New Years Resolution:Building A Bridge with Your Former Spouse

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What happens when you interact with your former spouse? Are you angry, fearful, upset and defensive?

By Michele Germain,
author of The Jill Principle: A Woman`s Guide to Healing Your Spirit after Divorce or Breakup, has a master`s degree in social work from Wayne State University and is licensed
as a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage Family Therapist in California. For more
information and to sign up for her free newsletter visit

What happens when you interact with your former spouse? Are you angry, fearful,
upset and defensive? Or are you centered, focused and neutral? Are you proactive
or reactive? Do you have your business hat on, or are you the scream machine?
Are you reminded of your unresolved feelings you are still harboring? Do you
find yourself upset the rest of the day after an interaction? Are you worried
about the children and wondering how they are going to do with the divorce or
breakup? You look ahead and realize you have a job to finish. Raising your children. And
this requires a relationship with your former spouse. It is called co-parenting
post divorce.
Recent research indicates that divorce itself may not be damaging to children.
Rather, the on-going conflict, anger and unresolved feelings that are exhibited
by one or both parents create a great deal of distress in children. Especially
when they are put in the middle, and witness conflicts and arguments or hear you
talk negatively about the other parent.
Unless you have been in an abusive relationship, it is better for the children
if both parents participate in the child`s life in a cooperative manner. Children
can adjust to a variety of living patterns, including living in two homes. The
process is more effective if the parents are working together and are focused
on the children`s healthy development. Parents must put their emotional pain
aside while they are coming together to discuss, support and respond to the needs
of the children.
You might now be saying, how in the world am I going to talk in a business like
manner when I feel like exploding every time I see him/her? Because of the children
you must stretch and force yourself beyond your normal comfort zone. This will
require you to work out your pain in the presence of others so you can be with
your ex-spouse in a non-reactive business-like manner. In my personal experience
it helps to connect with your spiritual self so that you have the strength to
come from your heart. The mission is to build a bridge with your ex spouse and
raise healthy, secure children. The results are more likely to be:
- You will develop greater strength and empower yourself.
- You will become truly free. Freedom comes when you know longer react
to your former spouse, not when you avoid him/her.
- You will heal your pain because as long as you are angry you stay attached.
- Your children will develop feelings of stability and will be less likely
to feel abandoned.
- Children will be less likely to divide their loyalties, or try to meet
the social and emotional needs of their parents by trying to replace the parent.
- You will be modeling healthy behavior for your children.
Now the question becomes how do I put this into practice? How do I connect and
maintain a conflict free, business relationship with my “ex” when my body, heart
and mind get triggered into fear, anger and disgust every time I connect. Here
are seven strategies to help you reach this goal:
1. Most experts suggest that a signed co-parenting agreement is helpful. Here
you would state the intention, the appropriate behavior when coming together and
how you will make decisions. It will also state that past marital issues will
not be discussed, insults, attacking, blaming will not occur. Other issues in
agreement can address, what will happen in an emergency? How you will handle discipline,
childcare, doctors, emergency issues etc. The agreement can be periodically evaluated
and adjusted to meet the present needs of parents and the children. Both parents
should sign this.
2. Depending on the age of your children, structure regular meetings with your
former spouse either by phone or in person.
3. Before of after a meeting or phone contact, it is important to process your
feelings of anger, frustration and sadness with someone. Seeing or talking to
your former spouse can restimulate old pain.


4. Consider taking an assertive training course. Do not pit will against one
another and engage in power struggles or be competitive with your partner. This
is dysfunctional behavior, not assertiveness. Try to negotiate a middle ground
by accepting each other`s differences of opinion. There is more than one way to
meet the needs of your children.
5. Honor your limits and what is reasonable for you to expect yourself to do.
Be aware that children of every age will try to manipulate parents into getting
what they want.
6. Encourage and be involved with helping your children pick out presents to
celebrate the other parent`s birthday, holidays, etc. Maintain a relationship
with both parents is in the child highest good.
7. Contact an experienced relationship coach or therapist to help work through
problem areas. A third person is at times necessary in moving through emotional
blocks and conflicts that may occur.
Building a bridge occurs with one brick at a time. And, the bridge you build
will reflect the life you lived. Be patient and loving with yourself as you
embark on this journey called co-parenting to raise healthy, secure children.
It will require courage, honesty and a connection to your spiritual essence.

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