Setting a good ex-ample There's a better alternative to bad blood between former spouses, says the founder of 'Get Along With Your Ex.'

June 28, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,sun staff

Just the other day, Nailah Shami's ex hung up on her. They had been civilly discussing their daughter Esprit's middle school graduation, but when the topic turned to her child-support check, communication ceased.

"He started saying all these crazy things, 'Why do I have to do this and blah, blah, blah,' " she recounts. "Maybe we can talk about this some other time," Shami told her ex. "And he hung up on me, and I'm human, and I thought, well, God, this is bizarre."

But Shami, of Redmond, Wash., didn't blow up. She didn't get even. Instead, she repeated the "Get Along With Your Ex" pledge, as follows:

Although I'm no longer in a committed relationship with my child (ren's) other parent, I will make every effort to be a good ex and to maintain a working relationship with him/her for the sake of our child(ren).

I promise to be a person of honor and character, taking the high road as often as possible, even when I don't feel like it, and regardless of how my ex behaves. I swear.

Shami's pledge has grown into a full-fledged campaign. This July marks the second year of "National Get Along With Your Ex-Month" for Shami and 100 others from around the country who have signed pledge cards. She hopes that 10,000 others will ultimately take the pledge and the high road in their post-divorce dealings - at least for 31 days.

It's for the children, says Shami, 37. When her marriage ended acrimoniously six years ago, she was determined not to let stormy relations interfere with her daughter's love for her father or her general well-being. When she watched children at play, she could tell which children were burdened by family sadness and which ones thrived in a blissful cocoon of security.

Those observations and her own experiences with her ex inspired Shami's "personal commitment to try to get along with him, in spite of some rather unskillful behavior." Her private goal became a public campaign after she watched one too many women run down their exes on television talk shows.

By phone, Shami comes across as an open and optimistic woman, someone apt to exclaim, "Hey, I'm a Pisces, I have no sense of impossibility!" Most "parents who get a divorce are warring all the time," she says. "This campaign is an effort to stop that, at least a little bit."

With 28 percent of the nation's 34.6 million families with children under 18 headed by single parents, Shami has a long way to go. One might even call her grass-roots crusade quixotic. Anyone who has experience with divorce - as a spouse, relative or friend - knows that exes behaving badly, even idiotically, is the rule, not the exception.

Nevertheless, Shami is optimistic. "I'm hoping that in five years, there will no longer be a need for the pledge." Besides, "It's very, very important to take a stand in things that matter in life."

And, surely, a pledge to get along with one's ex is a more viable alternative than being a deadbeat parent. President Clinton just signed a law making it a felony to cross state lines to evade overdue child-support payments of $5,000 or more.

A free-lance desktop publisher and artist, Shami has launched "Get Along With Your Ex" Web site, and will conduct workshops at Washington state public libraries through July. Her book about co-parenting with a difficult ex is scheduled for publication in 1999.

Shami doesn't pretend that a stable relationship with an ex is easy. "It takes restraint, maturity. It takes a lot of silliness. You can get on the high road and fall off. You just keep getting back on."

Measures taken against a harassing former spouse must be legal, Shami says. Don't stoop to petty gestures, such as letting air out of an ex's tires, making taunting phone calls or sending subscriptions to X-rated magazines, Shami says. Instead, think about how all that squandered energy could be better spent, say, in cooking class.

For Shami the best defense is a good massage. "I have become more hedonistic," she says. "I am the queen of pampering. I get massages, take yoga, work out daily, hike and bike, do lots of physical activity."

Shami also meditates, and "sometimes, when I'm feeling really crazy, I postpone [any unreasonable] actions. I go to boxercise. You can beat up the whole world in boxercise and hurt no one and lose a few pounds."

When divorced people tell her that the pledge is impossible to uphold, Shami reminds them of "very simple resolutions to maintaining your peace of mind and helping your kid." If he tracks mud in the house, don't let him in. If she shows up to berate you at your workplace, have her removed. If homeless people can take the pledge (as they have), so can you, Shami says.

"I've heard people say, 'You gotta be a wimp,' but it's actually a very powerful stance to take; you're in charge of your emotions, your behavior. You can't control what your ex is going to do."

Shami says she owes her ex a lot. Confronting his ineptitude has forced her to fully realize her gifts. "I have become a goddess, and I have to thank him for that. I have to. I have to! He has been so creative that I have had to become so creative. If not for him, there are things I would not be."

Twice as many women as men have mailed signed pledges back to Shami. Her own ex has yet to sign the pledge. "I told him about it last year, and he said it was a good idea, but he never gave me back the filled-out pledge form."


Contact: National Get Along With Your Ex Month

15127 N.E. 24th St., Suite 161

Redmond, Wash. 98052

Phone: 425-882-0126

E-mail: getalongwitheotmail .com

Web address:

Pub Date: 6/28/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.