Stress can create a dangerous cycle and divorce and separation could not be capable of creating MORE stress! First you have to live with all of the stress of being in a less-than-perfect relationship that got you to the point of separation. Then you have to live with the stress of turmoil and uncertainty that comes with such a huge life change, including a change in finances, living arrangements, a possible change in jobs, social circles and your identity.
After that, you have to tackle the stress of the legal system and the horrible stress that comes from reshaping your relationship with your children, i.e., not having them in your home all of the time. Just when you think you are adjusting and the stress is subsiding, something little comes up and washes over you like a suffocating wave. It’s awful!
The biggest problem with stress is that STRESS CREATES MORE STRESS! Stress keeps us distracted, quick to react, prone to anger and sadness, unable to make rational decisions and it zaps our physical and mental strength. Stress makes EVERYTHING more difficult! Stress makes it difficult to focus on conversations and stay open-minded which means daily tasks turn out worse.
Stress makes school and work harder which means that easy things become difficult and difficult things become impossible. Stress makes you put in twice as much effort at a time when you are already drained and mentally exhausted. And this is true for you, your kids, AND your Ex! Nobody is at their best, and at a time when everyone needs a little more patience and a little more help you are already functioning in overdrive just to maintain.
How Does The Cycle of Stress Play Out with Your Co-Parent?
You are stressed so having ‘normal’ conversations with your Ex is almost impossible. Your Ex represents a danger because they represent the cause of your stress. Even if you are the one who ended the relationship, your brain is grappling to tell a story about the new direction your life has taken and your Ex – in the beginning- will always play the role of the foe.
Seeing your Ex’s phone number pop up might make your stomach sick. Hours before you exchange the kids you may start getting anxious knowing you will have to interact with your Ex. You might spend more energy during your time with your kids thinking about if they are going to tell your Ex this or that, or if your Ex is going to yell at you about the bruise on Parker’s knee. In these situations, when you finally do talk to your Ex, you will be past your breaking point. In this physical state of stress you are NEVER going to give your Ex the benefit of the doubt, interpret their statements as friendly, or be open to anything they say about the kids. You are going to start all of your interactions by being defensive and preparing for the worst. Your conversations are almost guaranteed not to go well which means you will be dreading the next interaction even more!
On top of all that, when it comes to your kids, being left in the dark about them and how they are spending their time or what is happening in their lives creates THE MOST STRESS!!! Nothing will make a person more stressed than feeling like their relationship with their children is not as close as they want it to be. The loss of control over your children is always difficult to deal with and when there’s no communication, you feel completely out of control. So this horrible pattern of not communicating is creating more stress, making it more difficult to talk, which creates more stress, and so on and so on until you finally decide to Break the Cycle!
How Does the Cycle Ever End?
The cycle doesn’t truly end until you can completely detach from your Ex. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. It takes most adults and children two years to adjust to this huge life change of separation and divorce. Every book, every article, every coach has advice on how to make this transition – check out any of Text Your Ex’s other hints & tips . Until then, find ways to insulate yourself from the stress and try to at least recognize it, because only then you can work on trying to calm it. The most straight-forward, immediate advice is to:
1) Create Boundaries
Keep your ‘relationship’ talks about the marriage and divorce separate from conversations about the kids. If you want to have a discussion about something besides the kids – that’s fine! but don’t mix up ‘kid calls’ with ‘relationship calls’. Make the kid-oriented conversations a safe space for you and your Ex so that you don’t have to dread that the conversation will turn to your Ex’s new partner or another conversation about how you’re spending too much money. Set specific times to give each other updates on the kids, and in the beginning, it’s fine to use text or email instead of personal calls. Don’t get off topic –speak only about issues regarding the children during your set times and don’t try to ‘sneak in’ something personal at the end of the call.
