Divorce isn’t rarely two-sided, and if your wife wants a divorce, you’re likely banging your head against the wall trying to figure out what went wrong and what you can do to make things better. If you feel like your marriage is slipping through your fingers, don’t sit there and bitch about it. Get off your butt and make changes. Don’t give up until you’re sure it won’t work. Just because she’s dropped the “D” bomb doesn’t mean your marriage has to end.
If you’re think that your marriage can be saved, it’s time to take things into your own hands. Take a look at the five things to do now if your spouse wants a divorce, plus, what you should never do if you want to save your marriage.
1. Suggest a “Do Over”
No, you can’t completely start over from the beginning. There will be fights that can’t be forgotten and words that can’t be taken back, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end. Make your best effort to Reignite the spark as best you can. Take your wife on dates, smile at her, tell her what you love about her and why you’re with her. Go out and do fun things, travel and try new activities. It’s normal for a relationship to become stale over the years. Marriage is a lot of hard work, and if you want it to last, you have to be willing to do the things that made it exciting in the beginning.
Suggest to her that the two of you give it one month with a “do over”. You both have to be in it together and agree to commit to specific time frame of trying to get your marriage back on track. If nothing changes after that time, then you can re-evaluate the long term prognosis, but changes like this that re-engage the spark are sure to make a positive impact on your marriage.
2. Evaluate and Change Your Behavior
If your wife wants a divorce because of what’s perceived as YOUR behavior problems, whether it’s anger issues, constant complaining, or bad habits, you need to change your ways now. This doesn’t actually mean that you’re to blame, and you likely have a list of her behaviors that you’d like to see changed as well. But, if you want to save your marriage, focus on yourself first and changing the behaviors you know may be damaging your relationship. This is really tough (hell, you’ve had how many years practicing and perfecting who you are), and you may have to seek out a professional to help the changing process. But, if your relationship has gotten to the point where your spouse wants out, you need to recognize your possible flaws and take responsibility for changing what you can.
3. Invest Time and Energy to Working on Yourself
You can’t fix your marriage if you’re not the best, or at least a pretty good version of yourself. Invest your time into activities that make you feel good and contribute to your healthiest, happiest self. Exercise, eat well, go to therapy if you need to. Recognize that there may be parts of you that have changed over time, and do your best to get back to a version of yourself you’re proud of. Sometimes we’re not willing to look at ourselves as part of the issue, but without that acknowledgment, nothing’s likely going to change for the better.
Take care of yourself and take the necessary steps to feel good about the way you look. If you’ve let yourself go over the years, bring back whatever used to make you look and feel your best. You’ll feel on top of the world, and it will make a huge difference in your marriage.
4. Seek Professional Help
If your marriage is on the brink of divorce and you haven’t seen a therapist or a divorce mediator, you need to do so ASAP. If your wife wants a divorce, there are issues between the two of you that need to be resolved. At this stage, it’s not always possible to work it out yourselves. Having a professional, objective, unbiased opinion can help you both figure out what the real issues are and how to implement positive solutions. Therapy and/or mediation will require both of you to own up to your share of the marriage problems, too.
Seeing a marriage counselor or therapist may not save your marriage. Both of you have to want to save your marriage for there to be any sort of resolution. If your wife refuses to cooperate, try your best to convince her why it would be beneficial and how much you want your marriage to work. Don’t push her too hard, but try your best to make her see the light.
5. Agree to a Temporary Separation
If your wife is determined to get a divorce, you may want to agree to a temporary separation (or trial separation). Yes, it may be the last thing you want to do, but if she needs space and time for herself, you need to give it to her. The tighter you hold on, the more likely she is to pull away.
Once you separate, she’ll be faced with the reality of what she thinks she wants. She’ll see what life is like without you and your marriage, and will have to decide if what she’s asking for is truly the best solution. It’s okay to trust in your relationship and the love you share, but you also need to prepare yourself for the worst. If the separation only strengthens her desire for divorce, the split may be the best thing for you both.
What You Should Never Do When Your Wife Wants a Divorce
As soon as you heard the words “I want a divorce” come out of her mouth, it probably hit you like a ton of bricks. Don’t overreact, don’t panic, and for God’s sake don’t beg her to stay.
