Getting along with your ex through the holidays is possible.
But, it’s not always easy. Dealing with an ex through the holidays can sometimes make it a season of worry.
It sounds ironic to want to get along better with an ex, especially through the holidays… but there are situations wherein interaction with them is simply unavoidable.
Whether you have gone through divorce court or if you are mediating in this moment, getting along is a day by day process. Like any relationship, if handled skillfully, the one you have with your ex can improve. Making your interaction better can be well worth the effort, not only for any children you may have together, but for you –
Here are some ways to improve your relationship with your ex during the holidays:
1. Commit to yourself
One of the most common advice divorce articles offer is to practice self-care. And with good reason: you cannot hope to improve your relationship with others if you don’t first establish a good relationship with yourself.
You can begin by learning more about yourself. What makes you happy? What calms you down? What sets you on edge?
Remember: the first step to creating healthy relationships is figuring out what “healthy” means for you. When you get clear on your boundaries – especially surrounding your ex – you can begin to set limits, communicate your needs more efficiently, and manage your relationship better.
2. Map it out
This may sound absurd, but trust me: plan your holiday arrangements at least before the holidays are upon you. Having an agreement with your ex about how you will both handle invitations and responsibilities can alleviate so much stress when the season rolls around.
As someone who has been helping people divorce for over 25 years, I have seen so many avoidable arguments spiral out of control during the holidays. Take your time now to decide what issues you care about and which you can release. Communication is key, as always. Remember, even with a difficult ex, you can chose to prioritize peace and get along better.
It’s especially important to do this when you and your ex have children together; having a “holiday plan” can help everyone feel more secure and give them something to look forward to.
3. Focus on the positive
Finding the silver lining in difficult situations is a skill that can be learned. Instead of dwelling on the challenges that dealing with your ex can bring, you can view them as opportunities to improve your relationship.
Perspective matters. When we treat something as a problem from the get-go and expect the worst, chances are our attitudes will reflect in our behavior, which can lead to more hostile interactions.
Conversely, when we begin our communications with a positive or even neutral outlook, our amicable behavior can inspire more cordial responses in our exes, too. Keep difficult interactions short. And as sweet as possible. As Bill Eddy of the High Conflict Institute reminds us, when dealing with a difficult spouse keep communication Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm.
4. Own your side
Regardless of whether it is in your divorce agreement or not, it is important to always uphold your side of the bargain. Part of committing to yourself is respecting your decisions – even if, and especially when they are made with your ex.
You owe it to yourself to live up to your own expectations, and whether your ex lives up to yours should not affect your integrity. Being consistent in your words and actions not only affirms any boundaries you set with your ex; it also lets them know that you are trustworthy and deserving of respect.
5. Pick your battles
Before you get into an argument with your ex, take a moment to figure out what you’re fighting for. Figure out the reason behind your position in the argument, and compare it to the big picture. Is it worth it? Weigh what you stand to gain against what you could lose.
Sometimes you’ll find that there is a way to fulfill satisfy your underlying need without involving your ex – that not all battles need to be won. Many don’t even need to be fought. Often, you’ll find that in the grander scheme of things, “losing” a fight can mean winning in life.
What it means to get along better with an ex may vary from couple to couple, but with patience, perseverance, and a genuine desire for peace, it is possible to improve your relationship with your ex – even during the holidays!
DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.