6 Ways You Can Be Charitable To Your Ex-Spouse Without Being A Doormat

6 Ways You Can Be Charitable To Your Ex-Spouse Without Being A Doormat October 3, 2016

Image courtesy of iStock.Com
Image courtesy of iStock.Com

One of the great paradoxes of being a divorced Catholic is trying to reconcile obedience to the 2nd greatest commandment, Love your neighbor as yourself, with the feelings of anger, resentment, and devastation that come as a result of the loss of a marriage. It can be quite the precarious task to undertake if your ex-spouse is combative and hostile, even for those who are more willing to forgive and be charitable. These encounters can leave you feeling helpless and as if you have no control over these situations. Since the holidays are right around the corner, now is a great time to start looking at ways to reduce the stress and minimize the opportunities for explosive encounters.

While it may be unrealistic to think that you and your ex-spouse would ever become good friends, it is possible to build a cooperative and respectful relationship. You might have to take the lead in forging this sort of amicable relationship, but in the end, your efforts to make encounters with your ex-spouse more calm and less antagonistic will be well worth it for everyone involved. Here are some ways you can make that a reality:

1.    Make A Conscious Effort To Improve Your Communication

So many of the on-going problems between ex-spouses are perpetuated by poor communication. It’s one of the first things to go when spouses go their separate ways and often is never repaired. But, keep in mind that you have a choice when it comes to communicating with your ex-spouse; you don’t have to give in to the temptation to respond with hostility, even if your ex-spouse is not doing the same. If tensions are high, it may be best to keep verbal communications to a minimum. E-mail is one of the best ways to communicate day-to-day information like schedules, plans, and requests. It also creates enough “space” between ex-spouses that it is less likely to trigger a confrontation.

Avoid using profanity, accusations and demands, and use language that encourages cooperation. But also take into consideration that the recipient cannot hear the “tone” you intend, so sometimes the written word can be misunderstood. It is always best to stick to factual information and steer clear of opinions or emotional comments when sending e-mail.

2.    Plan Ahead

You can minimize the possibility of triggering arguments and confrontations by planning ahead. When both of you are on the same page and have plenty of time to know what is going on, there is less chance of aggravation. With the help of e-mail, sharing calendars or scheduling apps with your smart phones that keep everyone informed, it is easier than ever to keep track of hectic schedules. Use them to your advantage.

3.    End the War

So often problems between ex-spouses are caused by a never-ending cycle of retaliation. Retribution becomes the name of the game. How can I spite my ex? However, this type of behavior creates a toxic environment for everyone—especially the kids. Have the courage to take the first step at breaking this cycle. Let your ex-spouse know that you will no longer participate in the arguments and destructive behavior. Tell him or her that you will respect him or her and you will expect the same in return. Let them know that you will not tolerate anything less and you hope you can both find a common ground for a working relationship.

It may take some time for your ex-spouse to realize you have truly changed your approach and you were serious about what you said, but stick to your guns. It will pay off in the long run.

4.    Forgive

Problems dealing with ex-spouses are invariably caused by simmering anger and resentment. Forgiving your ex-spouse is the best way to end the cycle of bitterness and retaliation. It is easier said than done, for sure, but certainly possible with God’s help. Forgiveness is not a one-time event; it is a process. Prayer helps begin and sustain that process. Pray daily for the grace to forgive. Many have found that praying the “Our Father” before having to communicate or interact with an ex-spouse, or any spontaneous prayer, helps put them in a better frame of mind to deal with their ex-spouse cooperatively and peaceably.

5.    Don’t Use the Kids As Pawns

Nothing will cause more problems then involving children in disputes with ex-spouses. Tell your ex-spouse you want both of you to commit to leaving discussions about issues that affect the children to a time when they aren’t around — never in front of them. Commit to never saying anything derogatory about your ex-spouse in front of your children. Ask your ex-spouse to do the same. Many times, it will take a tremendous amount of prudence to bite your tongue, but in the long run you and the kids will be better off.

6.    Pray

You can’t control what you ex-spouse does, but you can always pray for them and for a better relationship with them. Pray for your ex-spouse that their heart may be open to being more respectful, more cooperative, and more rational. Prayer invites God into what may seem like an impossible situation and give him the opportunity to work. Remember, nothing is impossible with God.

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