Hi, I'm Nicole Myers, Licensed Professional Counselor. If you would like to know more about me or my colleagues, please check out our introductions available in video, audio or text.
The question this time around is: What methods would help me control the conversation if my ex, or their family, are determined to discuss things outside of our children that I do not want to discuss with them?
This can be very difficult for anyone whose marriage has failed, going through the recovery of divorce, being reminded of your ex-partner and their family. Having them interrupt your day with wanting to talk about things that you did not wish to discuss or even possibly think about can be very disruptive. So, it's a very reasonable question to consider: What can I do about this? Well, very likely you're not going to be living off by yourself in a forest somewhere. So, you're going to run into some people who knew you as a couple and particularly friends and family who may ask questions that you don't wish to talk about.
This is probably most important, of course, when it comes to your ex-partner as you would like to end any contact with this person at all in many cases. So, simply talking about the children is painful enough. Therefore, consider what the focus of your conversation and your interaction with this person is. If it's your ex-partner, you probably do need to discuss things like sharing the times with the children, what do the children need for their next trip or their next school day, potentially when is their next vacation with which parent and what do they need for that. There are some things you will need to discuss with your ex-partner.
But if you're going to have these discussions, perhaps writing out a couple of sentences about what the discussion is about and returning to that can be very helpful. You can also try the "broken record" technique when talking with people who want to bother you about your marriage and/or divorce, particularly if it's his/her family. That would be saying the same thing over and over to them in a polite tone as you can manage saying; I'm only willing to talk about my children. I'm only willing to talk about my children. Or I'm willing to say Hi, it's good to see you but I'm not talking about that. So, that is one thing you can do is simply limit what you say back to them.
Please keep in mind you're not going to be able to control what other people say and do, only your responses to them and you may simply try to keep things on a very more professional level with these people. Meaning, focusing on just your children. If they continue to ask about your life and your divorce, you may simply want to say: Hey, I have to go now, it's time to leave. Finally, one of the things I would suggest for talking with people who pry into how you're doing, is turn the conversation back on them and simply ask them about them and then suggest that you need to get going. A polite refusal to talk about things will either be respected or it ends because you walk away.
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