Divorce is often discussed between couples for quite some time before it actually happens, and going off the rails early on isn’t going to help the situation. People can change their minds, and if you both commit time and energy to working on yourselves and your marriage, you may not have to worry about divorce.
Don’t shut down, either. It’s painful to hear that your wife wants a divorce, but ending communication completely is only just going to push the two of you farther apart. Eat dinner together, watch your kids’ sports games together, spend time doing things you like, and make sure to keep the conversation flowing. Remind each other why you married one another in the first place.
You Deserve To Be With Someone Who Wants You
Finally, don’t rush things. You and your spouse need to work at your own pace to salvage your marriage. Divorce rarely happens overnight; it often takes many months for couples to go through with it. Take the time to figure out what the issues are in your relationship, why it isn’t working anymore, and what both parties can do to make things better. If ultimately time and action don’t heal the problems, and your marriage comes to an end, you should realize that you deserve to be with someone who wants to be with you.
(c) Can Stock Photo / JackF
Are you outraged about the money you pay your ex for child support? Do you spend a lot of time wondering what she does with your money that doesn’t involve support of your children? Do your thoughts about your money and your ex consume a great deal of your time and energy?
Fighting over money can wreck relationships and is one of the most significant sources of post-divorce conflict too. If you find yourself caught in this trap, you can benefit from understanding painful triggers and how to decide when to fight over the money you pay your ex.
I have four tips for managing money issues successfully with your ex post-divorce. If you can set aside all of the preconceptions you bring to the table about your ex-wife and your money, and how it impacts the children, you can do this.
That’s asking a lot, but your children’s happiness is worth it. You may need to re-frame the way you have been thinking of the ex since the divorce, but you can make the shift with some hard work and determination.
The first thing you can do is to recognize that money you pay your ex through child support is intended to equalize, to a limited degree, the homes in which the child lives. This means their mother may benefit from the child support too. This concept probably wasn’t introduced to you during your divorce negotiations, but makes it clear that it’s okay for an ex-wife to have some benefit from the child support payments. The idea is that when children have less disparity between the two households where they reside, it is good for them.
Also, your views about money should be considered. Have you always been a “cup half full” person? Do you worry that there isn’t enough to go around? Or do you always expect to have enough money but sometimes come up short?
Whatever the case, take notice of what you bring to the table regarding money, perhaps based on your childhood, and acknowledge it. Although you may want to think otherwise, your ex isn’t responsible for all of your money issues. You play a role in how you manage money, and how you think about money, and it’s up to you to take responsibility for this. If you can do that, and use the four tools below, you are well on the way to creating a system for keeping money in its place in your life and with the ex!
1. Recognize It’s Good for Your Children If Your Ex Isn’t Struggling Financially.
Simply put, child support is intended to equalize income, to some limited extent, between homes. Whatever your “beef” with your ex, don’t make this one of them. You cannot control how she spends the money so let that go. Assume she, like you, is doing the best she can to take care of your children too. If you’ve spent a long time believing otherwise, this isn’t an easy task. But, it’s an important one.
When you begin to let go of the need to “punish” your ex for perceived misdeeds of the marriage, or your divorce, it will help you to allow the space for her to move forward successfully too. The expression, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” applies here as your children are surely well served by having two financially secure parents.
2. Stop Talking About Money All the Time
Start by paying what you owe on time and not commenting negatively, for one month, on any money issues. If there is a real problem, you will deal with that, as needed. But, not right now. You should create a budget for yourself, including the money paid to your ex, and make a plan to live within it. If you consider the money paid to your ex simply part of your monthly operating expenses, rather than an unnecessary burden, it may be simpler to stop thinking about it all of the time. Take the steps necessary to limit focusing on it. That will help you and your children.
Also, free yourself from the repetitive mantra of, “She’s a witch and is spending all of my money.” Instead, if it’s impossible to see her as a partner in co-parenting right now, acknowledge, if nothing else, she has the kids when you don’t. It’s good for them to be happy and secure when they are not with you. Your money helps them. Period.
