My Ex and I were great parents together, but now that we're divorced and coparenting, not so much... It's a constant battle of wills and power plays and I'm afraid that the kids are suffering because of it. Help!
-Dysfunction Down Under
They are suffering. The sooner you realize this fact, the sooner you can change it!
Sounds like the two of you have some unresolved emotional issues that you both are allowing to take precedence over your children's well-being, rather than coparenting in a more respectful, business-like manner.
Let me guess- you're fighting over petty issues that you probably never even considered to be issues while you were married such as daily vitamin intake (chewables over gummies dammit!), weekend activities (go-karts?! Are you insane?!), Halloween costumes (She's really more of a Sleeping Beauty than a Belle), etc...
You may wonder why things so trivial are now rocking your world and seemingly destroying whatever semblance of a relationship you had with your Ex. Not to worry, this is one of the most common issues I see when I work with new coParents and it's relatively easy to combat if you sincerely want to fix the situation.
First, realize that you are still dealing with unresolved emotional pain from the dissolution of the marriage. No matter how good or bad it was, it is still a failed marriage and this failure can do a number on your self-worth. A little therapy can go a long way people! But if the thought of couch-time makes you feel even more crazy, here are a few ways to process through the your emotional leftovers.
- Allow yourself to consider the reasons you thought it was a good idea to have children with your Ex. If your pregnancy was unplanned and you didn't actually think first, own it. The whole point is to revisit the time when you felt mentally healthy, happy, and in control as a partner and then, parent, and consider what has changed about YOU. This is not the time to pull out your bitch-list and start taking your Ex's inventory or blame yourself for the break-up. Try to figure out how you and your feelings changed throughout the course of the relationship and get real with yourself about any grief that you harbour about your divorce.
- Try to work for a business-like relationship with your coParent, with the business being your kids! You are not always going to see eye-to-eye with your business partner but they have the job for a reason; they bring a particular skill set to the table that compliments yours, and when you're respectful of each other's contributions, your business thrives. Think about your kind, respectful, and cooperative gestures as small investments and the returns will be huge.
- There's no time better than the present to face your feelings of helplessness and subsequent need for control. This is especially poignant if you felt blind-sided by the divorce or if your partner committed infidelity. You will inevitably channel your need for control into the petty trivial things and thus drive your kids cuckoo. So control what you can and negotiate the rest with your partner in parenting.
- REMEMBER--Some coParents do not want to fix a messy situation and move on but desperately want to remain connected on an emotional level. To these people, a negative and toxic relationship is better than none at all so they enjoy the fact that you forgot to return the hair bow or want to make a slight change in your custody agreement this weekend. In these cases your coParent may be doing a Mr. Burns-ian hand rub, thrilled about the opportunity to negatively engage and possibly ruin your day. I plan on addressing this issue more in-depth in an upcoming blog, but for now, I encourage those coParents who want to move on to realize what's happening and feel pity for their Ex's misguided attempts to connect. Stay focused on your children and don't punish them for adult issues, but find another way to release your stress related to coparenting with a croc ;-)