How Do I Talk To My Spouse?by Wagner & Bloch
One of the most crucial and yet most difficult aspects of divorce is communicating with a former spouse. Your relationship has drastically changed, but it’s not necessarily over, particularly if children are involved. At Wagner & Bloch, we recognize the importance of helping our clients build the skills necessary to successfully communicate with their former spouse. Having a formula and plan for how to engage with your former spouse can be very helpful in ensuring that you are able to communicate effectively and efficiently throughout the divorce process and beyond.
I went to a seminar a few years ago where Bill Eddy was a featured speaker. He talked about a formula he calls “B.I.F.F.” It stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. You can learn more about it here: http://www.billeddy.com/articles/hostile_email.htm. By keeping your communication with your former spouse BIFF, you can convey your message clearly and succinctly and avoid falling into emotional traps.
In addition to using BIFF, there are also computer programs that specifically help with the communication between high-conflict, divorced or separated parents. One such example is Our Family Wizard. Our Family Wizard has communication filters, calendars, and financial reconciliation options, which can be helpful in facilitating communication between the parties and help to keep things civil. You can learn more about it here: www.ourfamilywizard.com. There are also free apps such as APPClose.
Utilizing BIFF communication and the tools available to you is also encouraged because you or your spouse may need to use your e-mail or text message communication in court. For instance, imagine you are in court on a motion for contempt because your spouse failed to reimburse you for half of your child’s medical costs. If you have an e-mail from your spouse saying, “I am not paying you because you did not tell me about the appointment,” you would want to use that e-mail as evidence. However, if your response to your spouse was, “I do not have to tell you anything you rotten, no-good, deadbeat. I hate you,” then you may want to think twice about using it. In this way, using BIFF communication can save you from headache and later regret for things said in the heat of the moment.
The most important reason to encourage BIFF communication, however, is because it makes your life and your children’s lives easier. You know the saying, “Fake it until you make it?” Well, simple, routinized communication can work in that way. It is not surprising when divorcing/divorced people do not communicate well. But that does not mean it can’t improve. The BIFF formula helps people self-regulate their communication and remember what is important in the message they are trying to convey. By consistently using BIFF communication and making a habit out of it, you can ensure that you are making this familial transition as easy as possible for both you and your children.