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My spouse and I have been divorced for a while now. Most of the time we get along, though there are times where she does things that are irritating, things that led to our divorce. My question to you is whether it is appropriate to address these things with her, though we don’t relate on a regular basis, mostly just around the children as we are passing them off to each other.
1 – Do not talk to her – No, I would not recommend speaking into her life. That ship has sailed. If you were not able to speak into her life while married, or not able to speak in such a way that brought change while you were married, then doing it now is not optimal.
Redemptive communication happens when trust and humility are working together where both people are willing to give and receive. What you have described does not describe redemptive communication.
2 – Do talk to her – Yes, if you have a relationship with her, a redemptive relationship where she is expecting, accepting, and requesting your input. You are not “over her” as a leading husband. If you’re both believers, then you’re coequal only. Without relationship or spiritual authority, you speak into her life as a coequal Christian if she wants it.
3 – Sphere of influence – You treat her like any other relationship, which means you have to determine the kind of relationship you have with her. You said you guys have mostly a business relationship. That is not what you’re looking for if transformation is the goal.
All relationships fall within spheres of influence. The closer the sphere is to you, the more truth you can share with the person. Your closest sphere is between you and the Lord (Hebrews 4:12-13). Your next sphere is your children. You’ll have to determine what sphere your ex-wife fits into.
4 – Looking for your help – This is a key determiner with any relationship: is the person asking? This is what makes marriage counseling so challenging. Too often, only one spouse is asking while the other is not. You also have to factor in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 when thinking about helping people change.
5 – Out of a pure heart – Is your correction done with pure motives? A good way to assess that is by answering this question: Do you have affection for her? Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. You want to gauge your attitude toward her. If someone knows you, then ask them how they hear you talk about her. The way a person talks about others to their friends can be instructive.
6 – Affecting the children – How does your involvement with her affect your children? A more important question than correcting your wife is how your new relationship with your wife affects the children?
Make sure as you interact with your wife that you’re guarding the back door of your heart. Your children have a front-row seat to this new relationship. Little things like snide remarks about her that you’re oblivious to can hurt your relationship with your children.
7 – Determine your point – What’s your point? Is it about her redemptive good or something else? I’m circling back around to your motives. Ultimately, you have to address your purpose for helping anyone.
It is rare for an ex-spouse to have pure motives about the other spouse, especially if we’re talking about things they did during the marriage. The problems you want to address have a long tail. Don’t get wrapped up in them.
8 – Paint a picture of Jesus – Make sure you’re painting a picture for your children that looks like Christ. Your primary “family” role as a divorced person is to present Christ to your children. For example, if your wife continues to be selfish, then give your children a different kind of picture, one that looks unselfish, like Galatians 5:22-23.
As your children grow older, you want them to be able to distinguish between a good Christian and a not-so-good Christian, assuming your wife professes Christ. Give your children a clear picture of Jesus so they will know about authentic Christianity.
9 – Pick your moments – If your spouse is using you or manipulating you, then you will have to say something about that but what you say to her needs to be directed to what is going on in the moment rather than trying to correct a multi-decade beef you have with her.
10 – Use words that build up – Never speak negatively about her to others, especially your children. Remember: paint a picture of Jesus.
11 – The mind of Christ – Are your thoughts more consumed by God than your spouse or what happened in your marriage? As far as your day-to-day thought life, you must think about things that are pure and lovely more than the bad things that have happened in your marriage (Philippians 4:8).
12 – Your homework assignment – Though your marriage is dissolved, here are ten things that will kill a relationship and ten things that will help a relationship. These things are applicable to any relationship. I want you to write out all twenty of them, examine your heart, and then write out practical ways you can change.