they have done it.
- They choose to respect each other. Respect may be earned or given. These successfully divorced persons have chosen to give respect to their child’s other parent, whether such respect has been earned or not. Let me explain what this respect looks like to an outsider. When confronted with a mistake that the mother has made, the father does not capitalize on it to show up the mother as a screw-up, but rather the father chooses to use the mistake as a teaching moment with his children to illustrate that we all make mistakes and that the function of the family is to forgive such mistakes. Likewise, when the father makes a mistake, the mother tries to help contain the damage, rather than adding to it.
- They communicate constantly about things they really don’t want to communicate about. For example, if the mother is dating a man and plans to introduce the child to this man, she talks to the father about the same before she does it and, if the father has not met the new man, she introduces him to the father, before the child. The point of this is that when the child announces he has met a new man that Mom is dating, Dad doesn’t flip out. He simply says that he, too, has met this man and he seems nice. I want to emphasize that the parents aren’t asking each other’s opinions regarding whom they are dating. They are simply keeping each other in the loop of knowledge. Of course, on issues relating to the child, this communication must be made frequently and timely. No parent is going to be happy to hear that their child has been chosen for gifted and talented classes by a teacher or another child in the class.
- They act like the person they wish they were, not the person they are. Of course, divorced persons are hurt and angry and disappointed. But, if they continue to act in a bitter and defensive way, they hurt not just their ex, they hurt everyone – their children, themselves, and innocent bystanders. So, they act like persons who aren’t hurt and angry and disappointed. They act like mature, happy, high-functioning adults. They fake it until they make it.