Dealing with a difficult ex can sound like a tiresome prospect. It’s probably why learning how to get along with them isn’t on top of your to-do list.
On the surface, it might even seem easier to simply go to court and let a judge handle your affairs. And while litigation may be the right route for some couples, it doesn’t have to be the first and only way forward in a divorce.
It sounds counterintuitive to want to get along with someone you’re separating from, but trust me: there is more in it for you than meets the eye. All too often, I’ve seen lawyers characterize cases as “unresolvable,” but it’s just not true most of the time; most of the time, I’ve found that even when we disagree, we can still learn how to get along with anyone, even with your ex… and it’s easier than you think!
I call it the YES Method.
Of course, there are some situations where you cannot mediate or resolve things collaboratively. If you are dealing with a true narcissist or someone who’s out for blood, court may be the only answer. But even then, if you can’t improve your relationship, you can at least make your own inner life easier and more peaceful by using these three skills.
Y is for Your role in the conflict
Nobody is perfect – especially when you are angry, irritated, or even frustrated with your ex. This first step asks you to look inwards and ask yourself: how are you contributing to the conflict? Are you impatient? Are you sarcastic? Do you tend to cut off your ex while they talk?
Acknowledging your role in the conflict may be a difficult first step, but what makes it so vital is that it not only makes you aware of communication habits that could be improved; it also empowers you to be accountable for your own behaviors.
E is for the Emotional story
When we are fighting with somebody, it’s easy to vilify them and think they are being nasty to us on purpose. But as we learned in the first step, sometimes we are not always aware of how we come across to others – and the same could be said of your ex.
Instead of focusing on how their words or actions make you feel, take a step back and try looking for what feelings may have spurred them to speak or act the way they do. Perhaps your ex’s adamant refusal to let you have shared custody of your kids stems from a deep fear of losing closeness with them. Maybe they are demanding to stay in the family home because they are insecure about where they will live after divorce.
Finding the emotional story behind their behaviors and seemingly immovable positions can be the key to getting unstuck and beginning to find creative solutions together.
S is for Shelving conversations
As you navigate your divorce and all that comes after, it is inevitable that you touch on issues that might make either or both of you emotional. Dealing with and rebuilding life after divorce is not always a smooth ride – even after the agreements have been drawn – but it pays to remember that not all issues have to be resolved right then and there.
When you hit an impasse in your negotiations or can’t seem to find a common ground on a certain issue, you can “shelve” a conversation or hit the pause button on the argument. Sometimes you just need time and space away from your ex to gain a bigger, better, fresher perspective on an issue; the sooner you let cooler heads prevail, the easier and faster it will be to resolve your disagreement.
Learning how to get along with your ex is slow and steady work. But in sticking to these new ways of being, you are allowing yourself to begin your post-divorce life with grace, inner peace, and healthier ways to deal with conflict.
Nothing worth having ever comes easy. And while the value of getting along with your ex isn’t always obvious, learning to manage difficult relationships with the YES Method can be a powerful skill to have under your belt.
These same three skills can help you navigate conflict beyond your most intimate relationships. While some relationships are not worth maintaining, sometimes we’re stuck dealing with difficult people (i.e., a narcissistic ex or difficult boss. The Y.E.S. Method can help improve a bad dynamic, no matter where it shows up in your life.
Take a listen to my TEDx and see how The Secret To Getting Along is Easier than you think!
Revolutionizing the conversation around Divorce, one internal narrative at a time.
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.
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