Talking to your ex or soon-to-be-ex can be a minefield during or after divorce. However, you can transform potentially terrible conversations into more civilized (albeit still difficult) ones by following the tips below.
Know Your Overall Objective
Know exactly what your goal is with the conversation before you have it, and write the goal down before the discussion starts. Read it to yourself and remember it; you want it at the forefront of your mind throughout the whole conversation. If you feel as if your conversation is going off the rails, repeat that objective to yourself and stop talking about anything that isn’t related to it. Focus on what matters instead.
Stay on Neutral Ground
No one wants to have a tough conversation in public, but remember that people tend to be better behaved when others are around. In some cases, having a difficult conversation in a public place is the right way to go. If you want to talk privately, at least use neutral ground and select a place where both of you will feel comfortable.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Know what you want to say and exactly how you want to say it beforehand. While it may seem silly to practice a conversation, you’ll likely do better at the real thing if you do a dry run first. You can also jot down your main points and consider your spouse’s likely replies to them.
Stick to the Facts
Your ex is not going to care about your opinions. When you are trying to convince your ex to do something or conveying information that is unpleasant, stick to the facts only. Bringing your opinions and assumptions into it is more likely to cause an argument. The facts are one area where it’s tougher for you two to disagree.
Avoid finger-pointing, name-calling, and insulting. When you accuse your ex of doing something wrong, call them names or insult them, it’s just going to lead to an argument, even if there is truth in what you are saying. Your ex will feel attacked, and they will shut down, go on the attack or go into defense mode. None of those responses are going to result in the outcome you wanted before the conversation began. Instead of mudslinging, use “I” statements when you speak. Talk about how you feel and what you think, and don’t try to tell your ex how they feel or think or what to do.
Go into this conversation with an open mind and ready to hear what your ex has to say on the matter. It’s fine if you disagree with them entirely; the point is that if you want your ex to listen to you, you have to be willing to listen to them, too. Let your ex talk, and ask them if they have more to say when they finish talking. Ask questions for clarification where necessary. This may also help you see their point of view, so you will be better able to approach the conversation when you speak.
Decide Between Having to Be Right or Reaching Your Goal
If you are approaching the conversation as a sort of competition, it probably won’t go very well. A win-lose mindset will instantly put you and your ex at odds, creating conflict and making the conversation harder. What you want to foster are compromise and understanding. If you want to be able to speak to your ex without ending up in a huge argument and accomplishing nothing, you have to be able to let go of your need to feel proven right. And if you have children – remember it’s about what’s best for them, not you.