Living with your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is really hard! If you have children together, that makes it even more difficult because you're going to have to learn to communicate and work together. The good news is you won't be living together forever and I’m here to give you some solid help on how to live together during divorce more effectively.
The biggest key to navigating living together during divorce is to make some ground rules! Rules can protect each of you and provide boundaries during a time when things could get heated really quickly. Here are some ground rules that work well for other couples living together during the divorce process:
I hope these ideas help you navigate this tough time period that you’re in the same house with your STBX. These suggestions will help make this time less painful for you, your kids and your soon-to-be-ex.
Every parent wants their kids to turn out happy and emotionally well. In fact, many people delay divorce because they’re worried about how it will affect their children. But believe it or not, studies have shown that divorce is not what hurts kids. What hurts kids is high conflict between their parents, which they tend to internalize.
For years, research has shown that the quality of interaction between separated and divorced parents is a strong predictor of the mental health and psychological well-being of children. Although it may be difficult to get along with your ex, the more that you can minimize conflict, the better your children will be. Kids can actually thrive through divorce. Here are 2 BIG ways to help them.
Co-parent respectfully in front of your children. Never fight or argue in front of your children. Fighting in front of children can be extremely damaging. I know this may feel impossible, but you can do this. Take deep abdominal breaths every time you’re triggered by your ex. Think through how you’ll respond. Call your friend or family member to talk about how to respond in a respectful way. Ask yourself if you have to respond at all. Keep your children front of mind. No matter how angry or emotional you are, you can protect your children by changing how you interact with your ex.
Think of your ex as if he or she were a colleague or coworker. What does this mean exactly? Don’t think about the relationship when you were married because you have a different relationship now. You’re co-parents, not husband and wife. Try to relate to each other in a businesslike fashion without emotion. Put on your professional hat and know that how you feel about your ex is less important than how you act toward him or her. If one of the parties is not being respectful, the other can say, “Let’s take a break and speak about this later.” Keep in mind three rules:
If your ex doesn’t abide by these guidelines, keep at it and eventually your ex should begin to follow your lead. It may take a little longer for your ex to get on board. Keep reminding him or her, “For the good of our children, we need to be respectful and work together.”
You can do this! Your kids are worth the effort.
Want more tips to help you not only survive but thrive during separation and divorce? Take a look at my free webinar, 3 Critical Strategies to Save Time, Money and Heartache in Divorce.
What is the number 1 KEY to coming out stronger through divorce? Support! We all know, intellectually, that we need support. It seems like a good idea. Following are specific reasons why support is the key to thriving through divorce.
Loneliness- Divorce is often a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be. Divorce can be so isolating- many people feel like they are the only one experiencing it. While your family and friends can be great, if they didn't experience divorce, they may not truly understand what you’re going through. When you connect with others who have experienced divorce, there’s a connection that’s hard to explain. They don’t judge you. They get it. Find a support system that includes others going through divorce. You’ll see what a difference it makes - you won’t feel so alone and isolated.
Shame- Divorce can be so difficult because many people are ashamed of the fact that they’re going through divorce. They feel like they’ve failed and that everyone is judging them. There’s a tidal wave of negative thoughts and feelings that pop up out of nowhere. Thoughts like:
“Everyone's looking at me differently.”
“They think I’m a failure.”
“I’m not good enough to make the marriage work.”
“There’s something wrong with me.”
These thoughts are common in divorce unless you're around others who’ve experienced divorce. They help you see that you're not the only one going through it. Hearing others experiences lifts the burden of shame so that we can put our energy toward moving through divorce and coming out stronger.
Hope- It's normal to feel overwhelmed, sad and that life is never going to be good again. You've never been through this before and you don't know what the other side will look like. Hearing from a divorce coach or other people who have made it through divorce and are now thriving is a huge help to give you hope for the future.
I find these song lyrics by Sara Groves about friendship articulate clearly the heart of why everyone who’s experiencing divorce needs support more than anything else.
“Every burden I have carried,
Every joy--it's understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.”
Take the time to reach out for support. I know life is busy and you may feel you’re just surviving. But if you put yourself as a priority and work on making connections, everything else will be so much easier. There’s so much support available out there for you when you just seek it out.
Here are two opportunities to get the support you need:
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.