If you have children, your ex is never likely to be entirely out of your life, so learning to communicate is necessary. Sometimes divorced spouses without kids manage to retain a civil relationship, but this is not the norm. In either case, a few guidelines from the experts are useful.
Talk to Your Ex as One Parent to Another
Your ex is your former spouse, but he's also your kids' current parent, and that's the persona you should address. Once you're divorced, your children's relationship with both their parents eclipses your former romance -- keep that in mind when you interact with your ex. Hostility between parents causes kids sorrow and stress, so aim for conversations that are civil, efficient and focused. Open communication about your kids is ideal, but neutral is better than aggressive if you have to make the choice.
Move Away From Points of Contention
In marriage, as in friendship, it's important to push past feelings of discomfort to discuss areas of significant contention, but this isn't as helpful once you are divorced. Marriage and divorce writer Wendy Paris suggests that when a difficult topic arises between you and your ex, you interrupt the conflict by introducing an easier subject. Tabling a high-conflict topic in favor of one you and your spouse can agree on quickly brings success you can build on. With one agreement under your belts, it's easier to return to the problematic subject and deal with it.
Shorter Is Better
You might think that the more important the topic, the longer you should go on about it, but Wendy Paris disagrees. She suggests that keeping it short should be the rule of thumb when having discussions with a former spouse. In fact, she advises that you limit your comments on important matters to a maximum of five minutes. Repeating complaints in the hope that the point will finally sink into your spouse's head rarely leads to positive change. Instead, say it once and be done.
When to Steer Clear
No rule says that you must maintain a good relationship with your ex in every situation. Obviously, a spouse who beat you up is not a good candidate for a casual friendship. In fact, clinical psychologist Seth Meyers says that this applies to any type of maltreatment, such as infidelity or constant disrespect. The way to talk to this kind of spouse is as little as possible if he has visitation rights, or not at all if he doesn't. It's also unwise to attempt communication with an ex if you want to rekindle the romance but he does not. You'll only buy yourself heartbreak.