One of the most difficult factors in a divorce situation can be ongoing conflict with a difficult ex. Here are some tips to assist you:
1. Have compassion
I know it sometimes seems impossible to try and have compassion for someone you may be extremely angry with, or even hate…..but it’s such a useful skill to be able to turn destructive anger into compassion.
Try and put yourself in the difficult person’s shoes……how do you think someone would feel inside, in order to act in such a horrible manner?
It may even be useful to try and write their story from their perspective.
When you find a way to feel compassion for someone who may have hurt you, you will see that anger dissolves and you will begin to handle them differently….which means that you will begin to see a different response from them.
2. Don’t take their behaviour personally, rather raise the mirror.
A useful tool is to take hurtful words and “raise the mirror”. If your ex insults you and calls you names, turn it around.
For example, one of my client’s ex’s would tell her that she was unstable.Let’s call her Beth. We then worked on a strategy where she would turn the sentence around in her mind and reframe it. So, instead of hearing her ex say “Beth, you are unstable”, she would turn it around and hear it as “Beth, I am unstable”.That would then transform her feelings of hurt and anger into feelings of compassion, for someone who was giving her insight into how he may be feeling.
Another useful technique is to take what they say and then to add to it.
For example, “If I am NOT unstable, then what or who am I?”
Use it as an invitation to finding out who you are.Be prepared to look for where you are, were or might be unstable in the future. Understand that it is okay. Under huge stress we can all be unstable.
Remember, if you are in touch with who you are, someone else’s words will not affect `you….unless they are right. In that case….use it as an opportunity to work on yourself.
3. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
You know when the air hostess gives a safety demonstration and tells mothers to put on their own oxygen mask first, before putting one on their child? There’s a reason for that. It is so vitally important to fill your own cup first.
How about reframing the word “selfish” as “self aware” and “self care”
Try do things for yourself that feed you, that fulfill you….even if it’s just small, simple things.
4. Let go of the expectation that you are able to change that person or that that person is willing to change. Instead, focus on yourself and the positive changes that you are able to make.
5. Establish and maintain boundaries – strictly.
Divorce agreements and parenting plans can be really useful. If your ex is exceptionally difficult, it may be useful to make sure that arrangementsand times, as stipulated in a legally binding document, are always stuck to.
Emotional boundaries also need to be maintained. Remember…an ex spouse is no longer a spouse. The only interactions that need to take place between you are those that would involve your children. Discussions should only centre around the children. Make sure you maintain this boundary strictly.
6. Maintain a business-like relationship
If the relationship is too volatile or inflammatory, rather correspond in writing via email – don’t send a message in haste. If you need to sleep on it first or run it by someone you trust, then do that. The only messages to be sent in haste are in the case of an absolute emergency – everything else can wait.
Philippa Levitt is a certified Debbie Ford Transformational Coach, a trained attorney and a trained mediator.
Stacey Lewis is the founder of www.thedivorcesource.co.za and the author of “Divorce 101:Survive and thrive”
Philippa and Stacey are the co-creators of the dynamic and inspiring workshop: “Survive and thrive: from break-up to breakthrough”