Divorce is hard for everyone involved. It is particularly hard for you when you can’t stand your ex-partner: the person with whom you’ll be co-parenting your children.
Unfortunately, when you are sharing parenting, you can’t get away from your ex-partner completely. Life can become quickly exhausting. Co-parenting can be hard: you’ll have to handle constant scheduling and rescheduling, trying to accommodate special days (e.g., Mother’s Day or Father’s Day), never bad-mouthing your co-parent in front of the children, and many other things.
7 Tips for Co-Parenting when Your Ex-Spouse is a Jerk
1. Get Off the Phone as Quickly as Possible.
Particularly in the beginning, emotions are running rampant. This is the time when you can say something in the heat of the moment that could make the situation worse. For now, stick to texts and emails. It allows you to take your time, and construct a more levelheaded response. It also reduces the possibility that the children may overhear things that they don’t need to hear between their parents.
The other benefit of communicating via text or email is that it creates documentation that can help with future scheduling of parenting time, or in the event that you end up in the family court. So if you cannot stand your ex, or are having a hard time talking to them over the phone, there is nothing wrong with using other forms of communication.
2. Don’t Respond to Every Email and Text Message – and Don’t Respond if You’re Still Angry.
Communicating with your ex can be incredibly stressful and emotional. Often, there can be some heated verbal swings and nasty words exchanged. However, you don’t have to respond to everything your ex throws your way. Before you hit send on that email or text message, sleep on it, or run your response past a trusted friend who is a calming influence.
Every time you respond to a matter, it is always good to ask yourself if it is something important for your child. If the communication is regarding the children, such as picking them up from sports practice, then it is important to respond in a timely matter.
However, if the message from your partner is criticizing or throwing jabs at you or your new partner, then it is a good idea to ignore it completely and not respond. Make your children the priority in all communications with your ex. Spare yourself any nastiness and let go of the need to defend yourself against your ex.
3. Seek Professional Support and Vent Constructively.
It is no doubt that divorce is tough. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of hating your ex, particularly if it was a messy divorce. However, getting caught up in your hate can cause even more stress and make it hard to parent effectively.
Venting is a perfect way to let off some steam, move past the negative feelings, and move forward. However, if you need to vent, make sure it is not around your child. Remain civil around your ex and your children.
Remember that feeling frustrated and angry is OK, but acting on it in the moment may not be for the best. Express yourself to a trusted friend, counselor, or support group who will honor your commitment to remain civil and support your child’s relationship with the other parent. This extra support can make co-parenting easier and manageable.
4. Look Through Your Child’s Eyes.
After a divorce, the child often becomes the priority of a co-parenting arrangement. However, negative feelings towards your ex can still creep in. A great way to overcome this is to step back and view your ex-partner through your child’s eyes.
Empathy is a great stress reducer and this exercise can help shift any negative perspectives of your ex you may have. By trying to see your ex from your child’s perspective – one likely to be positive – the focus will be put back on the child and what is in their best interests.
5. The Only Person You Can Control Is Yourself.
Co-parenting with an ex is a lesson in being able to let go. You may not approve of their parenting style. You don’t like what they occasionally do with the kids. Don’t get us started on what they fed the kids last night! While you may not agree or approve of what they do, ultimately, it is out of your control.
Sometimes your partner will act in a way that is so infuriating and unfair that you can’t help but be dumbfounded. However, you can’t control the actions of other people, you can only control yourself and your response to the situation.
The ability to accept and let go will reduce frustration and stress and enable you to enjoy your time alone. You can’t change your ex whether you want to or not. You can only act with the hope of offsetting their negative influence by being a positive influence.
6. Expect Changes to Happen and Be Flexible.
When you get a divorce and child arrangements have been organized, you are generally left with a basic schedule or parenting plan for who gets the kids when and for how long. However, there is much room to move within those boundaries.
Realize that unexpected changes may happen, so compromise and flexibility will be necessary. For example, your ex may want the kids for New Year’s, so you can trade that for extra hours on Christmas Day. It can all be negotiated. In this instance, even if your ex-spouse gets more time with the kids, you have them for a time that matters most to you.
Expecting the unexpected can greatly reduce the amount of stress and frustration. When the kids are involved, always try to figure out a way to communicate with your co-parent, plan ahead, and negotiate something that works best for the kids. But remember it may not always go according to plan.
7. Value Your Influence.
Often, shared parenting means you only have your kids for half the time, or sometimes less. It is common to feel powerless in regards to your influence as a parent.
All parents fear that they will screw up or scar their kids emotionally. If you dread letting your kids go with your ex or are concerned about your lack of authority, just remember what you are doing is enough. (Of course, if you suspect there’s domestic violence or child abuse in your ex-spouse’s home, you should discuss your suspicions with a lawyer immediately.)
Even if you think your former partner is doing everything wrong, understand how important it is for you to take the high road. In years to come, your children will remember the lessons you taught by example: about core values such as integrity, responsibility, generosity, and kindness. To your children, you are irreplaceable.
Nathan Hughes and his team of Sydney family lawyers at Family Lawyers Sydney understand that family legal issues can often be stressful. They are passionate about providing divorcing parents a high-quality and friendly service. Their team is committed to educating couples about their rights and responsibilities in child custody and what’s in the best interests of the child.