From Ex-Spouse to Friend: Reinventing Relationships After Divorce

Rick Tivers, the co-director of the Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago, advises his clients to create a vision of how the new family will work. "The boundaries have changed, but the parents must still work together in the best interests of their children," says Tivers. "Effective parenting often involves putting yourself second." Developing a conscious relationship with your ex demands the triumph of logic over emotion -- which is practically the opposite of falling in love. In the early stages of divorce, you must not act on your feelings. "You can honor your feelings without acting them out," Tivers points out.

You are no longer in a position to seek answers or resolution from your former spouse. Instead, cultivate the habit of self-examination. Before you act, ask yourself: "Will what I'm about to say or do further my goal of creating a healthy relationship?" If the answer is no, don't do it. Period. New York therapist Debra Burrell -- who was chosen and trained by Dr. John Gray of the Mars/Venus books to lead workshops and offer counseling -- says that residual negative emotions are very often related to lack of closure. You may want nothing more than a final thank-you or some acknowledgment of the good in your marriage, but discovering the source of your wound is the first step in healing it on your own.

What are the options for you and your ex? Really, the whole spectrum -- from bitter enemies to good friends. The relationship you choose will affect your children, friends, and family, so make a conscious decision about where you want to end up. Where there is a history of emotional or physical abuse, no contact is probably the best decision for your family's recovery. Regardless of how much contact there is between you, your goal is to leave bitterness and anger behind. As enemies, you continue to damage yourselves and your children as well as each other. The general rules of polite conduct apply to all post-divorce parents, regardless of the degree of friendship or animosity.

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