5 strategies to communicate with your Ex

February 8, 2018

If you have separated and do not have children then the effects of poor communication between you and your Ex have an end date. You will each go on your merry way after your final property settlement and can choose to have absolutely nothing to do with each other after that point. If you have children, then you and your Ex will have an ongoing relationship, though the nature of that relationship will have changed.  What does this mean for the communication issues experienced in your relationship – do they evaporate with the decision to separate or will they have a longer-term effect?

Most working days for me are dedicated to solving legal problems arising from relationship breakdown, however, about 90 per cent of the time it is the non-legal issues such as poor communication, the emotional aftermath of the separation and how the parties react and interact that impede on the process of developing a solution. Through my work as a family lawyer, I have learnt to recognise many of the pitfalls of communicating after separation and have considered some strategies to help you communicate with your Ex.

The reasons for poor communication after separation are many, but generally include:

  • One party has an expectation of how the communication should occur and is angry or disappointed about the level of communication being received from the other party.
  • One party withdraws from communication due to the stress or emotional aspects of interacting with the other party. This usually aggravates the situation.
  • Both parties feel the need to respond to every text message or email to justify their position, viewpoint or as a result of a power struggle.

The dynamic of the relationship that existed during the relationship continues after separation.

How you and your Ex communicated during your relationship will be a fairly good indicator of how you will communicate after separating.  The issues that contributed to the breakdown of the relationship don’t disappear when you decide to separate – if anything, they fester and become more significant because the trust and good faith that existed between you has ended.

Identify communication triggers that made you and your Ex feel stressed, overwhelmed, angry or anxious while you were together. What triggers can you be alert to in your future communications? How can you change your communication style so that those triggers will be less significant. 

You do not need to engage or respond to each text message or email from your former partner/spouse.

Our society has conditioned us to respond to everything and to communicate from a winner mentality.  That is, having the last word makes you the winner or communicating your position makes you the winner.  Unfortunately, this is rarely productive, even less so, when you are communicating with an Ex.

There may be times when you will receive a text message or email that will contain negative, denigrating or derogatory comments about you, your family or your parenting style.  While this is upsetting, there is little benefit in you responding or engaging in such communication as this will not lead to any improvement in future communication and will only lead to further eroding the parenting relationship and increasing the conflict.

Consider this … is a response really necessary? Is my Ex going to take on board my comments and change his or her position? Is the response going to improve the situation or will it lead to further conflict? If you cannot genuinely answer these questions in the positive, then leave it alone – let it go to the keeper.  Choose an option that will ease your own path.

If communication issues continue unresolved after separation, then this can have a devastating effect on you and your children.

There has been a significant amount of research into the effects that poor communication and a parents’ ability to effectively co-parent has on children with separated parents.  Poor communication leads to higher incidences of conflict between parents after separation. Children who are exposed to parents in high conflict are at a greater risk of experiencing economic, social, psychological and health difficulties through childhood and early adulthood and they take longer to adjust to the separation and divorce.

Create boundaries — define how you will communicate with the other parent.

If you want to move beyond the cycle of poor communication or reduce the stress of communicating with your Ex, then it is necessary to establish a method for communicating that allows you to isolate your emotions and feelings from the communication.  Adopting a business‑like approach to communicating with the other parent can achieve effective communication without feelings of bitterness, resentment or anger muddying the waters. Agree on a method of communication, the frequency of communication and what the communication will be about.  If you cannot reach an agreement with your Ex, then create your own boundaries for communication that are realistic and achievable to limit your children’s exposure to their parent’s conflict.  If you only try these three things, it will make a difference to your own happiness, sanity and your children’s future. 

No matter how difficult communicating with your Ex may seem, or you feel as though you are separated so you don’t have to communicate with your Ex anymore, just remember that ‘good relationships build good relationships. You and your Ex are your children’s most influential role models – they learn how to communicate with you, their other parent, their peers, teachers, family and community from observing you.



This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or any other professional advice.

Feeling unsure where to start?

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Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

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