2) Increase Communication but Stop Always Talking
The more you share about the kids, the better things will be. Let the kids call their other parent when something exciting happens and don’t wait 3 days to tell your Ex that Alex stayed home from school with a fever or failed his math test. If you can begin to trust each other to update the other person about the children’s lives, the stress will decrease quickly and by a lot. But – maintain your boundaries! Tell your Ex about the math test, but you don’t need to discuss what to do about it until your weekly call. You do not want a message about daily information to get bogged down in conflict because that brings the stress back up. By keeping each other informed about things when they happen, that gives each parent time to reflect and think about it before you discuss the options. This always makes for more productive conversations than deciding what to do 5 minutes after you’ve been told about the problem.
Don’t ignore or be rude to your Ex, keep communicating, engage in dialogue, but try really hard to embrace silence. When we are nervous or stressed, we have a tendency to talk more than we should. In a lot of relationships, the more we say, the more chance for conflict we create. If you can talk for 10 minutes about what Parker did at school the other day and it stays friendly – great, otherwise stick to the facts, convey what’s important and then STOP TALKING! No complaining, no griping, no retelling how your mom just bought Avery $200 worth of clothes – this will only cause trouble! And, of course, this applies for your Ex! If they start rambling on, politely say, “if this is an issue you are concerned about, please send me an email so I’ll have time to look over your concerns and then we can talk about it during our weekly call.” You do not have to engage with your Ex when they start talking, you can just remain silent, be polite and then walk away. This requires a lot of self-discipline but the reward is worth it.
3) Use a Third Party to Help You Communicate
What you are going through is not going to last forever. This is just a short blip on the journey of your life. You don’t have to solve all of your problems today, it’s okay to find a few ways to make things easier. It’s always easier to talk to someone else about your problems than the actual source themselves – your Ex! Text Your Ex can be your neutral go-between for small, everyday issues, as well as more substantive ones. Knowing that you are going to be interacting with a neutral third party makes the stress around each contact decrease. You’ll have space to think and act rationally, not be so quick to react from anger and hopefully, just be in a better mood! That is good for everyone!!
You can text or email your message to Text Your Ex in any wording you would like – we won’t be offended. You don’t have to worry about what you say or how you say it because we will make sure your Ex only ever sees your best! That means you can release your stress and frustration and still have productive conversations. And on the other end, you are guaranteed messages from your Ex that are Clear, Concise and POLITE! You still may not like what your Ex is saying, but how they are saying it is no longer a problem so you can respond to the content completely differently than before.
Using Text your Ex gives you an opportunity to reset your pattern of communication and start redefining boundaries. When you ask for a change in schedule instead of hearing, “Why – do you have a date?!?” you’ll get a message that says, “I’m available on Saturday but we’ll have to negotiate the pick-up time.” Once you have had some experiences communicating with your Ex in a neutral manner, you can begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel and know that the two of you can make decisions about your favorite little humans in a civil way. The cycle of stress will be broken and you will be able to fully transition to your new life.
Escaping Stress is Not Easy
Stress is it’s own monster – it holds on tightly and embeds itself in all of your molecules. When stress is telling your body that it senses danger the last thing it wants you to do is to relax. Breaking patterns of communication and listening to someone you’re not crazy about in an open and objective way can be an incredible challenge. It can be immediately rewarding to tell your Ex exactly how you feel but this puts you back in this horrible cycle of stress and only makes things worse. Sometimes, after a separation and having given up on reconciling, people feel more free to vent their frustration which can lead to even worse behavior and fresh, new wounding: that sends everything backwards.
Regardless of what service you use, look for someone to help get you past this hurdle. Try a parenting app, find a therapist for a few sessions, have a parent coordinator relay messages for a period of time. Even just a month’s break from frequent conflict will allow your brain and body to start to calm and lower your stress and change your fight-or-flight response. In order to give your children their best lives, both parents must be able to discuss things Open communication allows the continuity of a parent’s relationship with their children which is extremely important for adults and KIDS during such an uncertain time as separation.