Your marriage might be over, or in the process of ending. Ideally, that means the routine, day-to-day conflicts with your spouse or ex-spouse should be over, too.
It rarely works out that way. No matter how long your marriage lasted, each of you acquired an arsenal of petty ways to annoy the other. Some days, it’s just too tempting to say to yourself, “Maybe all the love is gone, but I’m sure I can get some kind of emotional response.” After that, all it takes is the right trigger—a glance, a smirk, a little snub, a sharp word in an e-mail, or just the right tone of voice—and a battle ensues.
It’s mean-spirited and a little degrading if you’ve been reduced to starting quarrels in order to get attention, but you’re both adults and we can’t stop you.
However, if non-adults enter the equation, you must stop. Arguing in front of your children isn’t just shameful, it’s destructive to their lives and your own. Every time you quarrel in front of your kids, both you and your ex-spouse are diminished in their eyes, and their chances to have happy and fulfilling lives—despite your bad example—wither away.
Learn to control your anger and your temper, or your children will suffer the consequences. Here are some tips we can recommend to help you avoid arguing with your ex-partner:
- Change the venue. If arguments tend to start at a particular time and place—perhaps when dropping off or picking up the kids, or when you’re tired after work—then refuse to engage at that time. Suggest that a private telephone call or email exchange would be a better time to discuss the issue confidentially.
- Look at your goals, not the details. If there is a conflict over who has the kids for dinner Wednesday, try to be flexible enough to schedule another day. The goal, after all, is spending time with your children; the choice of day is arbitrary.
- Try to identify your ex-spouse’s goals. Once you learn what he or she really wants, it’s easier to find a way to satisfy those core needs by compromising on the means to achieve those needs. By shifting perspective to the other party’s viewpoint, you both can learn that parenting isn’t a zero-sum game: both sides can get what they most want.
- Don’t get sidetracked on the little things. You and your ex only have to be parents together. You no longer have to live together or be friends with each other. The only things you must discuss are problems you need to solve for the children’s sake. You should feel free to walk away from disagreements on all other issues.
- Back down when appropriate. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s okay to say, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.” That isn’t a concession that your ex is the better parent.
- Find the good. At one time, you loved your ex-spouse. Remind yourself of the good qualities that your ex-partner had, and try to bring out those strengths where the children are involved.
It takes two people to argue, just as it takes two to make a marriage—or a divorce. If you cannot stop arguing, or if the quarrels escalate to physical threats, you need help to make sure your family environment is a safe one. Call 877-593-4233 to connect to the North Carolina family law attorneys of Speaks Law Firm in Wilmington. We can provide our clients with references to community counseling and anger management resources, and we can obtain protective orders when the need arises. Call us today, and you will be able to sleep more easily tonight. At Speaks Law Firm, we treat every client as our most important client.