A lot of us have one. Sometimes in our lives, sometimes not. Often a source of stress.
The very word can bring back memories of pain, frustration and loss.
For some people, usually because there are children involved, there still needs to be regular contact. But how to go about that? It can be hard to work out how to relate to your Ex because of some complex factors:
- You have had children together.
- You have previously shared many life experiences together, both good and bad*.
- You both may have extended family members still connected to your Ex.
- Your children may still want to see other family members related to the Ex.
- You may still have common friends who want to keep their relationship with both of you.
The list could go on, but you get the idea.
So, let’s assume that you have an ex-partner whom for whatever reason you need to maintain some degree of contact with, and this short article is not about whether or not to get back with your Ex. I am assuming that in your case, it’s not going to happen. That’s another article.
So, how do you communicate with your Ex and not get drawn into old patterns? And what do I mean by this?
Well, when you communicate with your Ex, do you:
- End up having a heated argument?
- Get home and have an emotional meltdown?
- Find that you just can’t say no?
- Give in to their demands yet again and hate yourself for it later?
The above are super common and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. So, what do you do?
You need to switch the relationship from a romantic relationship to a business relationship.
Think about your relationships with the people that you work with. Would you:
- Dump your anger on them if you have a bad day with the kids?
- Flirt with them hoping you might have another quick sexual fling? (The answer is no, by the way!)
- Tell them the most intimate details of your life when they really don’t want to hear?
- Expect them to mop up the wreckage from your own selfish choices?
Of course you wouldn’t. Instead, in your workplace relationships you:
- Remain on task for the job you are paid to do.
- Are mindful of your physical and emotional boundaries.
- When emotional topics come up, you handle them in a mature, adult manner.
- Take responsibility for your own actions and words.
- Demonstrate good problem-solving skills to work through a problem.
- Work as a team.
In other words, it’s a business relationship.
Imagine if two separated partners behaved like the second list, rather than the first. Think how much easier it would be for you and the kids.
Of course, I need to highlight that the above works best when you have two people working at it. It’s also really hard work! On the one hand, you are trying to stay focused in the present and what is best for the children, while on the other, you are trying to stop the hurt and bitterness from spoiling things. Still, even if one person tries to put some of those ideas into practice, then at the very least, your resiliency will increase and so will your mental health.
A common question I hear is: “Can I still be friends with my Ex?”
Well, that depends on a lot of factors. My experience is that for most people, it’s a no. The possible exception will be two people who didn’t go out for very long, didn’t have children, and have other social connections. My reason for this, is what constitutes a friendship:
- Mutual interests.
- A sharing of personal life.
- Overall, little conflict.
- No sexual contact.
- No shared financial assets.
An ex-partner relationship usually goes way beyond the above, and you simply can’t ‘reverse’ that. You have shared much more than a friendship, and all that history, both good and bad, cannot be erased.
However, while I believe on the whole, you cannot be friends with your Ex, you can still be friendly, and that’s why viewing your old relationship as a business relationship can help.
Final Thought for the Day:
When you find yourself ruminating over how ill-treated you were by your Ex, and how you now need therapy, just remember that they may be in therapy right now to get over you!
Author: Dr David Ward, BSocWk, BA., Grad Dip (Couple Thpy), M.Couns., MPhil., PhD.
Dr David Ward is a qualified Couple and Family therapist with many years of experience in helping separated couples navigate their ‘business relationship’ after the romantic relationship has ended.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422.
*An important point is that if there has been violence in the relationship, then safety takes priority. Sometimes communicating to a violent Ex is out of the question due to safety concerns. If that is your experience, please remember that most of the points here are for those situations where there are no safety issues.