The first step to building a workable post-separation relationship with your ex-partner is to identify any safety concerns you have and put measures in place to reduce the risk of harm to you and your children. For example:
- Do you need to change the locks on your home?
- Do you need to install special security at your home?
- Do you need a secure parking spot at work?
- Do you need to be careful how you use social media?
- Does your ex-partner’s behaviour mean you should only communicate with him in writing?
- Do you need to manage access exchanges in a particular way?
- Do you think your ex-partner will have a negative reaction if/when you begin dating?
Refer to our keep safe section for more information and tips.
Reason for contact
Once you have addressed safety issues, you can move on to identify the reason(s) you need a relationship with your ex-partner. For example:
- Do you need to stay connected because you are co-parenting children?
- Are you staying in touch because you are still close to his ageing parents (or perhaps even involved in providing support or care to them)?
- Are you in the process of selling the family home so you need to be able to discuss offers and decide together when to accept one?
If you are co-parenting children, you will need to be in a relationship with your ex-partner for some time – possibly many years – and will need to be able to have countless conversations about the children, some of them difficult. On the other hand, if you don’t have kids and just need to communicate with him for the purpose of selling the family home, this is a short-term relationship with a relatively straightforward purpose.
When there are children
The best first step to a positive post-separation relationship with your ex-partner if you are both involved with your children is a good custody and access order or agreement. The more details that are set out with precision in the order, the less room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding or manipulation, and the fewer issues you and he will have to talk about.
With this order in place, you and your ex-partner need to build a structure for your ongoing, but new, relationship:
- How often will you communicate?
- How will you communicate (in writing, in person, by telephone, etc.)?
- What will you do when a conflict develops between the two of you about a parenting decision or a child who does not like a parenting decision you have made?
- Are you comfortable with your ex-partner coming into your house when he is picking up or dropping off the children?
- How will you integrate new partners into this relationship?
You will need to learn how to have a relationship as parents and not as partners.
You may need to learn how to put aside the anger you still feel toward your ex-partner, no matter how justified it is, so you can put your children’s needs first. Treating someone with respect when that person has been abusive to you in the past and who may still be treating you in a disrespectful or even threatening manner can be very difficult.
However, if you make every effort to rise above any rude or disrespectful behaviour on your partner’s part, you will know you have done the best you can, and your polite, respectful behaviour may even have a positive impact on him.
Always remember that you do not have to be friends with your ex-partner. You are more like business partners, raising your children as well as you can. You will need to have boundaries and limitations in this relationship.