Negotiating With Your Ex: How to Get What You Want

Getting what you want under many circumstances is a challenge, but getting what you want from your ex – either before or after the final divorce papers – can be a downright obstacle.

My ex was not different. It’s not that they are necessarily bad people – but divorce brings out the worst in most.

Suddenly you are trying to extricate yourself from a relationship with a person you were once deeply in love with, where there are likely children and money involved and where your friends and family all have something to say about the decisions you’re making.

The negotiating doesn’t stop when the divorce papers are finalized. Child support, spousal support, medical bills, extra-curricular activities, private school, extra bills, and the list goes on.

At some point you’ll want to consider changing an agreement that was made under different circumstances.

How do you get what you need?

Negotiation requires skills. You improve skills through practice. You don’t practice during the event. In other words, basketball players have practice all week so they can play the game on the weekend.

You have to do the same thing. You have to practice the skills you need to get what you and your family must have before the main event.

And, in fact, these skills you practice to negotiate with your ex are the same ones you can use when you’re negotiating with your teen!

. . . negotiation takes skills, and skills of any kind take practice.


Seven Skills You Can’t Do Without

  1. March3PrepCIPreparation

Before you do anything in life, you prepare. You went to school before starting your career. You took lessons before playing the piano in public. You asked questions before producing the report for your boss. In other words, you prepared.

During your preparation for this event there are several things to remember. Get the facts about the situation. Learn the law and what you can likely negotiate. Write down the information you want to reference.

During the negotiation you’ll continue to prepare by listening before you speak. In fact, you should do more listening than you do speaking. The more they talk, the more information you receive. The more information you have, the greater the chance you’ll be able to make a case for your side of the story.

The more your ex talks, the more they feel heard and understood and the greater the likelihood is that they will be willing to negotiate, something.


  1. Ask Questions

During any conversation where you want a specific answer, you ask questions.

Have you ever noticed that really great sales people run the conversation by asking you questions and getting your answers?

Questions are truly powerful. They make you think and consider a situation that you might not have otherwise even thought about.

Start with the small questions and build up in the direction you want them to take. Ask questions that get the other person to talk and answer “yes.” The more times they say “yes,” the greater the probability is that they will say yes to the big question.

Don’t start off with the big question – start small and build. Your opponent wants to talk and tell his side of the story. Ask the questions that let them talk and continue to ask questions that lead them down the path you want them to take.

Practice this with your kids, your friends and your family. You don’t have to tell them this is what you’re doing. You don’t’ have to be negotiating. You can convince someone of something, simply through asking questions.


  1. Emotional Control

At all costs, at all times, don’t lose control. If you feel yourself losing it, then make an excuse, back out of the conversation and get yourself together.

You might take a bathroom break if it’s a scheduled meeting with your attorneys. You might make ask to call them back after answering an imaginary knock at the door. At all costs – get away if you’re losing your temper.

When you lose your temper, you’ve lost control – not only of yourself, but also the negotiation. To get what you want, you need control.


  1. Stop WorryingMarch3WorryCI

Honestly, worrying does nothing except to wear down your defenses, your energy, and your ability to function clearly. Worrying is a form of rebellion against God because it communicates that you don’t trust Him.

Whether Jesus is your Savior or not, worrying isn’t something that helps. You can worry from today until the negotiation is over, and the only thing it changes is YOU.

And the thing you need in that negotiation is YOU.

This isn’t a good combination. You need your wits about you. You need to be able to listen to what the other person is saying, process it and integrate their thoughts into your conversation.

To many times we’re so caught up in thinking about how we’ll respond to what the other person is saying we hear only the first 30 seconds or minute of what they say, and then start crafting our response in our heads.


Stop worrying . . . start listening and processing . . . and then answer.


  1. Prevent Fatigue

Your body works best when you sleep. If you get enough rest then your mind is sharp, you can process what is said and develop a response that makes sense and drives the conversation in your direction.

If you worry, you don’t sleep. If you don’t sleep, you’re fatigued. If you’re fatigued, you lose the debate.

Stop worrying. Eat well. Get sleep.


  1. Forget About Getting Even

This negotiation is all about getting what your family NEEDS and not about getting even. Forget about getting even because it clouds your judgement.

If you’re wrong, admit it. Think hard about each decision and how it will affect you five years down the road. Will you regret making this decision or can you imagine that it might be the right thing to do?

It can be hard making the right decision when you aren’t sure what the right decision really is.

During my divorce negotiation I made a decision that really ticked off my attorney, gave me exactly what I wanted, and allowed my ex to keep what he wanted. He didn’t pay as much spousal support and I kept the children.

We could have gone through the court system, had the children in chambers with the judge, had them evaluated by a court appointed psychiatrist  . . . all to extend spousal support.

Five years later, I could have used that money, but I didn’t regret the decision to keep the children out of court.


  1. March3DirtyShoesCIBe Humble, Not a Doormat

There is a vast difference between being humble and being a doormat. One dictionary defines humble as having a ‘modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.”

But the Bible defines humility a bit differently. In essence, humility is grounded in the character of God. Jesus, the Son of the living God, humbled himself to become a human and die on the cross with thieves.

Humility is grace and power under restraint.

Just because you are the best, or you are right, doesn’t mean you should be parading that opinion to everyone in the room.

It’s easy to see through false humility so don’t try it.  If you can’t be truly humble, then don’t. But true humility disarms the situation and drives the conversation in your direction.

Accept criticism, acknowledge when you’re wrong, believe that you have something to learn from the negotiation and trust that you can work with the outcome.

Don’t become a doormat to anyone in your life. No one respects the doormat – not even the doormat.



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