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Divorces are nasty, tangled affairs, and while being civil to your ex is sometimes a task as daunting as taking the one ring to Mordor (J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional universe of Middle-earth), it’s not impossible. Divorce and early post-divorce is a time when emotions are running high, decorum is soon forgotten, and everyone gets in on the mess, from in-laws to friends and family. Everyone gets a piece of the divorce drama pie, and somehow, amidst all this, you have to try and keep civil to your ex. Why? Because it is classy, and because it is the right thing to do, no matter how hard and whether you have children or not. Here are the top top eight Ex- Etiquette rules to incorporate into your life.
This pocket guide comes as a try at giving you a few pointers on how to not try to throw your ex, or yourself, of a cliff, because of a divorce.
1. Don’t continue the fights you had before. You are divorced, you have the opportunity to have a clean slate. You don’t need to continue the arguments you used to have that made you get out, those things have run their course. Silence is the best weapon, use it well. To be truly divorced for once and for all, you must cut all emotional ties, even negative ones. They are just holding you back emotionally.
2. Don’t bad mouth your ex. It is nobody’s business what happened between you two, and gossip just makes you seem petty and still invested in the relationship. Sure, it can be cathartic, but it is not fair to anyone – you, your ex, or the people you are trying to sway to be on your side. Be the better person, pretend they are Voldemort (from Harry Potter) and stop talking about them! The more you talk about an ex in a negative way, the more upset you can become. It turns into a vicious cycle of getting angry, badmouthing, getting angrier, and so on and forth until you’re gossiping about your ex and talking about your marriage way more than you should.
3. Keep your conversations short, brief, and to the point. This one ties nicely with number 1. Communication should be kept as Spartan as possible. Jo Rules by and for Junior Officers in the Navy put it well “Spartans had a nuanced understanding of communication; they knew that what isn’t said could convey at least as much meaning as what is”. Always be civil, but do not lengthen it more than necessary. It is for your own good, believe me. Less talk means less drama and a smoother transitioning process during your divorce.
4. Don’t involve your children in any communication between the two of you. They are not carrier pigeons and should be not treated as such. Your children deserve better than getting sent back and forth with messages, and being dragged down into you and your ex’s private life and your divorce. You share these children, but that doesn’t mean that should be your messengers.
5. Stay out of their life. You are divorced for a reason, you do not need to linger like a shade in their wake. Do not ask for any of their personal details. Including people you know in common, the topic of your ex should be off limits with these friends. Just as the topic of you should be off limits to your ex with them. This is the only way they will be able to remain both of your friends.
6. You are not their spouse anymore, act accordingly. To be honest, you might not even be their friend anymore, unless you’re some sort of saint. Point of the matter is: stop supporting your ex, either emotionally, or financially. If they need help, they should contact their family or friends, not you. Perhaps there will come a time when you two can be true friends, possibly when things have cooled down and all harsh feelings smoothed out, but healing has to be accomplished before true friendship can be established.
6. Be respectful to one another. Sure, that might be hard if it was a nasty divorce and feelings may still be flying everywhere, but civility is a must. Ties in with number 1, this point – if you are not civil, your healing progress is hindered. You get hung up emotionally, you throw yourself off track, and it gets messier than it should. You deserve peace and quiet, right? The way to get that is to be impersonal and respectful, even if they are not.
7. Don’t parade your new romantic interest around. Sure, showing off does give satisfaction like nothing else, but this is not the time, nor place, to bring your new romantic interest between you two. Keep it separate – old with the old, new with the new. To show them off like parade horses is unkind towards them and your ex, and also incredibly childish. Your new romantic interest should not be a weapons of mass feeling destruction. They are a human being that is interested in you and does not deserve getting dragged into something as personal as a divorce that will never end.
8. Don’t try and get revenge. No, revenge is not best served cold, not even with fries near. Keying their car is not a good idea, nor is ruining their reputation or God knows what else you may be thinking. Revenge is something that should not be considered because it just prolongs your drama and hurt, and it just starts a vicious cycle of hurting each other all over again. Be a polite adult and move forward without causing harm – it’s the right thing to do.
In the end, ex-etiquette will always vary depending on where you are in your healing process, how the two of you interact with one another, why you divorced, and so on. But there are a few basics that should always be respected: play nice, play fair, and keep the children out of it! If you think you may have some difficulty with any of these basics enjoy some of J. R. R. Tolkien or J. K. Rowling wonderful work instead of doing anything you will probably regret later.
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