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Communication do’s and don’ts

cellphoneEspecially if you and your ex-partner have children together, you will have to communicate with him. There will be more communication the younger the children are, but even when your children become young adults, there will be times in their lives (graduation, marriage, serious illness or injury) when the two of you may need to communicate with one another.

Even for former couples where there was no abuse during the relationship, positive post-separation communication can be challenging. Where there has been abuse, all of the usual challenges exist, but there may also be ongoing power and control issues, and safety may be a factor.

You cannot control how your ex-partner communicates with you, but you can control your own communication.

Communication Do’s

  • Communicate directly with your ex-partner.
  • If you are meeting with your ex-partner, do so in a safe, preferably public place.
  • Schedule difficult conversations for times when the children won’t hear them.
  • Be prepared before conversations with your ex-partner, especially if you anticipate you may not agree with one another.
  • Keep a record of your communication.
  • Take the time to think carefully about what words to use. Avoid words and language that you know will hurt or anger your ex-partner or that will just make emotions run even higher than they already are.
  • Think carefully about the timing of difficult messages so you communicate them at a time when your ex-partner will be the most receptive.
  • Be focused, clear and precise.
  • Set communication boundaries. If your plan is to communicate only by email, when he calls you, respond by email so at least you are being consistent.
  • Focus your communication on the issue at hand.
  • Remember BIFF: brief, informative, friendly, firm.
  • Use a respectful or at least neutral tone of voice, whether in written or verbal communication.
  • Take time to really listen to what your ex-partner has to say.
  • Bring an open attitude, assuming the best.
  • Be polite, honest, kind or at least neutral.
  • End conversations that are not healthy or productive, and if necessary, come back to the subject at a later time or in a different way.

Communication Don’ts

  • Don’t use your kids or other family members as messengers between you and your ex-partner.
  • Don’t meet with your ex-partner in your or his home.
  • Don’t have difficult conversations or arguments when the children can hear.
  • Don’t rush into conversations with your ex-partner. You are more likely to get backed into a corner and agree to an outcome you don’t want if you are unprepared for the conversation.
  • Don’t throw out any written communication or delete abusive phone calls or texts.
  • Don’t communicate in haste. Responding quickly to something your ex-partner has said might feel great in the moment, but if your anger or frustration come through in your communication, you could have more problems down the road.
  • Don’t send a communication to your ex-partner that you think will make him angry when the kids are with him or if you are about to see him in person.
  • Don’t let yourself get sidetracked.
  • Don’t break communication boundaries that you and your ex-partner have agreed on, unless it is an emergency. For example, if you have agreed to communicate by email, don’t suddenly call him.
  • Don’t use communication to raise every little thing you don’t like about your ex-partner.
  • Don’t ramble or raise unrelated topics that you know will be contentious.
  • Don’t use vulgar or aggressive language, no matter how you are feeling.
  • Don’t do all the talking.
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Don’t be rude, dishonest, cruel.
  • Don’t continue conversations that are abusive, disrespectful or harmful.

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