Ex, Former . . . Word Choice Matters

I have had many conversations with various people about what to call the other parent of your child(ren). One friend of mine, Monica McGuire (of Family Culture Coach), has spoken of the term “wusband” and “past wife experience”!

The term “ex” seems rather harsh (I realize that’s the name of my business, but you gotta admit, it gets your attention!) as if you are “x”ing him/her out of your life Yes, you may want to, yet you can’t. And really, xing your former spouse or partner out of your life is (in the vast majority of families) not best for your kids.

Calling your former spouse/partner “ex” sends a strong message to your children that connotes negativity, anger and resentment. Try this out. Say the term my ex-husband or ex-wife or ex-partner. Look in the mirror when you do it. What is your facial expression? Is it Open? Receptive? Neutral? Or is it filled with bitterness, hurt, or anger?

Now try saying “my former [husband, wife, partner]”. What is your facial expression now? Is it neutral? Less burdened?

Whatever the facial expression is, that is what is conveyed to your child(ren) and what your heart holds. One of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes is “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Even small adjustments in your vocabulary can create positive changes in your experience and your children’s experience and can lead to a healthier co-parenting environment.

I will use the term former (without attaching a noun to that term, e.g., wife, husband or partner) because I think it is more respectful and more fully captures the tone and energy I want to convey in my work.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts. What do you call your former?

With Curiosity ~





Cat Zavis is an Attorney, Mediator and Coach for Divorced and Divorcing Parents. As a divorced mother of 2, she deeply understands the challenges, trauma and opportunities divorce provides. She has been practicing Nonviolent Communication, Mediation and Collaborative Law for 7 years. She has conducted workshops and trainings in Nonviolent Communication for hundreds of parents, lawyers, teachers, students, spiritual centers and professionals. In 2009, she was awarded a Peace Builder Award for her business. She has taught at universities in Western Washington on diverse topics such as Women and the Law, Constitutional Law, and Communication. Her combination of personal experience and professional expertise give Cat a unique perspective and ability to help clients learn to communicate effectively and powerfully to transform their relationships and interactions with their former partner or spouse so they and their children can thrive.










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