How to reset: negotiating your future relationship with the father of your children

When you have children, or other commitments (such as joint assets or family relationships) that tie you to your soon-to-be-ex-husband for the longer term, you need to establish a healthy, workable relationship whenever possible. Your future relationship with your children’s father won’t always be easy, in some cases, will never be; but careful planning means you and the children can move forward.

This is one of the most important aspects of planning your future. It affects your happiness, the happiness of your children, and can make all the difference with practical negotiations.

It is, of course, also one of the trickiest aspects of divorce. Wouldn’t it be great if soon-to-be-ex-husband’s did exactly what you wanted, didn’t rock the boat, just let you get on with the rest of your life? Unfortunately, even with the most positive and conflict-free relationships, it’s just not like that. Your ex has their own interests, wants and needs and it means you and they need to find a way through discussions in a calm, reasonable way.

When you feel like your soon-to-be-ex-husband isn’t listening, or simply isn’t interested in anything but their own needs, being reasonable is hard! But remember, your children will be watching and listening all the time.Your future relationship with your children’s father is a video tape waiting to be replayed. They will learn from you how to deal with conflict. 

So, how do you establish respectful communication, even when the heat is on and tempers are fraught?

Here are my top three tips:

Think long term

Getting into tit-for-tat games when pride is hurt and your soon-to-be-ex-husband is being childish is so easy you barely notice you are doing it. But remember the bigger picture. This is the rest of your life you’re talking about. You will no longer be married to your ex and don’t have to participate in their games. As the saying goes:

‘You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.’

So think about the future life you want. How you want to feel, the way you’d like people to describe you. And let that be your foundation for communication – not any of the pettiness that might be going on with your soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Set boundaries

We all need to role model to others how we want to be treated. When we treat others badly, or let ourselves be treated badly, those around us (including children) will think that’s OK. So we need to set boundaries around acceptable language and behaviour. We all know this isn’t easy. Think of it like training a puppy – it takes persistence and consistency. Responding to good behaviour and ignoring poor behaviour means that the puppy learns over time how to act.


When emotions run high it’s easy to flare up. This is why I suggest you always take a moment to pause before responding to communication, whether it’s written or spoken. Taking a pause means you can take back control, look at the bigger picture and decide on the wisest response for you and your children. You get to reset the tone if needed, as well as state your needs.

But what happens when it’s difficult to untangle yourself from your emotions or know what the best response is? When we have difficult relationships it’s easy to see things through dark lenses. Perhaps your ex read something into that email you thought was completely straightforward and innocent. And perhaps you twist their words when they are trying to be reasonable. We’re human. It happens. And while friends are great, this is not the time to share a bottle of wine and discuss all the ways your ex is a complete idiot. You want the heat turned down, not up! And you also want to be heard, to be treated respectfully and not to be taken advantage of.

When you need help

This is where Clarity Over Coffee can help. It’s a simple, flexible way for you to get confidential support, knowing that I’ll help you see blind spots, stand up for your rights and needs. I’ll (gently!) call out your own unhelpful behaviour if needed. It’s a way to keep on track, moving forward, focused on the future so you don’t get dragged into unnecessary drama or become a doormat.

Each week we’ll have a 30-minute call, focused on whatever you need. And in between times, you can message me via Voxer whenever you want, knowing you’ll get a quick reply.

Clarity Over Coffee means you have an ally at the touch of a button. A safe place to talk, a safe place to vent, and a place to plan for the future you want without it feeling overwhelming.

Ready to get started on planning your future? Book in a call with Emma today!

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The Divorce Alchemist

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit

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