We arrived at the airport, excited knowing that soon we would feel the warm breeze and hot sun on our skin. We got on the shuttle, loaded with people from various countries, for an adult-only week of Zen vacation. The atmosphere of enthusiastic people in good moods added to my own excitement; we couldn’t wait to arrive and start our vacation. But then I overheard a group in the back. Their voices escalated as they discussed their exes. “my ex” this and “my ex” that. They were exchanging stories about co-parenting; how hard it is to make things work with an uncooperative ex-spouse. How their day-to-day reality of raising their children after divorce is so aggravating. They were dripping with every kind of emotion.
I turned around to see these people and noticed some of them had flushed faces, rapid breathing and tense bodies. Here we all were, relaxed and happy and there was this group agitated with lingering anger, resentment, fear and feelings of hurt. Their tones of voice were vulgar and it was obvious to me they lost sight of everything that matters.
I overheard about their struggle of the expended lawyer’s fees, of the back and forth from court hearings for years and that there was still no final decision from the court. The kids were living through all of this with them. I had so much empathy for the adults who were expressing their pain, but let me tell you, my heart ached for the kids. The more they said “my ex”, the more emotionally connected they were to their exes. This was no way to start a Zen-vacation or even to co-parent harmoniously.
Without hesitation, I felt the urge and acted upon my intuitive feeling to reach out to these people and shared my own successful co-parenting stories in order to provide some comfort that better days are ahead of them.
It made me realize the term “my ex” has a connotation of relating to or belonging to me. The way I see it, normally, “my” has a sense of belonging to me. Using the term “my ex” when no longer married or connected to each other as spouse-partners carries negative emotions and can create conflict in the new relationship.
Remove “my ex” from the vocabulary and it will help angry and resentful parents to emotionally disconnect. This will surely ease their pain even on vacation. At that point, you can think, act and respond to the co-parent to create harmony.
I heard many others still use the term “my ex-wife and/or my ex-husband”. What I know now for sure is, I no longer use the term my ex or even my ex-husband, since it brings me back in time to my old life that we had together and all the negative emotions connected with it. Furthermore, the past is the past and you can’t change it and must not be carried into the present. Yes, at times it does create frustrations, but accepting and moving forward eases the way. Concentrating on moving onward is essential because it will reflect the quality of your co-parenting today as well in the new blended family.
Of course you still feel emotionally connected for newly divorced parents who still have a lot to settle and are still “in it” so the past is still part of the present. In order to move away from all that you need to disconnect, difficult as it is. Anger and conflict harm. High levels of ongoing stress is damaging to the mind, body and the children. Stress makes it challenging to focus and to be receptive. Your blood pressure increases, you become very tense and it changes you. It also deprives you of sleep which keeps the cycle of stress going.
Could a simple switch in language change help divorced couples through this? I believe it does.
What if, instead of “my ex”, you use the first name of the child’s mom or dad and/or you can say your child’s name in conjunction with the relationship mom or dad that will help you focus on the parent-parent relationship. This creates an emotional detachment. It will relax the conversations you have with the co-parent (as opposed to the ex-spouse) your child will feel less stress and language remains familiar to your child. After all, the child parent’s name has not changed. The parent’s relationship has only changed. It has a positive feel to it and it shifts the focus from the past to the present time. This will help break old habits and release the connection you have to anger and resentment creating space to develop harmony among co-parents and the new blended family.
When referring personally to “my ex”, I use his first name. It gives me a sense of emotional detachment as the previous relationship is part of my past. As for my present co-parenting life, I refer to my stepson’s mom, by her first name or by saying the child’s mom.
4 powerful reasons to drop the term “my ex” for healthier co-parenting
- No more toxic energy wasted on rehashing the past that prevents you from enjoying your present life as co-parents
- No more spikes of blood pressure and pain, less stress, anger
- No more sleep deprivation so you are fully present and focused in your life as it is now
- Reinforces the parent-parent relationship only
A simple switch in language using the right term can help divorced couples to separate them for their old role as spouse-partners and emphasize on the parent-parent role only to create healthier co-parenting.