Communicating when going through a divorce

How can things get worse after the decision to divorce is made?  Many times, things do worsen between divorcing couples, particularly when children are involved.  Here are some tips on how to manage the chaos and survive the pressure:

  • Minimize phone communications to only emergency situations, like an illness or accident, not if you are running late!  38% of how we communicate is through tone, volume and inflection – be mindful of how you come across to others!
  • Minimize in-person contact.  55% of how we communicate is through our body language…even the sight of our former significant other can trigger us
  • Avoid reading email or any type of interaction with the other party at the beginning of the day, particularly when at work…it can derail a good part of your day
  • Create a rule to send email from the other party directly to a designated file folder so you don’t have to see it until you’re ready
  • Maximum one email per day unless emergency or time sensitive
  • Maximum one topic per email
  • Maximum 40 words per email; ideally less than 20 are preferable
  • Refrain from talking about the past, making accusations or personal attacks, call names or otherwise blame the other – it will get you nowhere fast!
  • Everything written must be child-focused (when children are involved), informative, and polite
  • Acknowledge receipt of an email and identify a timeframe for when you will respond, e.g. “acknowledging receipt of your email; will respond within 24-48 hours”
  • Refrain from immediate responses, particularly less than 3 hours – this definitely reflects an emotional response, not a logical response
  • Make sure you do respond within 24-48 hours, except in cases of emergencies or time-sensitive matters.  Even if you don’t have an answer or are waiting for information, let the other party know that
  • Frame your requests in terms of a “proposal” – consider  your response in terms of “I’ll think about it” before saying “Yes” or “No”
  • If you can’t say “yes” to a request, respond with a counter-proposal.  If agreement can’t be reached within 1-2 proposals and counter-proposals, take it back to counseling and/or mediation for guidance
  • Be mindful of strong words like “I will not” or “I refuse” or “I insist” or “Don’t you…”

Remember, you are communicating with the other person you once loved…the person who helped you bring these wonderful children into the world.  Your children have a right to love that person, even when you don’t, and to love them through their eyes, not yours.

And, even if children aren’t involved, you do yourself harm by harboring resentment and anger.  Learn to breathe deep and reach for a higher place to be…you will feel better for it.