Communicating with a former spouse after divorce is a given when the marriage produced children. But how a former spouse manages this new relationship with his or her former spouse without slipping back into the same old habits lies in breaking the emotional ties that once bound the couple. This is not easy.
A divorce decree is only step one in moving on after divorce. The real divorce is the cutting of the emotional, mental and physical ties that bind. This is the real work of divorce recovery: Becoming a single person possessed of confidence, self-esteem, and an enthusiasm for life is the real work of divorce — a complete break from the emotional turmoil that fractured the marriage in the first place.
All too often, people experience the same conflicts with their former spouses that originally led to divorce: constant arguments, reactive behavior leading to emotional upsets, old patterns of reliance, the barrage of destructive barbs aimed at self-esteem and deep hurts. To truly be divorced a person must put forth great effort and inner work that will sever the ties to the former spouse.
Spouses frequently become swallowed in a vortex of arguments and anger dealing with their children. Nothing happens easily. The deep resentments and hurts suffered in the marriage and its failure remain intact. Each knows the other’s hot buttons and pushes them, resulting in upsets. In this, the old marriage still runs the show.
If this is the case, the person is a former spouse versus a divorced spouse. Somewhere inside of him or her there is still an attachment of some sort to either the marriage or the former spouse.
Acceptance of a new place in life is mandatory. Acceptance comes from acknowledging that the marriage failed, with no hope for it to continue. Acceptance allows for living in a way that reveals a freedom from the past. It means living in the present, with an eye to the future. It takes work. It requires new rules a completely new relationship with the former spouse.
A divorced man or woman must create an environment that helps, not hinders, his or her progress towards true independence. He or she must remove all the temptations to stay connected to his or her former spouse.
Here are some rules to remember:
- Communication with a former spouse should be in writing and/or phone calls. The communication should be limited to only what is necessary.
- Communication should be respectful, but impersonal and to the point. Discussing fears, concerns or personal issues maintains the emotional tie between spouses.
- Former spouses should always act like guest in one another’s home.
- Children should be kept out of any communication between former spouses.
- Spouses should stay out of each other’s lives. Where he or she goes, what he or she does, what he or she thinks or whom he or she is seeing are of no interest.
- A divorced person is an individual.
- Maintaining relationships with former in-laws is difficult because blood is thicker than water.
- A divorced person is not a spouse anymore so he or she should not exhibit any behavior that mimics that role.
The wreckage of a marriage is called a divorce. What is done is done and what is past is past.