10 Secrets To a Friendly Divorce

By Dr. Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Ph.D.


Fifty-two year old Rona arrived distraught and tearful to a recent therapy group I run. Her 31-year-old son Joey was getting married. Although he and his father were distant since the divorce decades earlier, and his father had lived across the country for years, Joey had decided he wanted to include his father in the wedding. Rona had been looking forward to this big day, but now she was filled with dread, anticipating feeling awkward, sad and alone.

Rona had been a devoted single parent. Now, she was conflicted. On the one hand, she knew her son’s desire to reunite with his father came from a deep longing. She wanted to honor his request. On the other hand, she hadn’t seen or spoken to her ex since Joey’s college graduation. Warren had left when Joey was young and only rarely and irregularly sent financial support. And now, he was remarried and Rona was not.


One group member encouraged her to reach out to Warren. “Invite him for coffee. Tell him you’d like to talk about the wedding.”


Another suggested she email him. A third advised Rona to tell Joey that if Warren came, she’d feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, she rejected that last suggestion, knowing putting her son in the middle would be damaging not only to him, but to her relationship with him.


Turning to me, Rona asked, “Is it really possible to have a friendly divorce – after all these years?”


Rona’s concern is one many boomers share: Is it too late to have a better divorce?


Here are 10 strategies that can help you improve relations with your ex no matter how long you’ve been separated. Not all these tactics applied to Rona or will apply to you, so take what you can and leave the rest on the list.


Dr. Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Ph.D.



1. Think about all the research.

Children do best when parents get along. Your 30 year old is still your child. It doesn’t matter how old your children are. Even children in their 40s and beyond want to feel the love and support of their parents.


2. Write a note to yourself.

Make a post-it: “Children do better when parents get along.” Place the post-it on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator and the dashboard of your car.


3. Create a relationship vision.

Think about the kind of relationship you want to create with your ex now. The key word is NOW. You may have gotten divorced years ago and your relationship may be ready for a revision. Our relationships are always changing, and yours may need to be altered, tweaked or adjusted. Be concrete. Use your imagination as your ally.


4. Honor the power of the pause.

Before talking to your children about your ex, before talking to your ex, before talking about your divorce to anyone, take three deep breathes and pause. Stay away from bad mouthing your ex. Stay away from getting trapped in your own negativity.


5. Practice letting go. 

The past is over. Let it go. When you find yourself reviewing what went wrong in your marriage, or your divorce… picture a red light. You are in charge of your thoughts. And it’s never too late to start over.


6. Take baby steps.

Change happens one small step at a time. Imagine inviting your ex out to coffee to talk about creating a better relationship. Imagine emailing your ex.


7. Reach out.

Approach your ex in whatever way is easiest for you. Send an email inviting your ex to talk about your relationship. Include her in your Thanksgiving plans. Offer to bring him groceries if he is ill. It’s never too late to create new rituals.


8. Practice forgiveness.

If you and your ex have a difficult relationship, be honest. What was your part in the problem? None of us are perfect. Your relationship with your ex was created by both of you. Forgive especially yourself when you do the wrong thing.


9. Take the high road.

Be willing to make the first move. It will pay off because you will know you have done what’s needed.


10. And above all, remember, it’s never too late to create a better divorce


About the Author

Dr. Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who runs groups and workshops to help people develop a deeper connection to themselves and to others. She’s the author of Befriending Your Ex After Divorce: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids and Yes, Your Ex (2013) and A Starving Madness: Tales of Hunger, Hope and Healing in Psychotherapy (2002). Contact her at Judithruskayrabinorphd.com.

Posted by Judy Rabinor

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