Divorce often becomes a time of high conflict. That probably doesn’t startle anyone. Hurt feelings, raging emotions, and anger all come with the territory. They also have a huge impact on how warring spouses handle communication during divorce.
Communication is key during divorce. It’s central to working out the division of property, custody arrangements, and protecting your rights, assets, and future. If you and your ex can’t talk without fighting, it may derail the process. Not only does it cause additional stress, but it also drags things out, which can cost you money.
For a variety of reasons, it’s vital to figure out a way to effectively communicate during divorce. You don’t need to be best friends with your ex, and you don’t have to like it, but it will make your life much easier. And don’t worry, even if you can’t be in the same room without screaming at each other, there are ways around that.
Couples often fall into one of two styles when it comes to communicating during a divorce. People tend to become either reactive or responsive. Which approach they take depends on individual personalities, dynamics, and other factors. The difference usually boils down to perspective.
- Reactive: People who become reactive in their commutation often let their emotions run the show. Anger, resentment, fear, panic, or others drive the bus. Approaching conflict in a reactive manner frequently escalates the situation. This can create additional challenges and impair the chances of coming to a resolution.
- Responsive: Responsive communicators tend towards a logical, controlled approach. Setting aside hot emotions can be a more efficient, productive way to communicate during a divorce. It’s also much more difficult. This takes strategy and effort; it’s a learned skill that takes practice. Controlling feelings and setting aside knee-jerk reactions is not easy.
In reality, most people wind up some mixture of these two styles. Few people let their emotions run entirely wild. At the same time, most people aren’t cool and logical all the time. We’re not all Mr. Spock.
Having a divorce lawyer on your side can help facilitate communication during this process. An attorney can serve as a go-between, limiting facetime. Professionals have also been through this enough times to recognize when things are about to boil over and can help calm a situation down when necessary.
Related Reading: How to File for Divorce in Oregon
5 Common Communication Tactics
Since communication is so important during divorce, it’s worth focusing on. Fortunately, there are a variety of tips, tactics, and strategies that have proven successful in these negotiations. This is not an exhaustive list, far from it, but these tools have shown positive results.
1. Don’t Interrupt
Sure, this seems rudimentary, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Even if you disagree with the opposing party, no matter how vehemently, let them say their piece. Whatever the setting, you’ll get your chance to state your case. This is basic civility. Interrupting and butting in are sure-fire ways to create friction. It can put the other person on guard and escalate hostilities. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Help create a situation that encourages smooth communication during the divorce process.
2. Be Polite
Along the same lines, it pays to remain polite. It’s not always, or even often, easy, but it can pay dividends. Regardless of how you feel about your ex, good manners go along way. Let that guide the conversation. Rude comments and intentional button pushing may feel good in the moment, but they only impede progress. If your goal is to hash out a divorce agreement, take steps toward that end, not the other way around. Disrespect usually only slows things down. Remember, the sooner you finish, the less time you have to spend with your ex.
3. Establish Boundaries
Even in relatively cordial situations, it’s important to set and maintain boundaries. Divorce doesn’t have to be all-out war all the time, but this is still a key factor. You were once incredibly close to this person and it’s all too easy to fall back into those patterns. Set rules for communicating during the divorce process and stick to them. Don’t text each other at two in the morning. If you decide to only communicate via email or through attorneys, don’t call ten times a day.
4. Use Technology
Couples going through divorce often find it difficult, if not impossible, to interact without things becoming heated. If face-to-face communication isn’t realistic, there are other options thanks to technology. Email, text messages, social media, all of these tools can be beneficial. Keeping interactions strictly digital allows time, space, and distance. If you have a sharp reaction, you don’t have to respond immediately. Instead of spouting the first thing that comes to mind, this offers the chance to create an appropriate answer and make sure you say exactly what you want. This also creates a digital record of the communication throughout your divorce, which may be valuable.
5. Stay Focused
A lot goes into divorce and that can distract from communication. It’s an emotional time with many moving parts—custody, dividing assets, and generally untangling two lives. Tempers often flare and resentments bubble to the surface. But as tumultuous as this is, it also has a major impact on your life moving forward. It’s vital to stay focused on the task at hand and not let everything swirling around distract you. Know what you want and need out of a divorce settlement on focus on that. Communicate as clearly and calmly as possible. Don’t let your ex goad you into a fight when you can avoid trouble. It’s difficult, and it may even be impossible all of the time, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Communicating during divorce isn’t always easy. No one knows how to get under your skin quite like an ex. But taking steps to improve these interactions not only smooths out and speeds up the process but positively impacts other areas of your life. It benefits your case in many ways. If nothing else, the faster things go, the less you have to deal with your ex.
These are just a few tips, tricks, and suggestions for improving communication during a divorce. No two cases are identical, so what fits in one situation may not in another. Figure out what works best for you and your specific case, it’s worth the time and energy.
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post and has been revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.