Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

5.1 - Relationship Changes

5.1 - Relationship Changes

Welcome to the final topic area, which describes the New Parental Relationship.

It’s important to examine how you interact and communicate with your former partner after your separation and divorce. If you and your former partner can parent in a cooperative way your children’s response to your separation will be much more positive.

Let’s start by talking about what happens when the relationship changes.

  • Often separating parents struggle with trying to find new ways to interact with each other.
  • You may try to avoid dealing with your anger by either not speaking or with angry comments or criticisms when you do speak.
  • Many people struggle during the early stages of separation with resentment, blame, and a wish to punish their former spouse.
  • Divorcing parents—and even individuals who have been divorced for many years—can be bound together in what is considered a negative, hostile relationship, often called “negative intimacy.”
  • Negative exchanges are a downward spiral of anger and hurt that makes more anger and hurt. The intensity can become addictive, making people “hostility junkies”. It becomes part of their identity.
  • When parents get stuck in negative interactions, they have not divorced emotionally.
  • The negative relationship continues to occupy them and drain their energy. 

In addition to harming the child, it also damages new relationships, burdens family and friends, stunts growth and development, and stresses the body and mind.

During the separation process, communication between parents may be destructive. For example, parents may play games that put children in the middle of their disputes. Most parents do not mean to do this, but the children can be hurt by these games.

Parents often have unresolved feelings of anger and hurt about the ending relationship and these can lead to parenting games. It is important to deal with your emotions and to make changes to a new, business-like way of communicating with the other parent.