Many people seek help communicating with an ex. I've written about how my own communication skills improved once we split. Distance definitely was an aid. But I also had some outside assistance. About seven months after my husband and I separated, I needed help handling some of the changes in our lives. I didn’t want legal help, but emotional support, insight, and communication assistance. I suggested we go to a therapist, together; my ex agreed.
I found a therapist on Psychologytoday.com who agreed to meet with us for couples counseling. Or, former couples counseling. Or, divorce counseling, actually.
While marriage counseling often felt like a patch, divorce counseling helped immediately. The therapist helped us talk through some new facts, and devise a plan that felt fair to him, and reassuring to me. We met with her a few more times during that rockiest-of-all periods in our divorce.
Divorce counseling can be so effective because you’re seeking help with a discrete, common goal, rather then the Total Personality Overhaul many hope for in marriage counseling.
Many problems in divorce can be solved, even thorny emotional ones. But you need to keep your focus forward and on your goals: You're there to help smooth interactions and go on with your life, not punish your ex or prove that you're right.
If you have a therapist you like, you can ask if she’ll meet with you, or do so by Skype. You also can seek help from a mediator, or find collaborative-minded professionals of all types on collaborative.practice.com.
If you don't want to take the in-person approach, a variety of websites and mobile apps can improve communication and coordination with an ex. Fights can erupt over logistics, making scheduling apps an important part of peaceful co-parenting for some. Sometimes a judge will require a fighting couple to limit communications to a website such as Ourfamilywizard that reminds you to keep your voice down.
“At first I thought it was stupid. I’m an adult. I can handle my own conversations. But it’s actually really helpful,” said a mother of one in Los Angeles county who sought a temporary restraining order against her ex, and was then required to use the site by the judge. “It makes us both really notice how we sound. It’s also good to know that if I have to discuss something, like his birthday party, there’s a place I can do it.”
* This post originally appeared on Wendy Paris's website, wendyparis.com.
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocate for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.