3. Don’t Talk to Your Kids About The Money You Pay Your Ex
There are no exceptions to this rule. Just don’t. They won’t think better of you if you tell them the money is all yours or that you are the only one who provides for them. They love their mom too, and they should, and this only makes them uncomfortable and insecure. You must choose to prioritize your children’s emotional health over your own need to feel as though you have somehow been victorious over your ex. There are no winners when children are put between their divorced parents. Their esteem is tied to what you say about their mother too.
4. Keep Your Disagreements Civil and Simple
You are well served to have a system in place to address disagreements that arise outside of court. Perhaps you can develop a quarterly reconciliation of expenses outside of support, preferably by email, that works for you. Limit your comments to the expense itself and do not infer intent in your communication with your ex. It doesn’t solve the problem and is likely to only heighten the conflict.
Think carefully before escalating the dispute to the legal arena. It is much preferred, for the benefit of your children, to consider mediating expense conflicts outside of court. As a last resort, take your disagreement to court. Of course, if your income changes and modification of an order is necessary, you may need to use the legal process. Just remember to keep it matter-of-fact and don’t make it personal to your ex. She has her own money pressures and adding your negative energy will only hurt your children.
You are Your Kid’s Example
You can decide when to fight over money you pay your ex. Knowing when to let it go is likely the most important thing you can do for your own well-being and to take care of your kids. Recognize when you are triggered by money and your ex and always take a pause. Use the four tools above to limit your unnecessary interaction with your kids and their mother over money and make a plan to address when there is a dispute. You have a choice and can only control how you behave. Make sure you do to benefit you and your children, now and into their adulthood. Teaching them how to manage money, even when it’s difficult will help them now and long into their future. It’s really up to you!
(c) Can Stock Photo / AndreyPopov
There are certain signs to look out for that could be grounds for divorce.
Whether you don’t see each other as often as you like because one of you is traveling for work, or you have a fight that goes on for longer than usual, rough patches are normal and can be resolved with work and over time.
Every marriage goes through rough patches. But do you know the difference between a rough patch and going through something that’s more than just a rough patch?
How to Tell It’s More Than a Rough Patch
- Your Communication Has Become Very Limited (or Has Stopped)
If you and your wife have stopped talking, this could signal major trouble for your marriage. Sure, if you’re not talking because you had a fight or your schedules have gotten hectic, you may be going through a rough patch. But if you’re not talking because you don’t care to tell each other about your days, or you have unresolved anger towards one another, it may be more than a rough patch.
Communication is key to a strong relationship, and it’s important to make sure that you don’t take good communication for granted. Communication is essential for support, comfort, and emotional well-being. Without proper communication with your spouse, you may feel like you’ve lost your connection or even feel like you’re living with a stranger. A lack of good communication is one of the main ways couples start to lose each other, and if it goes on for too long, could deteriorate into grounds for divorce.
Couples go through many tough situations that they’re able to work through, and even come out stronger on the other side. But sometimes, an issue is so problematic that the only way to solve it is divorce. If you’re going through something that seems beyond saving, see if you can work it out with couples’ therapy or individual therapy, depending on the situation. Seeking help will help you figure out whether or not you can work through your issues. If you try to work it out and it’s not getting better and seems unsolvable, divorce may be your best option.
- There’s No Trust in Your Relationship
A lack of trust in your relationship can stem from a number of different things. It could be that one of you did something to break the other’s trust, or it could be that someone from the past did something to break the trust and it’s still consuming your or your spouse’s thoughts and actions. You should never blame your spouse for the things someone else did, but sometimes people become obsessively jealous because they had someone in their past cheat on them. Wherever the doubts and jealousy comes from, a lack of trust can ruin a marriage.
If one of you breaks the other’s trust, whether it was infidelity, dishonesty, or any other type of betrayal, you need to decide whether you’re willing to put in the effort to get through it and gain the trust back. Jealousy and trust issues can seriously damage a marriage, especially if it’s due to insecurity and grounded in past relationships rather than the current one.
- Your Values Don’t Match
Some couples get married knowing their core values aren’t the same but are too in love to care. Love and infatuation can only take you so far. Over time, if your core values aren’t in line, and compromises can’t be reached, it could be grounds for divorce. For example, if you grew up in a family where your mom was happy to stay home and look after the kids, and you feel like that’s the way it should be, but your wife is adamant about having a career, this could become a major, unsolvable issue. Or, if one of you values independence but the other is completely dependent on the other and isn’t okay with them doing anything on their own, this could also spur serious problems.
