Going through a breakup at any point in your life is difficult, but when it comes to a family separation, it is harder still. Alongside, disappointment and sadness, comes guilt and ultimately a loss of respect for one another.

When we join together in a partnership and commit to having children, we give a piece of ourselves to our partner. We trust them with the emotional and practical parts of our worlds. If the relationship then breaks down, we lose this trust and it is replaced with disappointment and often contempt.

Once you are here, respect is hard to find.

Yet, without a healthy amount of respect for one another, navigating separation and co-parenting is extremely challenging.

Why respect is so important when you are separating

Understanding and practicing respect is a lesson we teach our children from an early age. It is a value we hope they will carry forward into the rest of their lives. Showing respect to others, especially in times of conflict, is seen as a strength. It is also a display of empathy and understanding.

Your children will want to see their parents practicing what they teach and respecting one another, however difficult the playing field might be. By showing respect and resolving differences, you are role-playing how to overcome challenges, even as separated parents.

It is likely that you and your ex-partner have both changed as people and this may be part of the reason for your separation. If you can accept your ex-partner for who they have become, you are showing them respect and vice versa. From this safe place you will both feel more comfortable to express your feelings which is vital for success post separation.

Having a bond of mutual respect will give you a sense of trust and well-being. This is hugely helpful when separating and co-parenting in the years ahead.

Give and you will receive

When your relationship is at rock-bottom and you decided to separate, you are then faced with making some very important decisions about your own futures and the future for your children. Terrible timing!

These decisions can put even more pressure on the situation until the respect you once had for your ex-partner has completely drained away, with no possibility of it resurfacing.

If you find yourself in this situation and know that your ex-partner feels the same, someone is going to have to stop the cycle. And that person could be you!

However hard it might seem, try to change the way you communicate with your ex-partner and bring some respect to table. Then see if that changes the way your ex-partner treats you. It might take some time but showing respect and kindness can be a game-changer. Essentially, it takes two people for there to be conflict so if you stop playing the game, your ex-partner might find it harder to continue to behave in the same manner.

But how can you possibly show respect to someone you are in a bitter dispute with?

Here are our tips to give, and gain, respect during a separation.


Listen to one another

Listening is hands-down one of the easiest and most effective things you can do while separating.

Both parties will be desperate in their desire to find a positive way forward and to do the right thing by the kids. Yet, often you will both have different ideas of what this might be. The fairest way to resolve these issues is to meet halfway. And finding this halfway point will require working together.

Take time to understand your ex-partners needs and listen to why they are important to them. When you have done this, you will have a better understanding and be able to make informed decisions. Make sure you explain that you have listened and understood and now would like your thoughts to be listened to and taken onboard.

Show empathy

Empathy is like kindness on steroids and is a great way of showing interest and respect for another person.

Once you have listened to what your partner has to say, you can then show empathy … even if you are not in agreement. Do this by telling them that you accept how they feel even if you don’t concede to it and that you will take it into account with the decisions you make and the ideas you bring to the conversation.

Just knowing that you have taken the time to “walk in their shoes” will make your ex-partner feel that you care and they will be more likely to treat you in a similar, respectful manner.

Give a little

We mentioned earlier about “meeting halfway”. In most cases, this is the only way to find common ground with the parenting and financial aspects of separation. Finding this elusive common ground can only be done if both parties are prepared to give a little.

By giving a little, we mean agreeing to do something that isn’t ideal for you because it is important to your ex-partner. It is a huge show of respect because you have acknowledged how your ex-partner feels and why, and put his needs over your own.

The natural course of events would be for your ex-partner to recognise this and to show the same respectfulness over something that really matters to you.

Lighten the mood

Respect is unable to thrive in the darkness of defiant dispute. Even if you try all the tricks in the book, if your relationship is spiralling south too fast, respect won’t touch the sides.

In this case, you can try and bring the relationship back to a more amenable level by lightening the mood. Do this with actions as simple as sending your ex some cute photos of the kids when they are with you, sending a text on their birthday or simply smiling and using positive body language when you see one another.

If you choose to keep the relationship light-hearted and friendly, you might find your ex-partner follows suit and does the same. Respect is more able to flourish in this place of relative peace.

Find the right way to communicate

Ex-couples can fall apart when they are communicating face-to-face, and unfortunately, often in front of their kids. This is because emotion is just a millisecond away if the wrong tone-of-voice or action is used.

Alleviate this by changing the way you communicate, at least until some semblance of respect has been restored. This might mean texting, emailing, writing in a communication book or using a co-parenting app. All these methods allow you time to think about your messages and responses to ensure they read respectfully and will not trigger further conflict.

Be the better person

When someone is treating you disrespectfully the default reaction is to treat them the same way. But it doesn’t mean it is right.

Try to re-focus on who you really are and the values that you live your life by. Establish in your head what you are trying to achieve and the outcome you would like to see.

A good way to do this is to bring everything back to your children and remind your ex-partner to do the same. If you both concentrate on getting the best results for your kids, it will give you common ground to work towards.

Remember, you will always look back on this time in your life and think of how you behaved. Make sure you look back and know that you were the better person who conducted yourself in a respectful and courteous manner.

Posted by Belinda Eldridge
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