If you are separated or contemplating the end of this marriage, you may wonder how you can survive and even thrive after your divorce. You may not know how to show your ex you are done, don’t care and just want to move on with your life. In fact, there are now likely many more issues to juggle, and you are working harder than ever before too. You may also have more child-centered duties and may want and need a social life.
The Business of Divorce
The last thing you want to care about is how the ex-wife feels about you, and how you behave, with her or with your kids. Maybe you think it’s just not her business and she needs to let you do with your children what you want on your time. In addition, perhaps, as a man, it’s been culturally ingrained the best way to show someone you don’t care is just to ignore them. Or pretend to ignore them while causing them lots of pain. However, that’s not how to show your ex you don’t care, and that’s not neutral. In fact, you can create more interaction and unnecessary conflict with an ex by failing to participate in basic and necessary information communication about your kids in a calm manner.
The business of divorce is not the same as what you may experience in your work life, however. While the skills required to divorce may be some of the same ones you need at work, it is also important to bring non-traditional business skills to your divorce too, including empathy and the ability to separate your ex-spouse from your children in a way you may not separate yourself from your job.
Kids Don’t Choose Their Parents
It is easy to confuse the two and end up punishing yourself and the children for what you perceive to be the misdeeds of their mother. The biggest mistake you can make is to confuse anger or other strong emotions for an ex for the need to fully participate cooperatively with and for the children. Taking care of your kids in a way that allows their mother some dignity will serve your relationship with the kids, and many others, for the rest of your life.
Children don’t choose their parents, but you do have a choice now: cooperative co-parenting for them, and you too, in a neutral manner. This lets you show your ex you don’t care about her but still love your kids. Although you may believe there is some value to telling others how bad your ex-wife is, and how bad she is for behaving in the way she does, you and your kids will suffer for it in the long run. In fact, lowering conflict raises your life satisfaction and improves the chances your kids will thrive too. If you need help, with this, keep in mind these four critical skills for life after your divorce:
How to Show Your Ex
1. Don’t let the bastards get you down: If you need support for the emotional pain, get it. It’s manly to acknowledge your needs too. By reaching out to a coach or therapist, you can learn skills you didn’t know before to make your actions with your former wife proactive instead of reactive. You can and will learn to cope with the negative emotions you may have pushed down for a lifetime. You can show her you no longer care by going neutral. And you will come to an understanding about the role that each of you played in your divorce. In sum, you will better yourself and be a better parent to your children, who depend on you to be their father.
2. Don’t allow your work to be an excuse for a failure to co-parent: It’s likely both parents are working after divorce. Use this time as an opportunity to get to know your kids better by taking a hands on approach to them, even if you haven’t experienced it before now. If you don’t have the skills to do so, ask for help from a friend or coach. Again, just as you learn how to run a business, or participate in one, child-rearing skills are learned too. The long-term investment in your children will be better than any other investment you make in your life. Just ask anyone who is in their senior years.
3. Don’t allow perceived conflict with your ex to get in your way of neutral: Yes, you must learn to communicate effectively with your ex to raise your children well. If you can’t do that, you need to learn how to do so. She may be dysfunctional, and you may be too. What it takes to overcome these barriers is the hard work and determination your children deserve. If communication is an issue, ask a coach to help who can show you how to create a neutral style of talking about almost any issue, even when you disagree. The skills you gain will translate to every area of your new life, including business. And your children will be the beneficiaries of two cooperating parents who each love them.
4. Don’t allow anyone else to decide how you will proceed: If you have a new relationship, great! But, remember, you are the father of your children. Do not hand your parenting authority over to your new partner. You are the master of your destiny, and it is your obligation, not that of the new spouse, to co-parent. Help your new partner feel important and involved by treating them as your primary focus and inviting them to meet your children at the appropriate time. Teach your children to behave respectfully. Do not ever force them to acknowledge your new person as a parent. That will come, if at all, with much time and when you least expect it. Instead, help your children know that you are happy in your new life and show them skills like resilience to help them make the transitions that they now need to adjust too.
If you can internalize these skills through practice, your separation and divorce, as well as your post-divorce life, will be much better. You can develop a habit in just a couple of months, so it is, truly, up to you. When done often enough, your new habit, of calm, unflappable response, will be your new normal. You deserve happiness, and so does your ex, whatever you or she perceives the other’s misdeeds to be. More importantly, your children deserve two functional parents who can each teach their children how to cope with difficult circumstances, heal and even thrive later.
Cherie D. Morris and Vickie Vollweiler are Divorce Coaches at www.DearDivorceCoach.com. Cherie and Vicki provide individual coaching sessions and offer skill-building courses to address communication in divorce as well as almost any area of concern you may have.