- Your Relationship Has Become More Like a Business Partnership
Is your marriage feeling more like a business partnership where you’ve started living parallel lives rather than spending time together? Then you may be headed for a split. Sometimes when couples are going strong, they end up putting their attention and energy into other aspects of their life like work, kids, hobbies, friends, and pretty much anything else other than their spouse. It often doesn’t turn out well when this starts to happen.
You need to constantly put work into your relationship, even when things are going well. Make sure not to lose the spark. Keep spending time with one another, go on dates, take trips without your kids, do little things that show you care. If you start losing your connection and never make time for each other, it could be grounds for divorce.
- One of You Isn’t Willing to Work on Yourself
Marriage is a two-way street, and both you and your spouse need to constantly be working on yourselves to make the partnership work. In a strong marriage, you need to grow together while fulfilling yourself and becoming the best person you can be. If one of you is stuck in a funk, whether it’s substance abuse, unemployment, or a tragic loss, and isn’t willing to get better, it can be a huge burden on the marriage. Everyone goes through tough times, and sometimes it takes a while to get back on track, but as long as you realize that and are willing to work through it, you can overcome it and build on your relationship.
If you don’t grow together, you end up growing apart, and it takes work on an individual level to foster your relationship. If one of you continues to grow and the other stays in the same place, it can trigger major issues and negative feelings from both sides.
How to Know If Your Situation is Grounds for Divorce
The last thing you want to do is make a major decision about ending your marriage before you’ve given it enough time. Unless there was some sort of abuse, betrayal, or infidelity that can’t be forgiven, give your marriage time before jumping into a divorce. Depending on the situation, there could be something one, or both of you needs to work on. Marriage is work, don’t forget that. Even in good relationships, both parties still need to work on creating a strong relationship.
If your situation is unsalvageable or one of you isn’t willing to work on themselves to make things better, it can result in a lack of communication and a relationship that feels more like a business partnership than a loving union. Once the caring and work has stopped, you need to dig deep to decide whether your marriage is worth saving or if divorce is the best solution.
(c) Can Stock Photo / Nikolay_Sivenkov
We all know that feeling and looking our best requires doing things to promote our mental and physical health. The good news is that not everything that’s good for you is agonizing. Here are ten health tips you can start today that don’t involve turning your lifestyle upside down, spending a ton of cash or exposing yourself to excruciating torment.
While every guy needs to implement these healthy habits, it’s even more essential for divorced men to prioritize their health, because they are at higher risk for a slew of illnesses like cancer and heart attacks. And that’s not all: according to the Huffington Post, divorced and single men have higher rates of mortality and are more prone to substance abuse and depression than married men.
10 Easy Health Tips To Start Now
Laugh a lot.
Laughter really is great medicine; it eases stress and depression, promotes social bonding, and lowers blood pressure. Want to get your giggle on? Take a date or your posse out to a comedy show. For those days when putting on pants is too much effort, find a comedy special on Netflix. Reruns of Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development or websites like funnyordie.com also have good “laugh until you cry” sketches and shows.
Just breathe, deeply.
Taking time to take a breather can be one of the most simple but effective ways to relax and slow your heart rate. Breath through your nose until your lungs are full. They’ll fill with nitric oxide, a chemical found in the back of your nose that opens up blood vessels. The dose of oxygen will make you feel happier and more alert. This is also a handy way to calm yourself down when feeling anxious or nervous, like before an important meeting, presentation or first date.
Sleep on it.
Seven hours of sleep a night not only helps you live longer, but also lowers your stress, sharpens your memory, and reduces cravings for junk foods.
Keep it colorful.
Eat nine handfuls of colorful fruits and vegetables each day. The different colors represent different good for you things your body needs to function at its finest. These foods are often more powerful than the drugs sold in pharmacies, and without the scary side effects.
Get up, go out, and get going.
Sweat for just an hour a week and you’ll enjoy a range of benefits: reduced risk of heart attack, better mood, more energy, and lower blood pressure. Men who exercise enough to burn 200 calories a day also significantly lower their chances of impotence. Yeah, these health tips help your sex life, too! That’s because impotence often has the same cause as heart attacks: blocked arteries. So engage in a little activity that doesn’t involve tossing the couch cushions aside and fervently searching for the remote. Your, uh, little buddy downstairs will thank you.
