It’s official: your spouse will not be your spouse forever. But, you’re not finished with each other yet. There are lawyers and court dates and schedules and distributions to deal with before your STBX becomes your official ex. At this time, there’s a lot that could be said between you, but not all words are wise. To keep your process running as smoothly as possible, here’s a list of 9 Things Not To Say:
1) “This is just like that time…” Your marriage is over. That old relationship is over. In order to move forward in a productive manner, it’s important to begin a new kind of partnership with a clean slate. Do not hold your ex hostage over crimes of the past. You aren’t each others’ spouses anymore.
2) “You’re a (insert insult here).” Name-calling isn’t nice, and it certainly won’t entice your ex to be more cooperative as you move forward. Instead of a blanket statement that paints him/her in a negative light, try naming a specific incident and explaining the effect it has on your family. For instance: “When you didn’t pay your support last month, I couldn’t take Jennifer school shopping.”
3) “The kids don’t want to see you.” How would you feel if this particular shoe was on the other foot? It’s hard to walk the line between your children and their other parent, especially when there’s friction between them. However, your job as a parent is to support your kids’ growth and help them speak for themselves. Unless there’s a legal reason or safety concern, acting as a barrier between your children and their parent can hurt you in the end.
4) “Tell it to my lawyer.” Sending all communications through attorneys can become expensive. And when the money runs out, you’ll once again have to talk to each other—especially if you share children. A more constructive approach is to practice communicating with the hope of improving understanding and fostering teamwork as you move through the divorce process.
5) “This is all your fault.” In some ways, the statement might be true. And blaming your ex usually makes you feel better. But such an assertion is an invitation to war. When humans are blamed, they feel ashamed, and the quickest way to discharge shame is to blame the other party. This cycle can continue for years and cost as much as you can finance.
6) Threats. The practice of making threats is never a productive strategy. At the least, a threat will cost you time and money as your attorneys correspond about the incident. Depending on the severity of the intimidation, you could face criminal charges.
7) “I replaced you with someone better.” This is just a challenge for your ex to return criticism of your own performance in the marriage.
8) “Let’s be friends/Let’s sleep together.” I’m a big proponent of exes being friendly, but a full-on friendship can be painful and confusing to navigate while the wounds are fresh. A sexual relationship would further hamper any efforts toward detachment.
9) “Whatever you want.” You might want to make a quick concession in order to get the divorce over with as quickly as possible. But these kinds of decisions are often regretted in the end. You don’t have to fight for every penny, but it would behoove you to think beyond the momentary emotion. Don’t sell yourself short or set yourself up for dissatisfaction.
10) Bonus: While this list has focused on things you shouldn’t say to your ex, it’s a good idea to refrain from saying many of these things about your ex on social media. The publicity could come back to bite you.
At this point, you might be wondering what’s left that you can say. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Consider your STBX to be your business partner. You’re teammates, and the divorce is your #1 deliverable. How should you communicate with someone at work? Do that.
Tara Eisenhard is an author, speaker, mediator, and coach with a holistic outlook on divorce. She is the author of the novel “The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes.” Learn more about Tara at https://taraeisenhard.com.