How to live peacefully with your ex without any awkwardnessMonday, September 13, 2021
IF you had told me two years ago that this end-of-summer would see me planning a weekend getaway with my husband, my kids, my ex, and his fiancée, I would have called you a liar from the pits of hell. But here we are, scouring hotels.com for deals to get away before the kids are called back to face-to-face school.
It wasn't always like this. In fact, the last several years have been rife with court case after court case, child support hearings, verbal fighting, and insults flung from all angles — pure hatred. It's a situation that was unhealthy for both my ex and I, and the daughter we shared. But we've come a long way, thanks to mediation, self analysis, maturity, and good old common sense.
Before I tell you how to live peacefully with your ex without any awkwardness, let me give you some background so you understand that the advice isn't coming from someone who hasn't lived the experience. Because boy, have I lived it!
The daughter my ex and I share is now 11. I have another child, a son, with my husband. My ex and I broke up during my pregnancy because he got another woman pregnant— his current fiancée. I was devastated. His then girlfriend had two children from her previous marriage, and my ex jumped head first into playing stepdad. He was also fully involved in her pregnancy, and not mine, and posted their pregnancy journey on his social media, but not mine. Even after she had a miscarriage, he was still not amenable to being there in my pregnancy. Imagine the hurt!
When our daughter was born he suggested that I wasn't fit to raise her, and that she would be better off being raised by him and his then girlfriend. That started years of court battles, and even when I won custody, he wouldn't relent. We spent years in court, millions in attorney fees, and our daughter would be the loser in this entire situation.
He wasn't content with just visitation; he seemed to block all efforts to have our daughter live a normal life. He shared every court detail with her, exposed her to decisions and court papers that her little mind couldn't comprehend, and couldn't resist trying to make me look bad. It seemed like the effort was to have her alienate one parent. I admit that in retaliation I also shared some bad things about him to her... but eventually I had to seek an intervention. But before we got professional intervention, our daughter intervened. She spoke to her dad; she spoke to me. She spoke of how much she wanted normalcy, and how much she wanted to be a child. That was the start of things improving.
Counselling also helped — in the form of mediation. Here, we both learnt the basics of parenting, how to get along, moving on from the past, and carving a better future going forward for our children. Months into counselling, the relationship had improved so much that we were co-parenting well. This summer made two years since our daughter intervened in the battle, and for the first time we will all be vacationing together, like an extended family, for the kids' sake.
How was this possible? Here's how you, too, can move from hate to love.
1. Put the children first. Accept and admit that the relationship is over, but you're still parents to the child(ren) you created. Their needs will come first, despite what you feel for your ex. Children feel the negative vibrations between their parents. They may feel guilty that their parents hate each other, and this can affect them in various ways.
2. Move on in faith. It will be hard to forgive and forget what they did, what they said, and how much they hurt you, but the only one who will suffer from being perennially angry and hurt is you. Move on.
3. It can be hard to be around someone you want to be done with, but if you share something like a child, you have to move past the awkwardness.
4. Accept that getting to that final place of indifference and acceptance may take time — lots of time. Don't rush it. There are going to be flare-ups and conflicts until you get to that safe place.
5. For your own sanity accept that blaming your ex and hating your ex won't make the emotional pain go away. Hating your ex also won't make them feel bad, or feel the pain you wish they'd feel. Hate and feelings of revenge will only contribute to negative energy, and the only person you will be harming is yourself.
6. Hatred, revenge, and resentment are not conducive to emotional healing. If you want ultimate happiness, you have to move past the hurt.
Note that I'm not saying that you have to reach the level of 'kumbaya' that I have with my ex, but it's possible to take baby steps towards making inroads with that ex you will have to stay in contact with, because you're connected by your children.
Jaidene Sutherland is a strategist who is writing a book on overcoming hate.