Form tight social networks.
And I don’t mean that dude you went to grade school with on Facebook. Have a couple friends or family members you can talk to when things are on your mind and you can call on when you feel overwhelmed and need help. This is one of those health tips that can get you out of the house for beer and wings with a buddy. If you face life’s stresses alone, you will make yourself older. Not a people person? Get a dog or cat or bird or gerbil. Spending time with a pet is more effective at reducing stress than spending time with friends, girlfriends, or alcohol.
Get rid of the gut.
Visceral fat (the stuff that settles in your abdomen) lets toxins seep into your vital organs, which is why round-bellied men die sooner than flat-bellies. Grab a tape measure and put it around your body at the level of your belly button. That number should be less than half your height.
Moderation and food choices are key in trimming belly fat and keeping it off, so eat six small meals a day instead of three big ones—you’ll stave off hunger and avoid overeating. Keep the beer to 1 or 2 instead of 3 or 4 and eat some protein, veggies and healthy fats with those processed carbs. Bonus, you’ll reduce your risk for heart attack and diabetes.
Nuts are among the best sources of healthful fats and protein around. Best part is there’s no cooking or clean up. Unless you chew with your mouth open, which is a whole other problem.
Eat in more.
If you cook at home, you not only save money but also gain control over what goes into your meals. A tremendous amount of calories hide in sauces, dressing and soups at restaurants. Food is cooked in fatty oils, butter and sugar. Portions are usually double what your calorie intake should be.If you do eat out, take half home for lunch the next day. It’s cheaper and better for you.
Have regular colonoscopy and prostate serum antigen testing.
Both of these tests are crucial in spotting two common and potentially lethal diseases — colon and prostate cancer — that are still curable if detected early enough. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a prolonged and painful death. As William Shakespeare might have said: check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
Every man deserves a happy and satisfying life, even after divorce. Start implementing these tips today for a healthier life – and have fun!
My marriage ended because I cheated on my wife. It’s as simple as that. I can tell you all the reasons it happened, how I found myself in that situation when I’d never imagined I’d be that guy, why it didn’t really mean anything.
But none of those things matter. What matters is that I broke my vows and hurt someone I loved very much in the process.
Divorce is never easy. Even when it’s amicable, even when you don’t blame each other for anything – when you both just admit you’ve both changed, or have different goals, or have simply grown apart – it’s hard to deal with.
But what do you do when you know – 100%, without any doubt – that it’s your fault?
I Cheated on My Wife and She Left
After it had all settled down – after she’d packed up her stuff and left and I was alone in my house, just me and the cats – the hardest part to deal with was the guilt I felt for the hurt I’d caused. I missed her, of course; I often think the thing we miss most when the relationship ends is not what we had, but what we would have had, the life we expected to share with someone else. To have that life blown away, for her and for me, was excruciating. But so was the knowledge that it was on me. I had cheated on my wife.
There were other problems, of course – show me a relationship that doesn’t have problems and I’ll show you the last five minutes of a sappy romantic comedy – but this problem was one that I created, through my own selfishness and stupidity. It left me literally tossing and turning every night; in my dreams, I played Monday morning quarterback, endlessly replaying the last angry, tearful conversation, trying to figure out if I could have done something, said something, to mitigate the pain I’d caused, to find a way that we could work through it.
But worse than those dreams, of course, were the ones where it had never happened; where I dreamed of my wife and I going out, or going on vacation, or simply sitting around watching TV, the way we used to. Those were the dreams that hurt to wake up from.
Fooling Yourself Doesn’t Erase the Guilt
The easiest way to deal with the guilt, of cour se, is to fool yourself. Yes, you screwed up, but maybe if she’d been a little more this or done a little more of that, you wouldn’t have been driven to cheat or lie or whatever you did to make the relationship end. Maybe if she’d been a little more understanding.
This is all bullshit and it’s beneath you. You need to accept responsibility for your actions and their consequences. You screwed up. Yes, maybe there were other problems, but if so you should have faced them and worked on them rather than allowing them to drive you to do something you couldn’t take back. Part of being a grown-up is admitting to yourself that you did wrong. That’s the first step.
