Have you said that? Have you thought it? Have you said to yourself, "I can't co-parent with my ex, they're too (insert the word here)." The most widely used term to describe difficult ex's is: narcissistic. Some of you definitely have narcissistic ex's, some of you have ex's with narcissistic tendencies, some of you have difficult ex's that make it hard to co-parent. Whatever the case, if you feel like you can't co-parent with your ex, this post is for you.
Over the past several weeks, I've talked about the importance of co-parenting for the sake of your kids. You guys already know this. But if you feel like you can't co-parent, there's a problem isn't there?
First, decide what your definition of co-parenting is. If you believe co-parenting should be working together 100% of the time and your ex is one of the difficult people talked about above - that will never happen. Your definition of co-parenting may have to be something like communicating on the major issues, not yelling at each other when you are face-to-face, and compromising (both of you) when needed. Though it may sound like a low bar, each set of co-parents has to start somewhere and the bar described above is achievable for many. Create a realistic definition of what co-parenting can be because if you're fighting whenever you see each other and you have 1 event without an argument, it feels like a win, doesn't it?
Celebrate and build on those wins. This goes along with creating a realistic expectation of what co-parenting can look like for you and your ex. If you've set a realistic expectation, you will have wins and those wins will help carry you forward to a more positive working relationship. Notice I didn't say positive working relationship? That's because, for some co-parents, a truly positive relationship isn't attainable, but a more positive working relationship is. So that relief you feel when things go well or better than expected? Take a minute and recognize it knowing it was because of the work you and your ex put into it. Then use that relief to fuel some positive communication and build on it.
Accept what you cannot control. Too many co-parents go into co-parenting relationships saying they know what's best for their children and are frustrated when their ex doesn't just listen to them. Many of their co-parenting partners feel the same way - they, too, know what's best for their children and simply want their ex to listen. I'll tell you what I tell all my clients. There's more than 1 right answer. I go into more detail about this in the co-parenting course. The moral of this story is that you'll never be able to control your ex, but what you can control is a) how you react to him/her; and b) how you work to create a relationship with your children.
At the end of the day, what matters is your relationship with your kids, isn't it? Everyone is fighting for the same thing - to have a healthy, loving relationship with your kids, right? It can easily turn into a competition where you feel like your kids might love your ex more, but here's what I can tell you: Kids love both their parents equally, the same as you love all of your children equally. They simply have different relationships with each parent. You can control your part in the relationship with your children, and that's it. You can control your reactions to your ex, not your ex's reactions when you communicate. Consider what you can control and go from there, focus on that. Sure, you'll need to vent about what you can't control, but allowing that to take over will only make you miserable. I don't want you to be miserable, you don't want you to be miserable, so please don't let something outside of your control make you miserable.
My point in this post is to show you that co-parenting can look a lot of different ways, and as long as your outlook on it is based on your situation and what's possible - you can start there. I know of a couple who weren't allowed to talk face-to-face, talk, or text. They were allowed only to use a court assigned communication system. Within 2 years, they had moved to texting and talking. They both believe the other makes poor decisions for their child, but their child is happy, healthy, and thriving, so they let it go. They both believe they have their child's best interests in mind, but because their child is happy, they only mention things when need be. Is it a perfect co-parenting relationship? No, but it is working for their child and that's who it needs to work for.
Comment below with what next step you and your ex can make to start moving in a positive direction. Bonus points if it's something you can do.
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