The importance of reducing communication after having decided to separate is crucial to reducing the sharing of negative affect. After separation, each partner will feel pain. If they communicate, they will communicate that pain to the other via arguments, sarcastic remarks, insults or comments that the one knows will anger the other. This is almost inevitable and very very hard to control. This is why clinicians recommend limited communication and that that communication be as structured and child focused as possible.
- Find a time once a week or once every two weeks to deal with any financial or logistical issue you need to deal with. Expect that these discussions will always raise negative affect. This is normal. The key during those meetings is to have clear goals and to focus on those goals. If negative affect is expressed, simply ignore it as much as you can and focus on the goal.
- Written communication is usually easier to deal with than verbal communication. We would suggest that this take place only once a week at a specific day. No other written communication should be taking place including texting, emailing or notes. Save it all for that once a week communication. That communication should be one email sent and one email in response.
- If tempers are aroused during time together with the children, swallow hard and do not express it. If you have to leave for a short time to regain composure, allow yourself that.
- If your former spouse is in need of time out, he/she should give you a signal. That should be the sign that you pull back as well so that you can both regain your calm.
- Be in the same room as little as possible. Sharing a space will only cause anxiety and eventually anger. Being separate will not necessarily diminish the pain but it will decrease the number of arguments.
Dealing With the Hurt Feelings
Interpreting the anger of the other is perhaps the greatest challenge former spouses have. The almost universal belief is that the other’s intention is to hurt their former partner just to see them hurt. This is almost never the case. The truth lies in the fact that when together, old spousal dynamics kick in and anger is expressed almost automatically as if it was justified to be angry at a spouse that was not doing as they promised. It is difficult for old spouses to stop acting as if they were still spouses when they are physically together. This is the reason we encourage former spouses to avoid being in the same physical space as much as possible.