Getting along well with the one you love is not always easy. Getting along with the one you no longer love, can be even harder. Separating with respect is the key.

Relationships can be very difficult at times. No relationship, even a really good one, is easy all the time. There are many difference between good relationships that last, and those that don’t. Many couples who stay together are willing to weather some hard times. I often hear people talk about the really bad four years in the beginning, or the awful middle ten years when we had little kids, or the stressful years when one person was completing school. If a couple can get through the tough times, often they can move on to be in a better place together. But everyone is not able to do that. Sometimes people feel that their needs are just not being met in the relationship, they feel too angry and they need to leave. If that’s the case, particularly when there are children involved, I strongly advocate that they separate with respect, and work to get along with their ex.

What does that look like? Separating with respect can sound a bit strange, especially when people are hurt and angry. It is helpful to remember that even though you now feel really mad, you once loved that person, and shared your life with him or her. Remembering some of the better times can help temper the anger. Having gratitude for experiences in the past can also be helpful. And having gratitude for your children is always a plus.

Respect involves speaking nicely to the other person. It means no inflamatory words, no name calling, no bullying. For example, It means editing emails. I always suggest that emails are comprised of only content, without any editorial comments. One person told me she was upset that her ex was so mad at her because of an email she sent. When she read the email, it was clear. “Pick the kids up at 6 pm sharp on Sunday. I mean 6, as you never come on time, and if you keep coming late, I’m going to do something about it.” When we discussed it, she could see that she was making a threat, and that using the words “never comes on time” is an exaggeration, as he only “sometimes” comes late, and that in general, the tone was just not nice. When asked if she could edit it, she said I could have simply said, “Can you please pick the kids up at 6 on Sunday?” When I asked how she thought that email would be received, she said, probably without an issue. So….. if you don’t want to have issues, you need to do your part. It takes two to tango!

Another important principal is to not share all your feelings all of the time. While this may seem like a strange thing for a therapist to say, it is an important concept. There is a time and place to share feelings. And when a couple is in a fragile condition, whether together or separate, some things are not necessary to share. Speciafically, if a couple is newly living separately, it in not necessary to tell that they were never very attracted to him/her or that the new date was really great in bed. Information that could be hurtful is just not necessary to share. A good guideline is to “change shoes”, or ask yourself, how would I feel if s/he said that to me? Treating your ex as you would like to be treated is treating him or her respectfully. If you behave in a respectful manner, you are more likely to be treated similarly.