The Semi-Detached Parent: Trying Very Hard Not To SHOUT At My Ex

The Semi-Detached Parent: Trying Very Hard Not To SHOUT At My Ex

Rex Features

So I have been reading that book and trying very hard to learn be a good separated parent.

The stumbling block really is communication. I've written about it lots before, but it is our major problem; despite wanting what's best for our child, we (me and the ex) just cannot have a conversation without it ending in shouting (mine) and flouncing (his).

However, my new bible (the Parenting Plans for Families After Divorce book) has a whole chapter devoted to communication and how important it is ('kids need parents who can work together' it tells me, a little snottily).

Obviously I know that. But I also know that whatever the problem might be, no matter how minor, it will be the discussing of it that will escalate it to crisis point proportions and turn something very simple ('Did W leave his grey shoes at your house?') into a dispute World War Three could break out over.

A recent example: a simple request to have my spare door keys returned by my ex culminated in a three day feud across every medium of communication possible - face to face, phone, email, text - all because neither one of us would back down over the life or death question of how many times I had previously asked for them back...

Yes, pathetic doesn't even cover it. I KNOW that. I am sure he does, too.

Given that the success of my job is solely dependent on communicating effectively - and, on occasion even tutoring others in doing the same - you'd think that really, I'd have it sussed. But no. Whilst I can do calm, controlled and collected professionally, the ability alludes me entirely in my private life. Well, actually only in one aspect of my private life (it was pointed out to me the other day by a friend that they have never heard me shout or lose it other than with my ex...).

Also, I can honestly say that the rows I have with my son's dad now are far worse than the ones we had whilst we were together. I've tried to look at the trigger points and work out WHY we argue (tends to boil down to the fact I feel I am taken for granted, and not supported as the co-parent; that I have to fit in with his plans whilst he can come and go as he pleases, yet the parenting buck stops entirely with me).

I cannot adequately express this to him, though, because the moment I open my mouth I am always consumed by rage, bitterness and hurt - not about the current subject in hand, but about everything that has gone on before that has brought us to this present place.

I know that my ex would say I was overly emotional, and probably that I caused rows when they did not need to happen. He walks away or hangs up as soon as we disagree about something, which a) makes my blood boil and b) solves nothing. It merely makes more anger and resentment build up inside me for when we next have to discuss something. This means Very Little ever gets sorted out/discussed in an adult manner.

So what am I doing to fix this? The book says to choose a method to communicate by that works for you - face to face (no!), email, phone.... It says to limit conversation to family related issues only. To be considerate in terms of duration, and to only leave one or two messages if you can't get hold of the other person (the ex and I are rather prone to text bombardment and mutual ignoring). And if none of that works? Then there's always mediation or counselling. Yikes.

It ends the chapter with the assertion 'by learning to communicate successfully you will reduce hassles and have more time to enjoy your children'.

Which I guess is one thing we would undoubtedly agree on wanting.

Do you struggle to communicate effectively with your ex?

Does it always end in tears or rows? Do you stick to only 'talking' via email or over the phone? Has it got better (please say yes!)?