When a couple decides to get divorced, they’re immediately expected to abide by a set of guidelines called Standing Orders. In Bexar County, these guidelines, like in many other jurisdictions, address the manner in which the parties speak to each other and interact with each other.
That’s important, because words can be especially powerful when people are in the incredibly emotional process of a divorce. Standing Orders make sure that words aren’t used to be threatening or hurtful, and that’s of paramount importance in navigating a divorce.
But what about afterward? Once a couple is divorced, and the Standing Orders no longer apply, does a couple have to continue to mind their words?
If a couple who has divorced have children together, and therefore must continue to interact, they most definitely do. This need to have civil discourse also applies in cases where two people who never married, but had a child together, have to negotiate co-parenting.
There are a few reasons it’s important for parents to mind their words after they’re no longer together.
The first and most important one is the well-being of the children. Children can perceive tension, and though some might be too young to catch the exact meaning of everything you’re saying, they can certainly sense when words are being used as weapons. Divorce decrees are, by design, intended to provide as much stability for children as possible-but if parents aren’t maintaining the decorum needed to keep that stability, it pulls the rug out from under their children.
Another reason that watching one’s words is important is that, for divorced parents, negotiations don’t stop with the divorce decree. People’s lives change after divorce-people get new jobs, move to new neighborhoods, and maybe even find new partners. Not every change requires a modification to the divorce decree, of course. But parents must account for the changes, and they must work together to keep stability for their children even with the changes. If parents aren’t keeping their words civil, that only complicates the negotiations that need to take place.
Finally, if you’re resorting to angry or hurtful words in communication with your ex-spouse, it likely indicates unresolved feelings about the divorce. It’s perfectly normal to experience hurt and loss even after a divorce is final. It’s also certainly normal to encounter frustrations with an ex, given that those frustrations might come from the same differences of opinion that contributed to the end of your marriage. But if you hang on to the anger and hurt from a divorce, it will make it more difficult for you to get past the divorce and into a healthy and fulfilling post-divorce life.
For those people, we offer the same advice we give to our clients in the throes of emotional divorces or breakups-find a counselor you can trust and can relate to, and work things out there. Doing so can not only help you recover from a challenging breakup-certainly not an easy or simple thing to do-but can help you get to a better place in dealing with your ex, and therefore providing a more stable foundation for your children.