Ex-Spouse Etiquette: 12 Do’s and Don’ts

Ex-Spouse Etiquette
When going through a divorce, communication is key. Respect boundaries, keep your children out of it, divide assets fairly and justly. Respect your ex’s new relationships, and do your best to get through it and move on.

1. Communication Is Key

When communicating with an ex-husband or ex-wife, it is important to remain respectful. Respectful communication is the key to ensuring you and your former spouse remain civil and avoid conflict during this difficult time.

Communicating respectfully involves avoiding playing the blame game. It also means that you leave any criticizing language out of your conversation. Rather, you should listen to your ex-partner and consider their feelings.

If your break-up was rocky, remember that you are both trying to work through it, so holding onto past grudges and speaking disrespectfully to your ex will leave you both worse off.

2. Set (And Respect) Clear Boundaries

When it comes to the rules of good ex-etiquette, setting appropriate boundaries for ex-spouses is at the top of the list. If your ex is not respecting your boundaries, or vice versa, this is a recipe for disaster. Not only should you respect your ex’s boundaries, but you should also set clear ones yourself.

For example, you may want to set boundaries around limiting communication when they can see your family members. If you share children, setting boundaries around pick-up and drop-off times is very important.

Divorced parents have an especially difficult job of communicating and keeping family dynamics amicable while still maintaining clear boundaries.

3. No Badmouthing

For your and your family’s well-being, you should always avoid speaking negatively about your ex-spouse, no matter how bad the separation was. There is a lot of emotional wear and tear when going through a divorce or after a divorce, and negative talk will only intensify it.

Avoiding it is especially important if you have kids at home because the negativity can greatly affect them. There are some ways to avoid speaking negatively about an ex-spouse, including:

  • Reframing negative thoughts into positive ones (this one takes some practice)
  • Seeking professional help in working through your emotions
  • Releasing any anger or aggression in other ways, such as sports, writing, or even screaming (I suggest you do this in private)

4. Be Considerate At Shared Events

There are many occasions in which you may encounter your ex-partner in public, such as family events, a child’s graduation, a funeral service for a mutual friend, etc. During such events, it is important to be considerate and follow proper etiquette no matter the occasion.

If you and your ex-spouse are not on good terms, avoiding them may be the best thing to do in this situation. However, you should always avoid confrontations if you cannot avoid them. Remember that you are not there to argue but to support your children, family, extended family, or whomever it may be.

If you are attending a funeral, you should follow proper funeral etiquette for ex-spouses. If it is an event for a shared child, do all you can to support the child and enjoy the day. If you happen to bump into your ex-spouse, be courteous and keep the interaction short. Especially if they are with their new wife or husband.

5. Effective Co-Parenting

Co-parenting can be a difficult thing to navigate. However, it is imperative to the well-being of your children that you do it effectively and coherently. Working together rather than against one another is crucial in these situations.

If, after a remarriage, there is a step-parent involved, it is important to communicate with them that the biological parents will be making the rules, and they should respect that. Of course, this is only true if the step-parent is not the primary caregiver.

Co-parenting effectively involves:

  • Clear communication
  • Mutual respect
  • Upholding of the other parent’s rules (in other words, don’t go behind the other parent’s back and allow your child to do something that you’ve both agreed upon not doing)
  • Being flexible when it comes to schedules and other things
  • Being willing to help

6. Keep The Kids Out Of It

Even if you do not get along with your ex, you should never involve your children in your conflicts. In fact, there is quite a lot of potential harm that could come from involving them, including mental health and behavioral issues, social and academic issues, and it can potentially have long-lasting effects as well.

Ways to avoid involving your children include:

  • Not using them as messengers between you and your ex
  • Not talking about your conflicts with your children
  • Keeping the divorce dealings and issues between you, your ex-spouse, and your divorce lawyer
  • Never trying to get your children to take your side

7. Respect New Relationships

man unhappy about ex's new relationship
Man unhappy about ex’s new relationship

After your first marriage (or second, or however many you’ve had), it is normal to get into a new relationship after a certain amount of time. The same goes for your ex-spouse. When this happens, respecting each other’s new relationships is important.

If an ex gets a new partner, give them space, respect their boundaries, and never even think about bad-mouthing the new partner.

Also, if you and your husband or wife from your previous marriage share kids, it is usually a good idea to meet their new partner if they will be spending time with your children.

On another note, if, in your current marriage, your spouse’s ex is still in touch with them for reasons other than shared children, and it makes you uncomfortable, you should be open and honest with your spouse and tell them how you feel.

If you want to or need to get in touch with an ex for any reason, you should respect your current partner and be upfront with them about it. It is never a good idea to hide anything from them.

8. Put Yourself First

After separation, it is paramount to take care of yourself. Though it is hard and, for some, can be a depressing time, it shouldn’t be a time when you lose yourself.

Some ways to practice self-care:

  • Seek support – either from friends or a professional
  • Take up a new hobby or pick up an old one
  • Spend quality time with those you love
  • Take some alone time to do something you enjoy (read a book, watch a movie, etc.)
  • Move your body (go on a walk/run, go to the gym, practice a sport, do yoga, etc.)

9. Dividing Assets Fairly

When going through a divorce, the time will come when you must divide your assets. This should be done with a divorce lawyer present, and it should be done in the fairest way possible. Though you’ve shared almost everything for some time now, you will need to decipher what you will take and what your ex-spouse will take.

Always seek legal advice when doing this. Be open to compromise, as there may be a few things that neither of you wants to give up. However, compromise is the best way to resolve this quickly and without conflict.

Also, if there is something that you think you are entitled to, make sure to state why you think that and let them know what it means to you. Hopefully, they will be open to compromise as well.

10. Keep Your Word

You may have certain commitments, such as financial arrangements during or after your marriage. Though you are no longer married to your ex, your financial commitments do not just disappear, so be sure to keep an open line of communication with them about these.

Another commitment that may come up during the divorce is custody arrangements. These are very important for the well-being of your kids and should always be upheld, barring extreme circumstances or pre-arranged changes. Your kids will need the stability and normalcy of these routines, so you shouldn’t take that away from them.

11. Keep It Private

When going through a divorce, keep it to yourself and away from the public’s eyes. Avoid any conflicts on social media, as this will not only hurt your reputation but can also hurt immediate family members and children.

If it is necessary, you may want to block your ex to avoid any conflicts on any social media platform. Or, simply unfollow them and avoid checking up on them.

12. Move On

While not every breakup is black and white, my best advice for you is to do what you can to move on. Yes, it is difficult and sad for all parties involved, but you shouldn’t dwell on the past. You will only make yourself miserable.

Try to focus on yourself. Take a trip or start a new hobby. Perhaps you might even consider dating again when you are ready. Focus on your personal growth and do not dwell on what has already happened. Look ahead to what is to come.

Margaret Dunn

Margaret is a passionate writer based in Costa Rica, though she was raised in the southeastern US. Being from the South, good manners and proper etiquette were ingrained in her from a young age and she has always been fascinated with etiquette in different settings and places. When she is not writing, you can find her exercising, reading, or spending time with her family at the beach.

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