Remaining amicable after divorce, or as Gwyneth Paltrow terms it, consciously uncoupling, can have real benefits for the whole family, particularly children. But it can be difficult to disentangle a house, friends, debts, personal possessions, and memories and remain friends. This article explains how it can be done and looks at a case of a divorced couple from Brighton who agreed to remain part of each other’s lives.
What is an amicable divorce?
An amicable divorce is where both parties work together to reach a favourable outcome in order to achieve the best result for their family. Working together in this way, especially when the road to separation is usually littered with acrimonious arguments, isn’t easy, but it is possible.
It is common for most couples to approach the divorce process with resentment and anger, which often fuels conflict, so it is not surprising that divorcing amicably requires a lot of commitment and effort from both sides. The basis for a good relationship with an ex after divorce is to go through the process as collegiately as possible and marks the beginning of the rest of your lives apart. Here are some tips for improving the divorce experience and promoting good communication during the divorce process:
- Use therapy, counselling, or mediation constructively – dealing with your thoughts and feelings away from an ex can help with negotiations about finances and children because you will have a clear head.
- Be open and organised with your finances – it is extremely important to be transparent about your finances and assets. Failing to do so can not only delay a final order, but lead to increased conflict between you and your ex.
- Think about your boundaries and where you can compromise – it’s a fact, you are unlikely to get everything you want in a divorce. You and your ex will probably have very different ideas about things such as child arrangements or living in the family home. When facing a disagreement, it is important to distinguish between what you need, such as a secure home or sufficient income, and what you want. These things are balanced against what you are entitled to, where the starting point is 50/50.
- Look into collaborative law or mediation – this is a voluntary process where both parties agree to settle matters out of court via a series of face-to-face meetings. Each party has access to their own solicitor trained in dispute resolution and the collaborative process.
- Be specific regarding child arrangements – when it comes to effective co-parenting, it is important to consider the details. Think about writing a parenting plan; many parents find it useful for making sure every eventuality is covered from things such as pocket money and who will pay it, to education and health issues. Bird nesting may be an option to think about, and involves the children remaining in one home and the parents taking it in turns living with the children there.
- Use professional help as required – family lawyers can guide you to the best and fairest agreement. Such services can range from mediators and divorce coaches to specific experts, such as property or pension specialists.
Doing what you can to make the divorce process more amicable will serve to provide you with the platform you need to take your post-divorce relationship forward.
How do I make staying friends with my ex work after divorce?
Viewing divorce not as the end of your family but as a reorganisation will help you make sense of the new type of relationship with your ex. The most compelling reason to remain friends with an ex after divorce is if you have children together, and whether you like it or not, having children binds you to one another forever. Here are some tips on how you can stay amicable with your ex after the divorce:
- Take it slowly – give each other time and space to reset, grieve, and heal. You should make it clear you would like your split to be as amicable as possible and that you want to maintain a friendly relationship.
- Reassess the new version of your relationship – things you may once have said and done may no longer be appropriate. Make a conscious decision to reframe this new version of your relationship where you are friends and co-parents, not partners. This requires setting new boundaries and devising ways of being together – control your triggers, tone down reactivity, and learn new ways to communicate.
- Take it easy – if you are planning time together as a family post-separation, keep it short, preferably on neutral ground. Plunging straight in with a weekend away is likely to be too intense and triggering, tipping you both into old patterns of behaviour.
- Set new boundaries – define the boundaries for this version of your new relationship and decide what is and is not acceptable. Steer clear of intimate and personal topics and allow the past to remain there. Actively choosing not to bring the past into this new relationship provides both of you with confidence that old hurts will not be revisited.
- Commit to calm communication – establish new communication patterns and learn to reduce reactivity to triggering issues. Be open to other ways of looking at and doing things and try not to fall into familiar behavioural patterns.
- Focus on the future – focussing on the future version of your relationship helps you remain connected to the present and what you want to achieve. There will always be moments and situations that prove challenging, but being friends, or at least being on friendly terms, will help you and your children adjust to a different type of family life.
Example: A divorced couple from Brighton spending every Christmas together
A divorced couple from Brighton were reported in the press to have successfully created a harmonious environment by spending every Christmas together with their new partners and extended families. Lee and Barbara married in 2005, but over the years gradually grew apart. After divorcing in 2013, they made a pact to remain part of each other’s lives and have not looked back since. Barbara was inspired to remain friends with her ex after growing up in a household where her parents hated each other and couldn’t stand to be in the same room. This arrangement serves as a testament to the advantages of fostering a positive post-divorce relationship. Though as always, it takes both parties to make the new arrangement work.
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