divorce and family mediation in nyc

jennifer safian, divorce mediator

212-472-8626    info@safianmediation.com

{1:53 minutes to read}

NYC divorce and family mediator, Jennifer Safian, talks about how to refer to your former spouse and why not to use the word "ex."What’s in this two-letter word? A lot!

  • Someone you loved
  • Someone with whom you may have had children
  • Someone with whom you shared many things, good and bad

And now someone from whom you are probably separated or divorced.


In social relationships, an ex (plural is exes) is someone with whom a person was once associated. As a prefix, ex- can refer to a variety of different relationships; for example, one might refer to a music group’s ex-guitarist, or someone’s ex-friend. When used alone, ex as a noun is assumed to refer to a former romantic partner, especially a former spouse, and often has a derogatory tinge.

I hear people using this expression – and I have to admit that I am guilty of having used it as well on occasion! It suddenly occurred to me that even though the word has become part of the everyday vocabulary, our families, our close friends and especially our children may not appreciate having their father or mother being spoken about in that cavalier way.

After all, our parenting partner is one of the two most important people in our children’s lives. Shouldn’t we show consideration towards our children by talking respectfully about their other parent?

For my part, I try to refrain as much as I can from using this word at all. Former husband, former wife, or my children’s father/mother sounds more appropriate. Yes, it takes a little longer to say, but this small adjustment can benefit our children.

Oh and BTW – “by the way” in texting lingo – remember to also drop the ”ex” when referring to your former in-laws! They are your children’s grandparents as much as your own parents. They are often very important in the lives of children, so disrespecting them is really not in the children’s best interest.

How do you refer to a former partner? Please share with us any good suggestions you may have in the box below.


Comments from Social Media

Jennifer, I agree with you wholeheartedly! I always encourage my mediation clients to reconsider using the “ex” prefix. It is a small but important step in rebuilding a relationship after a divorce, and showing respect. And, as you have pointed out, so helpful to children.

Marilyn McKnight


very interesting and real. absolutely true.

Mariela Beatriz Acosta Peña


Such excellent points, Jennifer and Marilyn. Our choice of words as mediators as so very important, and begins to model for clients positive ways in which they may not only refer to one another, but communicate and behave with one another. From the moment we first meet clients, whether through a phone call, responding to an email, during an in-person consultation, or in our first session, we are working with them to support them in building a different kind of relationship, a new and better one. And our words, tone and expressions are a form of priming clients from the get go, to related to one another with greater sensitivity, and in more productive ways.

Halee Burg


in my mediations I ask both mum and dad this question for dad – if you and your 8 year old son were standing on a street corner talking to your mate do you say
– my ex she is off with one of her boyfriends for a shack up weekend or
– my son’s mother is away for the weekend and my son and I are going to the footy game later
What difference did your son hear? No respect for his mother or respect for the son’s mother (as a mother)

This applies to mum also mum is standing with her 8 year old daughter talking to her hair dresser
– my ex is off with some new woman for a shack up weekend o
– my daughters father is away for the weekend and my daughter and I are going to an afternoon movie together
What difference did the daughter hear? No respect for the daughter’s father or respect for the daughter’s father (as a father)

Remember children have big ears and love both parents. Be careful of describing the ‘ex’.

Carl Miller


How about my previous husband or the father of our children? I agree that people we loved anytime in our life do not deserve an EX.

Jennie Mitchell


I have started referring to my “ex” as my daughter’s father. It is much more personal and honoring to him as the father of our child.

Elizabeth Jansen



Jennifer Safian

jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny
(212) 472-8626
connect on On Facebook

2017-05-26T07:39:02+00:00 By |Children & Divorce, Emotional Issues|


  1. Gail March 5, 2015 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Thank you for this respectful reminder.

  2. Dave Mc Donald March 6, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I never looked at “EX” this way before. VERY GOOD POINT!!!

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