C0-Parenting After Divorce
Whether the divorce was your idea or your spouse’s, you probably still have a great deal of hurt and anger to work through. You vacillate between wanting to talk to your ex about how you feel to wanting to avoid talking altogether. Because the last thing you want to do is have another fight about how to raise your kids in two different households.
You each are going through many changes, and you are especially worried about how your kids are handling all of this. And when you get worried you look for answers. You wish you could get this co-parenting thing all figured out, so you have one less thing to worry about.
The problem is co-parenting doesn’t come naturally, especially if conflict and blame were the main communication styles in your marriage. You find you get right back into the same patterns you had when you were married. And soon you discover that you need to work on the same things whether you are divorced or married. You were hoping to avoid all this stress! While you can’t avoid stress, you can find ways to make co-parenting less stressful for you.
Revealing the Truth about Co-Parenting
First, let’s address myths that many people have about co-parenting. If you go into co-parenting after divorce assuming that differences are bad and you need to get on the same page, you will make things harder on yourself. Think about what expectations you have about co-parenting.
Here is the hard and honest truth about co-parenting:
- You won’t be on the same page all the time.
- You won’t have open, cooperative parenting on every issue.
- You won’t have all the same rules and routines at both houses.
- You may not fight about parenting, but have conflicts about other issues.
3 Steps to Make Co-Parenting with Your Ex Less Stressful
People often have a list of do’s and don’t about co-parenting that they’ve read or heard about. And then they try to convince their ex to parent as they do, but this results in more conflict and stress. You’ve tried convincing your ex to calm down, be more communicative, or be more or less strict with the kids, and it’s not working.
The more you press on your ex to get on the same page, the more he or she gets defensive and begins pointing out what they don’t like about you. Or your ex says he or she agrees with you to avoid conflict, but then does their own thing. No matter what patterns you are encountering, the more you try to get them to see what you see, the more co-parenting falls apart.
You feel hopeless that this can get better. But you can find ways to co-parent with less stress when you focus more on your part in the patterns of interactions. Here are 3 steps to making co-parenting with your ex less stressful for you:
- Increase Self-Awareness on Your Part: It is so much easier to see what your ex is doing or not doing, and much harder to get objective about seeing your part. Think about what is most challenging about co-parenting with you and what this may be like for your ex.
- Manage Your Emotions and Reactions: Working on your own divorce recovery will help navigate the differences you encounter in co-parenting. For instance, if you are still adapting to your divorce and can’t stand to see your ex dating someone else, you will want to tell your ex to not introduce anyone new to your child.
- Focus on Your Part more than Your Ex’s Part: Again the more you focus on trying to manage your ex and their behavior and decisions, the more stress and conflict you will experience. You don’t have to take all the blame. But make sure you are working on your part, so you aren’t further contributing to the tension. By managing your part more than managing your ex’s part in the problem, you will decrease your stress.
If you work on these steps, you will begin to feel more in control of what you can control. And the more you focus on managing what you can control, your reactions and your part, the less stressed you will feel. Because nothing is quite as stressful as trying to change something you can’t control.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a licensed therapist in Missouri and self-love coach globally. One of her specialties is helping divorced women find themselves and reclaim their worth after their marriage ends. For more information on divorce recovery counseling for individuals, click here.