How to communicate when going through a divorce
Ineffective communication can be a significant factor in a couple separating. So it is not too surprising that communicating well with an ex-partner can be difficult when going through a divorce. Add in the current challenges we face with COVID-19, including working from home, schooling kids and the impact of the uncertainty many are currently feeling, tensions may be higher than usual.
It is important to be mindful of how you are communicating, especially when going through a divorce. To ensure a beneficial dialogue with your former spouse, you need to aim to have responsive communication rather than be reactive. We explore in this article how you can try to improve your communication to ensure the best outcomes for your separation.
Establish a clear strategy early on
Issues tend to escalate when people react, often by responding quickly without thinking about how their response could be received by the other person. Often when things are said in anger, it can escalate the situation very quickly, and create a vicious cycle.
Sometimes when people respond straight away, there will be an angry chain of emails or text messages shared with their ex-partner. Most of the time it is about an insignificant issue, but it is easy to get caught up in emotions and feel the need to react. This reaction can be exacerbated if the communication has been received at a time when you are already under pressure or angry. If you can take the time to put a pause on the communication and give yourself some time to reply then you are more likely to take a responsive approach rather than a reactive one.
You need to start thinking early on, what means of communication and what mode of communication you are most comfortable communicating with the other person. It could be through text messages, emails, calling or even face to face meetings. It is important you consider the limitations of each way of communicating. Choose the way of communicating that is most appropriate for what it is you are trying to get across.
The timing of when you are going to communicate and how you are going to communicate should also be considered. By proactively providing information or keeping the other person updated, you can start the exchange of dialogue more positively. For example, if you are wanting to be kept informed and receive information, then providing appropriate information yourself may also encourage the other person to also share. Start the process with your end goal in mind.
Setting boundaries around how you will communicate and how often you respond to the other person is important. Especially if the other person is sending what you would consider an excessive amount of messages. Ask yourself, if it is reasonable for the person to be sending you multiple emails a day? Unless there are urgent matters that need to be addressed, the answer is probably not. Set realistic boundaries in timeframes to respond.
You could receive a number of emails a week, which you might acknowledge and respond to once or twice a week, depending on the issues involved. Do not feel the pressure of a constant cycle of needing to respond to everything immediately. This is an easy trap to fall into given the instant nature of communication today.
You can say to the other person that you have received their emails and will respond to them by the end of the week. By acknowledging you have received the email and you are progressing it, will hopefully stop them from emailing you asking why you have not replied. It will give you time to think about how you are going to respond. By setting these boundaries it will help to prevent any disputes that could break out.
Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and appreciating they may be, rightly or wrongly, overly anxious about it, you know what you need to do to minimise a dispute escalating.
If you have good communication it will help reduce legal costs, keep things moving forward and allow you to conserve emotional energy. This will minimise the impact on the whole family.
Focus on the present
Try to avoid rehashing the issues of a past hurt or why you have separated in the first place. It is likely there will be a pattern of communication you and your former spouse have adopted over many years.
If you can, it is best not going down the same path again, although we appreciate it is much easier said than done. If you are conscious of where you have gone wrong in the past and you can focus on the present issues, it will make the process a lot easier. This will require a conscious effort, but awareness is the key to moving forward.
If you get to a point where you feel like you are doing all those things but the other person is continuing to rehash past issues, you then may need to consider limiting communication about those issues. You can only control what you are doing and hope that over time it is going to improve.
If you adjust the way you communicate but feel it will never be reciprocated by the other person, you just need to convey the essential things to them. Set boundaries and accept that there will be limitations on what you receive back.
Resist the urge to respond immediately
Responding straight away to messages can often lead to communicating in anger. Once this occurs and you have already pressed “send” it can’t be undone. This will only escalate disputes and most of the time what is being argued about is only a minor issue. It is immediate responses mixed with elevated emotions that lead people to communicate in anger.
Give yourself time to think about how you are going to respond and how your response is going to be proactive. Don’t send a message you wouldn’t want anyone else to read, particularly your lawyer or a Judge. Think it over, because if you would be embarrassed by somebody else reading the messages then it is probably best not send it. It might feel good to write it, but resist the temptation to press send.
If the only purpose of writing it is to make you feel better, then that is not a good enough reason to send. Every action has a reaction and you need to ask yourself if your reaction is going to help you reach your end goal.
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If you require assistance with communication during your separation or divorce our experienced family lawyers are here to help. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the contingencies in place to support you and our team to do so. The Phillips Family Law team has processes and procedures in place to allow our team to work remotely to enable us to continue to provide you with a high level of client service. To discuss your situation confidentially phone +61730079898 or secure a time by clicking here.