How To Communicate (Effectively) Through A Divorce
Think back: have you ever been so furious with your spouse or ex that you’ve fired off a nasty SMS, shot off a ranty email or left an angry voicemail?
Well, you’re definitely not alone.
Truth is, emotions are a very hard beast to tame at the best of times – but especially so when you’re heartbroken, confused or angry. The key? Understanding that it’s a (very normal) process… and you will come out the other side.
The 7 Stages of a Breakup
Emotions are driven by numerous chemical reactions in your body. They’re designed to help you survive, process and deal with a new reality, and navigate your way through seven different stages of a breakup, according to the team at She Knows.
Stage 1. Shock: “What the hell just happened?”
Stage 2. Denial: “This is so not happening.”
Stage 3. Isolation: “I just want to sit in this all by myself.”
Stage 4. Anger: “I hate you for breaking my heart!”
Stage 5. Bargaining: “What will it take to get him/her back?”
Stage 6. Depression: “I will never get over him/her.”
Stage 7. Acceptance: “I understand why I was with him/her, why I’m not now, and that I will be better than just OK.”
The good news: you will make it out the other side of Stage 7.
The bad news: it takes a good six stages (and a decent amount of time) to get your emotions functioning properly again after a breakup. So yep, that’s plenty of time to get yourself into trouble if you don’t know how to manage the way you communicate.
Why tread carefully?
Firstly, it’s important to be aware that emotions can cloud your judgment throughout a difficult relationship, breakup, separation or divorce.
Plus, emotions can weigh in very heavily on your desire to unleash verbally (or in writing) just to get a point across— without first considering the consequence.
Unfortunately, when you communicate in the heat of the moment the idea that, one day, you could be cross-examined in courtroom about that colourful SMS you’re about to hit send on is far from your mind.
Know this: communication with a spouse or ex can come back to bite you through the separation or divorce process (if that’s where your relationship is headed).
We’re talking defamation, incrimination, or as a judgment on your character. No, thank you! You’re smarter than that.
So, here’s the long and the short of it: don’t hand your spouse or ex anything they could use against you — because there’s a good chance they will.
Communicate with confidence
If you do one thing today, do yourself a favour and watch this video Communicating with Confidence by Caroline Goyder. Okay, it’s directed at those looking to gain more confidence expressing themselves socially – but her techniques can also be used to help you get clarity before communicating with your spouse or ex.
When you’re faced with a situation (any situation, really) that requires you to contact, speak with or respond to your spouse or ex, Caroline suggests preparing yourself by breathing low and slow, building your inner confidence and remembering that sometimes you may be speaking on behalf of someone else (let’s say your children in the case of a separation or divorce). How would they wish to be heard?
The secret of good communicating
When communicating with your spouse or ex, it’s all about taking breaths!
No matter if you’re sending an SMS, email, posting on social media, speaking on the phone, or face to face – it’s all the same – it’s communicating. So what does taking breaths have to do with it?
As Caroline says, “We breathe our thoughts.” All our out-breaths are used for words (speaking!). Our in-breaths, for thought.
Picture this: if there are loving and positive thoughts on the in-breath, loving and positive words and tones flow on the out-breath. So, you know exactly where I’m going with this when it comes to upset and angry thoughts. Right?
The Romans knew this “breath” secret best. In Latin, the two words inspiration and respiration have the same root. “They knew that our breath was thought,” Caroline says.
“Because we speak on the out-breath all you have to think about is the in-breath. And, the simplest way to think about the in-breath? Close. Your. Mouth.”
Who would have thought? All you need to do to be able to control those horribly complicated, upset or sometimes revenge-filled thoughts that you wish to verbalise to your spouse or ex, is to shut your mouth (not forever, promise). Take time with your breath and thoughts before acting (or reacting!).
That said, I’d now like to share these 7 tips to help you protect yourself when it comes to communicating with your spouse or ex.
7 Ways To Make Your Communication Safe
Always be careful with what you put in writing. Be prepared that what you do put in writing can come back to haunt you. Even if your relationship is amicable today, things can change from one day to the next… even from one SMS to the next.
I’m sort of joking, but it pays to be particularly mindful of your correspondence with your spouse or ex, your in-laws, and your friends (they may choose sides – and quite possibly, not yours!).
Think twice (and then think again) each and every time you pick up your phone to send an SMS or email. Take a little extra time than normal before you respond to any correspondence. Make a rule to sleep on it— the further removed you are from the heat of the moment, the clearer your head becomes.
Think Like A Spy
Be careful what you say, even when it’s not in writing. Are your phone calls being recorded without your permission? Are ‘your’ friends yours or your ex’s? As hard as it is, do your best to manage your emotions and language when speaking with your spouse, ex, in-laws or friends.
But Don’t Get Carried Away
Check the legal requirements in your state before you start recording phone calls. In most cases, you are required by law to make the other party aware that the phone conversation will be recorded and seek their permission. If phone recordings are used as evidence in a court situation, the opposing lawyer will have access to that evidence and could possibly cross-examine you about it too.
Keep your documenting private. Your ex doesn’t need to know you’re collecting information, tracking your interactions or keeping a diary. If he or she knows these documents exist, they could have them subpoenaed at a later date during your case.
Think About Your Shrink
If you see a counsellor/psychologist while going through divorce, be aware that everything you tell them goes on file. And, there is a possibility that their files can be subpoenaed during your court case, if you go down that road. Your counsellor/ psychologist can also be summonsed to appear on the stand to answer questions based on their professional opinion. My suggestion: ask your legal representative or lawyer if there are ways to legally protect yourself when seeking support and therapy.
For now though: take a step back. Take a little more time to breathe IN. And, do your best to be considerate of the future, your children and the sort of relationship you want with your spouse or ex down the track.
And, if you need any more convincing: there’s a good possibility that if you can consciously reduce the amount of emotion and tension in your side of the conversation, it can help curb the incidences of unfavourable language directed back at you by your spouse or ex (fingers crossed). You’ll feel more empowered in general – and, yes, things should run just that little bit smoother for you.
If you’re currently facing the reality of a breakup, separation, divorce, co-parenting journey or are a victim of domestic abuse, there is now an app to help you document absolutely everything – information, communication and evidence – so you’re ready for whatever legal obligations that may arise.
For more support, download my FREE e-book, 5 Separation & Divorce Hacks. It’s packed with helpful tips and advice from those who’ve been right where you are now. It will help you go in the right direction faster, and less painfully.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on testing communication situations, techniques you use to best communicate with your spouse or ex, and ways you refrain from saying something you might regret. Let me know in the comments below.
You’re doing just fine. Take it one day at a time. And remember, be especially kind to yourself.
Founder | Hello Mojo