When Your Ex Calls: Five Rules of Engagement for Positive Interaction

Here are five rules of engagement for positive interaction with your ex.

When Your Ex Calls: man yells angrily into phone

What do you do when your ex calls?

I have been teaching clients about relationships for many years and I have two ex-wives, two ex-fiancés, and dozens of ex-girlfriends. One ex-wife has not spoken to me since the day she kicked me out of the house. Sometimes I think that is the nicest thing she has ever done for me.

It doesn’t matter whether you broke up the relationship or they broke up the relationship. It doesn’t matter whether your heart was broken or their heart was broken. And it also doesn’t matter if they have custody of the kids or you have custody of the kids.

Your response needs to be based on some fundamental principles of relationships that will make things easier no matter what the circumstances. Here are five suggested rules for when your ex calls.

Five Rules for Positive Interaction When Your Ex Calls

1. You have to be an adult

This may be difficult if you consider yourself the victim. Many times, when we feel damaged by another person, all we can think about is revenge and making them wrong. This will never end well. You need to at least pretend that you are objective and over the pain. Keep your emotions out of it. Raising your voice or cursing will not help.

2. The best revenge is to be happy

There is no need to cry over spilled milk. You do not have to replough old arguments and try to convince the other party that they were at fault. Blaming the other party for your trauma may be tempting but it never makes you feel better for long. Focus on your own future happiness.

3. Draw and enforce boundaries

Decide beforehand how long the conversation will last and stick to it. Do not allow the other party to criticize or blame you for the failure of the relationship. Only talk about reconciliation if that is what you want. It is not healthy to play “what if” if you do not want to re-engage in the conversation. If the call is about money, establish the ground rules before you get into an argument. Above all, if you feel unsafe or threatened, hang up.

4. Focus on solutions

Get your ex to talk about solutions if the contact is about a problem. Talking about how you got into the situation is rarely helpful. Talk about how you can work through it.

5. Talk to a counselor.

It never hurts to go to post-relationship counseling with or without your ex. If the counselor knows both of you, the counselor can help draw up some rules of engagement between the both of you. If both of you can agree on the rules, then contact and conversations can be healthy. At any rate, if you can get some advice from your counselor about what is best for you and you focus on those suggestions, you will have much more positive interactions.

If for any reason you don’t feel safe or feel threatened when your ex calls, don’t answer the call. There are many ways to structure communication to where it is healthy and productive for both parties without threats, shouting, bullying, or psychological warfare. Even better, don’t communicate at all if it is unhealthy to do so.

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