Did you know that April 14th is National Ex-Spouse Day?
Part of what makes divorce difficult is navigating how it changes your relationships. When you’ve decided to end your marriage, you undoubtedly have a lot of strong emotions toward your ex-spouse. Whether you’re angry, sad, or bitter, negative emotions can make it feel almost impossible to even think about your former partner, much less have a positive relationship going forward.
However, many people have to maintain a relationship with their exes. Whether they share custody of a child or simply work in the same place, these couples have to figure out how to handle their emotions just to go about their daily lives.
That’s why April 14th is known as National Ex-Spouse Day. It’s a day dedicated to acknowledging the role your ex now plays in your life and moving past any anger or bitterness you may still feel toward them. Here’s why the day is so important, how to maintain a neutral relationship with a former partner and how to move forward when everything seems like a struggle.
Why National Ex-Spouse Day Should Matter to You
Sometimes, the negative feelings towards your former spouse can feel good. The anger and bitterness can feel justified and make you feel better about your decision. In the long run, this attitude will only make things worse if you need to interact with your ex. There are three significant reasons to consider releasing your anger and moving on:
- Negativity only harms you. Constantly dwelling on how upset you are with your ex doesn’t actually affect them. All your negative emotions do is make it harder for you to be happy with the life you’re living now.
- Strong negative emotions can affect your behavior. If you feel strongly enough, you may be tempted to take unwise actions like slandering your ex or dragging out legal proceedings to hurt them. These emotional choices are likely to waste your time, energy, and the respect of your friends and family in the long run.
- Neutral relationships make life easier. If you still have to interact with your ex, it’s much easier if you can see past your inner turmoil. When you can politely talk to each other, you can keep interactions short and move on with your day with less stress.
How to Keep Your Relationship With Your Ex Professional
If it’s so important that you keep your relationship with your ex-spouse polite, how can you accomplish that? There are so many emotions tied up with most ended marriages that it can seem impossible to stay polite. Still, with some preparation, you can make sure your relationship is at least professional enough to accomplish essential tasks. Here’s how.
1. Don’t Speak in Anger
The most important rule for anyone who needs to keep a relationship with a former partner is simple: don’t talk when you’re angry. Even if you have the best intentions, anger can throw them out the window. If you keep talking with your ex after you’ve gotten angry, you’re much more likely to say something you regret.
Instead, take the time to walk away if you start to lose your temper. Even a five-minute break can help you keep a cool head. That can be enough to keep your relationship with your ex on an even keel (or at least keep things from getting worse).
2. Don’t Try to Force a Friendship
On the other hand, you shouldn’t try to be too friendly with your former partner. You both probably need some space after years of marriage. Trying to be friends often involves talking to your partner more than either of you may be comfortable with.
The better solution is to give them (and yourself) some space. Don’t try to force casual chats or coffee dates. This kind of interaction reminds you of everything about your spouse that made you decide to get a divorce in the first place. It also gives you all too many opportunities to argue. If a conversation starts naturally, that’s fine, but it’s better to let go of the close relationship you used to have.
3. Keep Your Priorities in Mind
If you feel the need to keep a relationship with your ex, you have a reason. You should keep that reason in mind if you’re tempted to do something that would hurt your ex or start an argument.
For instance, you may need to keep them in your life to successfully co-parent your kids or run a business. Those things get much harder if you’ve antagonized your ex somehow. While responding to a backhanded insult may feel good at the moment, it will have consequences down the road. Use those possible issues as incentives to act professionally.
4. Treat Your Ex Like a Stranger
You’re used to sharing all of your life with your ex-partner. It can be hard to break that habit, but it’s important. Remember, you’re no longer married, so they have no claim to the private details of your daily activities. It’s best for your new relationship to treat them like you have no history with them at all.
You can make this transition a little easier by thinking of your ex as a stranger. What would you feel comfortable sharing with someone in the seat next to you on an airplane? How would you treat a coworker you had to talk to outside of work? Approach your ex with that mindset, and you’ll have an easier time acting politely when they’re present.
5. Keep Your Personal Life Private
While you may have no problem talking to casual acquaintances about your love life, this is one thing you should not talk about with your ex. Your ex doesn’t need to know whether you’re starting to date again or enjoying your single life.
It might feel good to let them know you’re moving on, but it’s not worth it in the long run. Flaunting your activities now that you’re single will make it harder for you to act professionally when you have to work together. Keep your private life to yourself.
What to Do If You Can’t Work With Your Ex
Sometimes, no matter what you do, you simply can’t seem to act politely around your ex. Whether your own emotions are too strong or the other person baits you into arguments, it’s just not feasible for you to continue to interact. That’s when it’s time to change whatever is forcing you to interact.
This might be simple. If you share friends or hobbies or you’re just trying to stay in contact out of a feeling of obligation, cutting contact can be as simple as changing your routine.
Things get more complicated if your continued contact is due to your divorce decree. For instance, if your decree involves child hand-offs or shared business ownership, you may be legally obligated to stay in contact.
However, you can petition to have your divorce decree adjusted. Post-decree modifications can help you change the decisions made during your initial divorce to fit your current life. You can work with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that your post-decree modification request has the best possible chance of success.
Moving Past Your Hurt Feelings
You have every right to be upset with an ex after a divorce. However, those emotions shouldn’t rule your life. This Ex-Spouse Day, think about ways you could make your relationship with your ex a little less fraught. Whether that’s by treating them like a distant coworker or having your divorce decree modified, it’s sure to improve your life.