Attempting to develop a close relationship with your ex-spouse is not something that's often recommended. However, if you and the ex have to co-parent a kid together, it pays to find your way to a chummy place that takes communicating and run-ins from something to dread to a normal part of life.
To get to that level of "closeness", you have to learn how to keep your distance. Boundaries are necessary to protect fragile feelings and create a consistency that both you and your ex can count on. While instilling boundaries is common sense, it's not always easy to uphold when you've known your ex for years, possibly even decades. But for the sake of your ex (who may still have feelings for you) and your ex's new spouse (who may be unsure of you), you have to be conscientious of how you interact with your ex.
Want a better co-parenting relationship with your ex? Steer clear of these 5 post-divorce snafus.
1. Give "The Look"
Most people have a look--that I-can-see-into-your-soul stare. It's familiar. It's intense. And also obvious. In addition to holding back "the look", take care to control all the items located on your face. Don't bat the eyelashes, don't pout the lips, don't lower the chin and look out knowingly over your glasses. Make eye contact with your ex, but let it be the same you'd give the old checkout lady at the grocery store. You wouldn't flash her a come-hither glance, would you?
2. Be Touchy-Feely
I admit it. I'm a hugger. We have one drink together--I'll give you a hug. We fall into a brief conversation at an event--you're getting a hug. I hug everybody. But I don't hug my ex. Why not? Why would I? Hugging can be harmful. Whether you were left or did the leaving, if you give a hug, it can either make your ex uncomfortable or provide a surge of electricity. Either way, it's going to harm the relationship you're trying to repair.
Besides, your ex's new spouse won't be too happy to see you hugging your ex, or touching your ex in any familiar way. Maybe in a dozen years from now, when your kid is getting married and it's become difficult to remember ever being together, you and your ex can share a hug and congratulate each other on bringing up a great kid. Until then, restrain.
3. Grant Your Ex Too Much Attention
You're at a wedding for a mutual friend--a friend who decided to put you, your new love, your ex, and your ex's new love at the same table. (Obviously not that good a friend.) You and your ex, having shared a friendship with this person for many years, obviously could swap stories all night long. A funny tale or two told by one of you, that does not include bringing up you and your ex as a couple in order to tell the story, is acceptable. But as soon as you're done, turn to the person who accompanied you to the wedding, and give that person your attention for the rest of the evening.
Treat your ex as you would a likable acquaintance. You share a pleasant exchange, you maintain good feelings with each other and that's pretty much it.
4. Stay Too Chummy With Your Ex's Family
Just because you and your ex-in-laws still like each other doesn't mean you should act as if the divorce never happened. Not only can a close relationship with your ex-in-laws be uncomfortable for you ex, it can be even worse for your ex's new spouse. You have a history with these people, something the new spouse is still trying to establish. Appearing to be a threat, even if you really aren't one, is enough to break down much of the work you've done to forge a good co-parenting relationship with your ex.
5. Use Your Ex's Friends
If you maintain a relationship with a mutual friend, make sure your only motivation for staying friends is because you like that person. Friendships are such an easy way to keep tabs on your ex. It only takes a couple of beers with a mutual friend to make a teeny-tiny comment about your ex seem like a natural transition of topics.
That very friend could be reporting your conversation back to your ex, or to another friend, who passes it on to your ex. Loose lips not only sink ships, they can seriously screw up your mission to build a solid relationship with your ex. If you need to talk about your ex, do it with someone who isn't in the same circle of friends as your ex. If you're maintaining friendships with people for the sake of keeping your finger on the pulse of your ex's new life, or in hopes of keeping your ex abreast of yours, divorce them too--and quick.
Note: the numbered list is adapted from Karen Buscemi's book, I Do, Part 2.