Unfortunately, that can lead you to a very dark place. I had to accept the fact that, despite a lifetime of believing in true love and finding that special someone and being faithful to them until the end, I was a man who had cheated on my wife. I was, in my own eyes, a faithless son of a bitch. I was not the misunderstood hero of the piece. I was, in fact, the villain. That’s a hard row for anybody to hoe.
Sometimes You Just Need to Grow the Fuck Up
It’s a terrible thing to realize that you’re not perfect, that you are, in fact, human and that you sometimes do stupid or thoughtless or mean things. It’s terrible to realize what you’re capable of. But in that realization is self-awareness. You have discovered something true about yourself – something unpleasant, certainly, but that awareness is important. It helps you understand who you are, how you got there and – most importantly – what you need to change, in yourself and in your life. To err is human…but so is learning from one’s errors. You need to take a long look at yourself in the mirror and really see the face there, looking back at you. And you need to understand what’s required to once again make that face one you can be proud to look at.
It’s different for everybody. Some people need to realize they have a problem with the booze or the pills. Some people need to realize they have an anger management problem. And some people just need to, frankly, grow the fuck up and realize they’re not the only person on the planet, that other people have feelings that are just as important as their own. Sometimes you need to be reminded that you need to tread lightly in this world because if you don’t you can trample people who don’t deserve it, people you don’t ever want to hurt.
You Will Always Carry the Scars
Then you need to take a deep breath and you need to just get moving, keep living your life, one day at a time, as the folks in Alcoholics Anonymous say. You can’t take back what you did, and maybe you can’t rebuild the bridges you burned, but you can do your best not to burn any more of them as you go. You can come out the other side of your pain and self-recrimination and find a more thoughtful, mindful, conscientious person there, waiting for you.
You will always carry the scars, though; don’t fool yourself about that. I sometimes wonder if it’s worse to be the hurter than the hurt; after all, the hurter has to live with what they’ve done. You may learn to forgive yourself, but you will never forget. She’s been gone over a year and I still ache when I think of her, think of the sorrow on her face, that I caused. Those scars will never vanish.
But that’s okay. Scars are snapshots of our lives; they remind us of what made us who we are. We learn from scars. We move on. We survive.
There’s a line from an old Tom Petty song I often think of when I think of my ex-wife:
I still think of her when the sun goes down
It never goes away, but it all works out
That’s the plain truth, right there. You will get through this. You will feel better. You will be better. That’s part of being human, too. You will survive.
(c) Can Stock Photo / dmitrimaruta
Do you spend a great deal of your time in arguments with your ex? Is it nearly impossible to communicate anything at all that doesn’t lead to an explosion of tempers? Do you often feel you can’t say do anything right and try to avoid communication altogether, even when you sometimes need to talk about the kids? If so, you are not alone. Communication, in all aspects of life, is difficult and causes great strain in divorce. However, there is a way to avoid escalation and help your kids, too.
Start using four simple tools in your email and other communications with your ex. I endorse email as the “go to” for most of your communication. It is less immediate than text, which can be intrusive and easily inflammatory when quick responses are given. It also creates a written record you can rely on later as needed which in person or telephone communications are less likely to provide.
If you follow these simple ideas, the impact will be almost immediate. Remember, though, that your ex may expect tempers to flare now so may not be prepared for what’s next. The single biggest tip you can internalize now is to stay steady and give it time to work. Once you do, you will find the benefits of reducing your escalation pays off in more joy and less stress for you too. This, in turn, helps you feel better because the messages you send to yourself and others are more positive. It’s a win for everyone in your life!
Go Neutral, Not Nasty
Remember a time when arguments with your ex quickly escalated. Perhaps she wanted to get the kids sooner or drop them later or vary the custody schedule. Maybe she asked for money. All of these demands may act as triggers for you having nothing to do with her request, especially if you feel she has always told you what to do or chronically complains about money. However, it’s your job to address only what’s asked, that is, as the expression goes, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” If you are asked about something, answer the question. That is, answer only that question and do not bring up other matters in your response.
