They say that breaking up is hard to do -- and for good reason. The emotional pain of a split can last for years, and if you have mutual friends, children or live in the same area, those lasting wounds can be opened time and time again. While the thought of them may make your skin crawl, being civil and even nice to your ex can be beneficial for many reasons.
It's not going to be easy or fun and it won't happen overnight, but you can rebuild an amicable, or at least tolerable, relationship with your ex if you both work at it. So how do you stop from wanting to kill each other to singing "Kumbaya"? We break down the best ways to get on better terms with your ex.
Try not to take everything your ex says or does personally - Whether it's smearing you at the local coffee shop, "losing" your favorite sweater that was left behind or showing up at a party with that girl you hate - take it with a grain of salt. Adapting the "sticks and stones may break my bones" mentality can be tricky if things are still fresh and ended on a sour note. Just keep that chin up and your mouth shut until he realizes he's not getting anywhere.
Set Ground Rules (especially if kids are involved) - Living in the same city, having the same friends or sharing parenting duties can make even a mutual breakup feel more awkward than that time you went to prom with your cousin. Combat difficult situations with a rule book. When calling to arrange pickups or dropoffs for your kids, agree to keep all conversation kid-centered. Unwilling to give up taco Tuesdays at the local Mexican joint? You each may agree to go every other time. Establishing guidelines up front prevents a sticky situation down the road.
Kill Him with Kindness - Treating your ex like a friend (channel your inner Ross and Rachel) could get him to change a bad attitude or ease up on a certain situation like letting you take the kids an extra day or finally splitting up that DVD collection you accumulated together. The key here is to fake it until you make it.
Pick Your Battles - Make sure the things you show anger about really matter. Things like who gets to keep the camping equipment you never used or which McDonald's to meet at to drop the kids off don't count. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best course of action in an argument with a particularly stubborn ex. Starting fights over petty issues will get you nowhere.
Be Honest - Now you don't have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but if you begin dating a new person seriously, are moving out of town, or make other big life decisions that you would tell friends about, your ex should also be clued in. Even if your previous relationship wasn't so truthful, resolve to start now.
Say "I'm Sorry" - These two little words can hold a lot of power and make more of an impact than holding your breath until you turn blue or slashing someone's tires. Don't believe that by saying "I'm sorry" you are admitting fault for the demise of a relationship. You are simply extending the olive branch and showing that you're ready to move on.
Don't Play the Martyr - Trying to force an amicable relationship with a jerk, ahem, person who continues to be hurtful or harmful is not worth it. Evaluate the situation, and if you feel that you have tried your best to be the bigger person to no avail, move on.
Consider Outside Help - If you've tried it all and your relationship still plays like a WWE match, you may want to consider the professional services of a family counselor or mediator. This can be especially important if children are involved. Having an unbiased third party to help you work out your disagreements and improve your relationship moving forward can be much more effective than a cage match to the death.
If You Don't Have Something Nice to Say... - Whether it was infidelity, a lack of commitment or you found out that he prefers women's lingerie - keep it to yourself. While it can be tempting to bad mouth your ex all over town, resist the urge. Biting your tongue eliminates future fights and altercations, and you also come out looking like the bigger person and can focus your energy on something more positive.
Stay Calm - When taking on touchy subjects, it's important to keep your cool. Even if you're seeing red, exploding with rage or anger and raising your voice will make the situation seem out of your control. Remember that you are trying to start over - not continue the same old cycle.
Bring a Buddy - The "buddy system" has long been a safety strategy for dangerous situations. If you know you are going to see your ex, having someone with you for moral support can help the interaction go more smoothly. A trusted friend or family member can help you remain calm and be your sounding board if the situation doesn't go as planned. However, don't let this turn into an opportunity to tag-team bash your ex.
Your relationship ended for a reason, and it could be difficult to look past whatever it was and get back on better terms. Not only might you feel better if you decide to take the high road, studies show that forgiveness can lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and lower your risk of alcohol and substance abuse. So maybe playing nice with your ex can get you extra points after all. Following these guidelines can get you on the road to forgiveness.