Family Life


5 min Read

Staying Friends with Your Ex

1. Take time to grieve the losses.
Allow yourself to mourn the loss, especially if the split is recent. Even the most civilized of separations require a time of reflection.

2. Stay on the porch.
Don’t go into your ex’s new home and keep him or her out of yours. That part of your life is finished. Ken Garvie, a therapist in Burlington, Ontario, says: “Once people have separated, they really need to take a sabbatical from the relationship. Start over at a distance from your ex.” You don’t ask your ex to fix leaky taps, or iron your laundry. You learn to do it yourself. Likewise, you need to release yourself from any interest in the escapades of your former partner.

3. Recognize your contribution to the conflict.
Seek ways to reduce your anger. Since anger is frequently triggered by expectations, ask yourself, “Are my expectations reasonable? Have they been discussed with your partner? Can they be discussed without blame?” If the answer is “No,” write the request in a civil way.

4. Vent your rage.
Share your outrage with your friends and spare your children. When a sexual issue is the cause for the breakup, the desire to blame the wandering partner can be intense. Show restraint even if, on some days, that restraint makes you want to chew the tops off pens. Join a group such as Parents Without Partners if you don’t already have a good support network. A single parent is in need of great friends.

5. Agree on responsibility for the children.
Joint responsibility, where parents share the decision making, is a good idea when the post-marital relationship remains friendly. When the separating partners are emotionally mature, both parents can remain active participants in the parenting of the children. Physical custody usually falls to the mother. Only 10 to 12 percent of children live full-time with their fathers. In Canada, 42 percent of divorced parents have joint responsibility for the decisions made on a child’s behalf.

6. Agree on how to manage the money.
Have clear money agreements. Studies show that, in the first year after divorce, women’s household income drops by about 20 to 40 percent. Three years after divorce, women’s income continues to be substantially lower than what they had during marriage and far below their ex-husbands’ current income. Poverty is one of the key factors that determines how powerfully the children are wounded by the parents’ separation. A financial advisor for both short-term and long-term planning is a good idea. No matter what, live up to your end of the deal. Living with integrity feels better than deceit.

7. Negotiate solutions.
Learn negotiating skills and use them. The best selling book on negotiation, Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury, states that basic human needs are powerful, motivating interests. We all need: physical and emotional security, economic well being, a sense of belonging, recognition and a sense of control. Ask what your ex-partner needs and consider that need as an important part of the problem. Keep the talk future-oriented when discussing problems. Going into the past only drags the discussion into the mire of endless recriminations.

8. Don’t put kids in the middle.
Deliver messages to your ex in person and not through the children. They still want to be kids, not messengers.

9. Listen to the kids when the ex disappoints them.
Acknowledge their feelings but keep your opinions to yourself. Your ex is responsible for the relationship he or she develops with the children. You can attempt to influence him or her, but that’s it.

10. Learn to trust yourself.
The journey to be friendly, or at least civil to your ex, is so much easier if your first become your own best friend. Learning to trust yourself can take time and more than a few uncomfortable experiences. It helps if you can figure out what your rules are for yourself.

11. Nurture yourself.
A stressed out human doesn’t make a great parent. If cash is in short supply, even a walk in the park or a trip to the library can be a break from the tension.

12. Take action if your ex withholds funds.
It’s common for angry ex-partners to withhold funds, often creating terrible deprivation for the children. The Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which came into being when Parliament passed the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act in 1996, helps support payments flow to the people who are entitled to receive them. This change has helped to reduce tensions between separated spouses. It means that the paying spouse has to report to an agency and cannot avoid or play games with the court ordered financial arrangements. The FRO has some serious enforcement tools at its disposal to make your ex comply. These tools include the ability to seize bank accounts or assets, and suspend passports and licenses. For more information, check out PC


a man carrying two children

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