“Divorce is going through a battle with someone you love. You don’t want to hurt them but you want to get what’s best for you.”

“Trying to share custody of the children feels like I’m leading a double life. One day I’m a full-time parent, the next day I’m alone. How do I balance the change and new responsibility?”

“I really enjoy the relationship I have with my in-laws. I hope this doesn’t ruin things.”

HRI promotes happy, healthy, and safe relationships of all kinds and provides resources to help marriages in distress, including our Toolkit for Couples.  However, if divorce is inevitable, here is a tool kit to support those undergoing such a transition. There are many situations that may have led you to this point, and now that the decision is made, it can be difficult learning how to move forward. With or without children, divorce can be a stressful time filled with many changes and emotions. Healthy Relationships Initiative is here to help ex-partners in our community continue to maintain or build happy, healthy, and safe relationships. The goal of the initiative is to help ex-partners understand how to end the relationship with respect and dignity for one another. So, whether you and your partner have a amicable relationship, a relationship that seems a bit shaky, or just recently separated and exploring right now, we hope this toolkit will help you to reflect on yourself and on your relationship, connect with your partner through deeper conversations and activities, and build up the tools you will need to have a successful relationship, now and/or in the future.

Reflect: Reflection Activities

Self-awareness is often overlooked as an important key to happy, healthy, and safe relationships. However, building effective relationship skills isn’t just about learning how to interact with other people. It’s also important learning to manage your own emotions, reactions, and behaviors. In fact, you are the only person whose emotions, reactions, and behaviors you can control in a relationship. So, it’s important to learn as much as you can about yourself so you can do your own personal best to enhance your relationship. The Reflection Activities in this section of the Healthy Relationships Initiative Toolkit for Divorcing with Dignity are designed to help you intentionally think through your views and attitudes that impact your relationship with your ex- partner.

Connect: Conversation Starters

When you’re looking to deepen your conversations with your ex-partner, it can be difficult to know where to start. For that reason, this Toolkit includes an extensive list of Conversation Starters to begin meaningful conversations with your ex-partner. There are many ways to use these Conversation Starters, such as by spending a long period of discussing many of them, or simply addressing one at a time at a pace that works for you. Before you begin using them, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Set aside time so that your conversation won’t feel rushed. If you only get through one Conversation Starter at a time, that is okay! Your goal is to learn how to reach common ground, not check off a list of questions as quickly as you can. Take your time, and be sure to minimize distractions during that time so you can focus on your ex- partner and carefully consider the aspects of moving forward.
  2. Try to have your conversations in places that are comfortable for both of you. Some people may feel more comfortable talking in a place where you and your ex-partner can be alone, whereas other people may feel more comfortable talking in a public place, such as a busy coffee shop or a local park. The more you both feel comfortable, wherever you are, the easier it will be to focus on the conversation and each other.
  3. Commit to really listening to your ex-partner. Once they’ve shared their thoughts on the Conversation Starter, try to reflect back to them, such as by saying, “What I just heard you say is ______.” If you didn’t catch everything the first time, ask them to say more for clarification.
  4. Be open to disagreements. Two people do not need to agree 100% about everything in order to have an amicable relationship. If your ex-partner says something that you don’t agree with, try to learn more about why they think the way they do and try to offer a solution that will best fit both of your needs.
  5. Use your Conversation Starters as an opportunity for self-reflection, as well as for learning about your ex-partner. Some of the conversations may address topics that you’ve never thought much about before, so don’t be surprised if your views on the subject change while you’re talking about them!
  6. If you find it difficult to engage in a positive dialogue with your ex-partner, and especially if this is a pattern over time, it may be a sign that you could benefit from counseling, including individual and/or mediation through a lawyer. To learn more about seeking counseling, please read Tip Sheet #10: Finding an Individual Counselor.
  7. Finally, enter into deeper conversations with your ex-partner with a commitment to kindness and respect. You both deserve to feel heard and understood. Having deeper conversations can feel strange at first. But, over time, if you engage in these conversations with kindness and respect, you’ll see how they can help to end your relationship with dignity and respect for one another!

Build: Tip Sheets

Every relationship is unique, just as every person is unique. So, what works while parting ways with one couple may not work for another, and one of the keys to a healthy, happy relationship is to try different things to figure out what works best for the two of you. In this section, we offer some basic tips to help you build a stronger relationship with your ex-partner and learn how to work though key challenges during divorce. These Tip Sheets focus on core relationship skills that apply to a broad range of relationship concerns. If you find that you need individualized help in applying these tips to your own situation, or if you are experiencing problems with your ex-partner that don’t seem to improve when you apply these tips, please read Tip Sheet #10: Finding an Individual Counselor or visit the Services section of our web-site.

Note: This Toolkit was developed by Maddy Morris & Javiette Grant.