You don’t really know someone, the noted screenwriter Nora Ephron once said, until you get divorced from them.
At first, this may sound like an overly glib line. It could be from a darkly comic movie much darker in tone than such Efron-scripted hits as When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. But when you have to continue to relate to your ex because of your kids, a lot is riding on who that person is and how they respond to the divorce.
What can you expect from your spouse, as you continue to be parents together while no longer being romantic partners?
Your interactions (or lack thereof) may fit into a typology.
To answer that question, it can be helpful to know how post-divorce parenting relationships tend to fit into identifiable patterns.
In a post last year, we noted how researchers have described parenting styles for exes. Using clever alliteration, the therapist Constance Ahrons summarizes these styles to include:
•· Cooperative colleagues or perfect pals – who make a point of getting along when it comes to the kids
•· Parallel parents – who aren’t overly oppositional but don’t have much to do with each other
•· Angry associates – who cooperate, but grudgingly
•· Fiery foes – who continue to engage in conflict
Of course, as with any relationship, where you and your ex fit within these types is not entirely in your control. If you’re up against a “fiery foe” or forms of domestic violence, the ability to collaborate effectively may be very limited or nonexistent.
Generally, however, it’s important to be aware that the more flexible you can be, the better off your kids are likely to be.
The tone for post-divorce communication may be set during the divorce process.
It is amazing how much children can pick up on. They do not have to witness a fight to notice that there has been one.
It can be tempting, especially if communication has already been difficult, to insist that you are right. But parental conflicts that make kids feel torn between the two parents who are fighting are very difficult for kids.
When kids feel torn like this, their stress levels go up and they may end up aligning with one parent or the other. This can greatly harm their relationship with the other parent.
Keep your divorce off social media.
In the social media age, another aspect of forging a different relationship with an ex is how to approach social media.
There is no shortage of memes and articles that you could post to drop hints about what you are going through with your ex. These should have no place on your wall.
While this may seem like a safe-zone to be able to share with your friends what you are going through, the posts you share on social media can always find a way back to your children. Even if your children are not on social media, you never know when they will see a post you have made either through a friend’s parent, or when they eventually have their own social media account.
Before posting something, consider whether you would post it if you knew your children would see it. Even though you have parted ways with your ex, your children are still developing a relationship with that person. Both your children and your ex deserve to make that relationship as positive as possible, even if your relationship did not go the same way.