How to Keep your Sanity and Serenity when interacting with your Ex

The Divorced Woman’s Christmas Survival Guide:     How to Minimize Chaos and Maximize Joy during the Holidays and Beyond

©2010  Debra Brown Gordy, MS MRET.  All Rights Reserved.  

I remember it well – my first Christmas after my divorce from my children’s dad.  I dreaded it coming.  Not only were my two young daughters going to be with their father that first Christmas, I was going to have to see him at school and family events.

I worried.  I stressed.  I fussed.

I tried to figure out some way to get out of attending those family gatherings.   For my children’s sake, I couldn’t.    I always knew that for my children to achieve the best adjustment they possibly could to the changes in their family, I had to figure out a way to get along with him as their dad, even though we were divorced.    So I made myself go, and made myself get through those family times, even though it meant interacting with him and his new partner.

I remember feeling nervous, uncomfortable and ill at ease, not knowing how to interact with him, how to respond to meeting his new partner, or how to support my daughters in having a fun time, when I definitely didn’t think I would!

Those were some of the hardest things I did, as a young, newly divorced mother.   I remember coming home feeling exhausted, with a raging headache, which is a sure sign of stress for me.   I also got a really bad cold that year; thinking back, it was probably induced by the worry and stress.

Well, I got through that first Christmas season post -divorce, and many others since then.  Along the way, I learned some things about how to do so with grace and poise, while keeping my sanity and dignity.

Here are three tips that helped me, and hopefully will help you too.

 

1.Take good care of yourself during this highly emotionally charged season.

Your self-care plan ideally should include how you will care for yourself on all levels of your being – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically – including your other relationships, as well as financially.  Make an actual plan, and write it down.   (No, this is not being too compulsive!)

 Having a written plan will help you feel more inner control in your life, in an otherwise uncomfortable and for many, unnatural, situation.  Having and following a plan that supports and replenishes your well-being on all levels, will give you inner reserves of strength, balance and peace that you can draw upon during otherwise stressful events and situations.

Spiritual replenishment and grounding.  It is easy when we are busy, such as during the holiday season, to short-change or abbreviate our spiritual practice.   In stressful, vulnerable times, spiritual grounding is crucial.  Spiritual grounding will give you the connection and peace within to better cope with unexpected or unpleasant situations or changes or events.

Through continuing practices that spiritually ground you, you will feel your connection to Divine Love, and you will feel less vulnerable, hurt or secretly insecure.

I do the following daily:  prayer, meditation, writing my daily gratitudes in my journal, and reading sacred works.    The length of time varies; my goal is connection, experiencing the link of connection between the Divine and myself, and receiving daily guidance.

Do what works for you in creating the link, and you will develop reserves of peace, connection and direction that will support you in getting through challenging experiences at any time, not just during the Christmas season.

 

2. Remember that much of your children’s well-being is directly connected to yours.

That is why the first thing I teach divorcing parents about how to help their children cope with their parent’s divorce, is the importance of taking care of themselves.  When you take care of yourself and your needs are met, you are much better prepared and able to meet your children’s needs, which many times are increased by the experience of your divorce.

Help yourself to meet your children’s needs, by having and following a plan for good self-care, as suggested above; and remember that your children love both their parents, and want to have a relationship with both you and their other parent.   Just as your love for your first child is not diminished by loving a second child, so your children can and do love both of you.

Children who are secure in their relationship with their primary parent, are best supported and able to have the most effective relationship possible with the other one.

These are children who achieve the best adjustment to their parent’s divorce, with the least long-term negative impact.

This principle alone can help you marshal the personal reserves, ability and willingness to interact with your ex successfully at those holiday family and other events.

 

3.      Follow a plan for holiday family events themselves:

  • One of the best things you can do for yourself and your children, is to be centered and grounded in your own True Self before and during the event.   Following the suggestions in the self-care plan above will go a long way toward helping you do that.Also, learn and practice specific Centering techniques such as I teach in my Becoming Present to Yourself teleclass.  These Centering exercises are an additional awesome strategy to be able to maintain your center and grounding, especially if you use these exercises as part of your daily self-care.
  • Plan and give yourself permission to step into the guest bath to do a quick tune-up with Centering or your Flourish Coaching self-care tools, if you need to at anytime during the event.
  • Schedule your time so you are not feeling rushed and stressed before arriving.
  • If child exchanges can be stressful or difficult for you or your children, plan another time outside of the event, if possible, for exchanging children.
  • Take some time beforehand, to visualize the event going well.  See everyone getting along, and visualize that there are other people present with whom you enjoy interacting.  Then focus on interacting with them.
  • As much as possible, in your mind’s eye, see your ex-spouse as an acquaintance or business contact, with whom your interaction is pleasant, yet brief and impersonal.    Then interact with your ex that way at the event.  Just as you would not discuss personal or private topics with a casual acquaintance or business contact at a social gathering, you can also keep your interactions with your ex in a similar tone – pleasant, yet brief and limited to neutral, casual topics.
  • If you anticipate the event being more difficult than you believe you can gracefully attend by yourself, even with all these tips and strategies, and if for your children’s sake, you feel it is important that you be there, then take a friend for support.
  • If at other times, you drink alcohol, consider not drinking at this event, if it will be available.  Even small amounts of alcohol will put you off Center and out of connection with your True Self.  Even a small amount of alcohol will affect your thinking and your emotions.  Even small amounts of alcohol diminish impulse control and impair clear reasoning and decision-making.
  • Finally, commit to yourself to leave the event before you or your children are overly tired.    By staying centered and grounded, you will be much more able to be aware and in tune with your own body’s signals, and in tune with your children’s, to know when this is.Just like Jackie.
    There you have it, three tips and several strategies for keeping your sanity, dignity, grace and poise when seeing your ex at holiday family events.   How I wish I had known these things that first year after my divorce!

I know that if you follow these tips and:

  1.  Take good care of yourself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.
  2.  Remember that your children will adjust best to your divorce when they have a good relationship with both parents.
  3. Follow a plan for the events themselves,you can sail through your family holiday events that include your ex-spouse, with as much grace and poise as Jackie Kennedy.   They will go better for you, and your children will also likely have fun, and be more fun to be with!  You will feel grateful afterwards, and so will your children.

Debra Brown Gordy, MS MRET, is the founder of The Sophia Women’s Institute, where she is passionate about guiding divorced women through the 5-stage process of healing from their divorce, and going on to create happy, fulfilling, lasting new marriages.  She is the creator of From Crisis to Catalyst:  The Awakening Woman’s Program for Healing from Your Divorce, Reclaiming Your Life, and Rebuilding Your Dreams, and other specialty programs for spiritually awakening women.

Please visit www.WomensDivorceHealing.com to learn more, including subscribing to her free e-newsletter,  Creating Joy!  The Relationship E-zine.

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