Fighting Couple

So, you’ve broken up. The relationship is over and done. You’re trying to move on and in fact, you’re doing a pretty good job at it considering how difficult it is to heal broken hearts and how long the memory of your ex can remain in the mind. You’re confident and proud of your progress. You may have even started to talk to someone new. Then your ex surfaces or resurfaces. Now your progress is really being put to the test. It’s important that communication boundaries are set in place for your well-being.

Should you keep in touch with an ex after a breakup? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Many people still communicate with their exes after a break up, for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they want to keep the person around in hopes of getting back together. If you or the person you’re with is still talking to the ex, or exes and you’re not on the same page about it, it can harm your relationship. You should think about your motives for wanting to maintain contact. If you’re using an ex as a backup, contact with the ex is likely to undermine your current relationship. If you’re dealing with a divorce and kids are involved, you may have no choice but to communicate with you ex.

Therapists will say, “You must communicate and be positive while you’re doing it!” and encourage everyone to get along, even in the face of court appearances, parental differences, and new relationships. But communicating with our exes is easier said than done, especially after a nasty break-up or contentious divorce. You may hate to see his name on your caller ID, your stomach may drop when you see her car in your driveway, or you may see red when you hear secondhand info from your kids.

Your dilemma is around communication: should you continue to try to co-parent with a smile, or give up and put a no-contact rule in place? You actually have three options when it comes to communicating better with your ex and keeping your sanity:

First, you can change the situation. Yes, you. You can what you do {the stimulus} and therefore change what you’re getting {the response}. Be pleasant, just like you are to strangers, like the guy or gal at the checkout counter at the supermarket.

Second, you can eliminate the situation. You could cut off all direct and/or verbal contact, and only communicate about important things like visitation, school, and activities via text, or through your attorneys. That is, if you feel like you need to spend a minute to have someone else relay information for you. Seriously, sometimes it’s better to just not talk until some time has passed and emotions have cooled.

Third, you can accept the situation, and get on with your day. They may never change, you may choose not to change ... therefore you’re at a stalemate. But if you’re able to accept that, you can ignore snide remarks, sarcastic tones, and bad behavior. It’s hard at first, do it anyway. It gets easier, you get peace of mind, the kids feel less stress. Everyone wins.

You’ll notice each one of those options starts with you. It’s your choice how you handle the situation, now spend a few moments to thoughtfully choose the one that works best for you and your kids.

Communicating with an ex can cause feelings of jealousy to surface. But is there a reason to be? Knowing that your current partner is still in touch with an ex certainly can create jealousy. In the age of Facebook, we often know if a partner is still in touch with exes.6 If your partner is communicating with an ex, it doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on your relationship. If that ex is just part of their larger social network, it’s more likely that they are actually satisfied in their relationship with you. And if they’re still friends with an ex or have invested a lot of time in that relationship in the past, it doesn’t necessarily relate to how they feel about you.

If you’re ready to heal after a breakup, accept that this story is part of your past. Don’t deny it. That story defines you. But be empowered to write a brave new ending. You can write that it was horrible and you were in lots of pain, and then you can end the story writing that you got help and were able to move on with your head held high and more to offer the person you choose to spend your life with. You can write a better ending. If you choose to communicate with your ex, make sure boundaries are set both in your communication and how you interact together. Your heart and mind depend on it.

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