It may or may not be true that your ex has repeatedly asked for varied times or dates, but it doesn’t matter. Just answer her question. For example, if she asks you whether she can drop the kids at 8 pm instead of 6 pm Sunday night, you can answer, “Yes,” or “No.”
There’s no need to remind her she always asks for a later time and that you are tired of it. In fact, it’s better not to even add, at least as a first response, any reason. Just say, “That works,” or “That doesn’t work this time.” If she comes back to ask why, keep it short and sweet. “The kids need a bath and story by 8:30 so they can get enough rest before school tomorrow.” If she reminds you that you never cared about that when you were married, no response is required. If the kids aren’t dropped until 8 pm, just make a note and keep a record of it.
Over time, you can decide if a pattern has been created that makes any action on your part worthwhile. Remember, the goal is to support the kids and not punish you or her.
State What You Want, Not What You Don’t
When you have a request for your ex, ask it. Don’t tell her you are asking because she has previously failed to do whatever you are asking or criticizing her in another way.
For example, if you want to take your child to the zoo on a day you wouldn’t have her because there’s a special exhibit, email, “Can I take our daughter on Saturday because there is a special exhibit of penguins only on that day?” Don’t say, “I want to take our daughter to the zoo Saturday because I know you won’t do it and I don’t want her to miss the penguin exhibit.” The difference may seem obvious now but may not always be to you.
So, after you draft an email, save it. Turn to another task and come back a bit later. Re-read what you have written. Remove anything that suggests your ex has done something wrong. Remember, you are asking for something and want to get it.
Even if you are entitled to it, she can make it difficult so why communicate in a way that makes it harder for you? If you can’t see your own biases, ask one trusted person to review your email until you get the hang of it. Friends and family can be tricky as they are likely “in your corner.” Often, a divorce coach is the perfect neutral to help you with your goal and hold you gently accountable as needed. But, over time, you can certainly do this on your own!
Make what you are asking as flexible as possible. Allow your ex to feel empowered by what you are asking to allow them some control too. If you want to take your daughter to the zoo on a day you don’t have custody, and there is more than one date or time that can happen for you, ask your ex what she prefers. “I’d love to take our daughter to the zoo and see the exhibit is this Saturday and Sunday. Does one of those days work for you?” This will be much more likely to receive a positive response than, “I want to take our daughter to the zoo and it has to be Saturday because I have other plans Sunday so don’t suggest it.”
This may seem obvious, but you will be surprised by how much you even unintentionally convey if your communication in the past has not been friendly or cooperative. Build in your own flexibility so you can prepare for a response that gets you what you want, going to the zoo, even if it turns out it has to be on Sunday, for example.
Agree to Disagree
You are likely familiar with the Rolling Stones lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want.” Yet, in separation and divorce, we are often loathe letting go any of our ideas when our ex takes another position. We become entrenched in ways we wouldn’t with friends, most family, and even co-workers.
The remedy to avoid escalating arguments with your ex is to recognize that so much of this disagreement is simply noise.
It doesn’t really matter much what she thinks about your ideas anymore.
You need to have some agreement about the kids, but you mostly have authority in your home and she in hers. Of course, it’s better for the kids if you can be consistent across homes on the big issues, but you can let the rest go.
For example, if your ex puts the kids to bed at 7:30 pm and you think it’s too early, that 8:30 pm is just fine; it’s not necessary to tell her that unless you notice the kids aren’t well rested. And, even if they aren’t, there are many other reasons that may occur having nothing to do with your difference in bedtimes. In other words, let it go.
If you can remind yourself of this, in divorce, almost every day, you will likely serve yourself and your kids much better. Naturally, when something happens that has a big impact on your kid’s life, you will state it, with respect and in a neutral way. For example, “I noticed our daughter wakes up at 5:00 am, and I wonder if her bedtime impacts that. I’m trying 8:30 pm now and find she sleeps until 6:30 am. Do you think that might work for you too?” Of course, if your daughter isn’t waking up for you too early, you don’t need to say anything at all and will only tell your ex this suggestion if asked.
Controlling Arguments With Your Ex
After all, we may not always get what we want but it is likely, sometimes, we will get what we need. Reminding yourself, repeatedly, what you can control and what you can’t, and communicating only what you control will help avoid escalating arguments with your ex. And, really, that’s what all of us really need.
(c) Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean