“Say something nice about your Ex” I demanded. The result was not only a two minute short film, but as they wrestled with the subject matter this was a learning experience for me too.
How do you begin to change negative attitudes about divorce? Seems a bit ambitious – even crazy. And what's the point of even trying anyway? When I stuck my new Iphone in the faces of three of my friends and video'd them, I asked them a question they had never been asked before.
“Say something nice about your Ex” I demanded. The result was not only a two minute short film, but as they wrestled with the subject matter this was a learning experience for me too. Although I included myself in the film – and after six years of being separated from my kid's father found it no problem to find good things to say about him – it was having to prompt my friends to follow suit that reminded me of why I, and ultimately they, succeeded in this endeavor.
You see, there's a trick to it. You have to forget about yourself for a minute. Forget about the pain you suffered or even what disruptions, annoyances or downright fury your Ex may still be able to elicit from you – and instead, to just see them as a person unconnected to yourself. As an individual, another human being like anyone else. It's a bit like putting on a different pair of shoes - standing in them and seeing everything from a completely different perspective because you are feeling 'different' to your normal self. (Ok, perhaps it's a girl thing, but you get the idea).
And then, suddenly, it becomes quite easy to think of at least one good thing to say about your Ex. Maybe even two.
But what's the point of it? I guess that's up to the viewer to judge. One woman I spoke to recently, who is currently going through a divorce and not on 'speaking terms' with her Ex, viewed the film and said she had been avoiding saying anything about her kids' father when the children were around. She reflected that perhaps she should try to find some good things to say about him in front of the children – rather than keep him a subject of no discussion – and she felt sad that she had not thought of doing that before.
Coming from someone who is currently enduring some very unhelpful behaviour from her Ex, this was emotional generosity at its best. Not just because she was 'putting the children first', but because she had the courage to let go of her own unhappiness for a moment and try on a different pair of shoes.
I believe that if only more couples used counselling and mediation processes more effectively (no offence to Relate, but I'm talking communication skills here, not getting people back together), by learning how to step into another pair of shoes, another viewpoint, and to let go of their own anger, fear, or just plain exhaustion for long enough to see something positive, something real, in a person who was not always as difficult to deal with as they may be at this time – then suddenly a less aggressive and painful divorce would be more likely.
It can be painful to remember the good things about someone when you are still struggling to say good bye to that person. Even years on, being asked to 'say something nice about your Ex' can bring up all kinds of emotions that you thought were dead and buried.
The most humbling moment for me in making the film was the final comment made by my friend Andy at the end: “... what makes her the best Ex in the world are the same things that made her the best partner in the world at the time”.
Now, as an 'Ex' myself, I can see that is something to aspire to.
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