I’ve heard a lot of feedback about the talk on communication. Most agree that communication is the biggest issue they have with their ex. Whether it’s hostile, non-existent, or just plain never gets anywhere - communication is necessary and difficult.

You want to fix the problem, but how exactly do you figure out what the problem is?

In my experience, communication issues fall within 1 of 3 categories: someone feels unheard, someone feels like they have lost control, and/or someone feels as though they are attacked. Let’s dive into those issues in a little more detail.

Feeling Unheard

You probably have felt this at one point or another. You try to make a point, ask a question, or just send off a message and you either get a reply that’s completely off topic or no reply at all. All of the issues that you’ve tried to bring up in order to make things better for your children are ignored! Then what? How do you handle it when you feel completely unheard? Know that the way YOU handle it can either work towards a positive co-parenting relationship or put more division between the two of you.

If your ex is feeling unheard, he/she could respond in many different ways - likely none of which will feel like positive co-parenting. Ask yourself, how am I making my ex feel heard when he/she comes with a request? If you feel that you aren’t, now is your chance to change it.

Control

This is a big one, isn’t it? You feel like your ex constantly wants control, and in my experience, many ex’s feel that way. That means, statistically, your ex likely feels like you want control over everything, too.

Control is such a big part of co-parenting for so many reasons that would take too long to go into here. If you feel as though your ex wants constant control over you, there are ways to prevent it from taking over co-parenting.

  1. Know that no matter how hard they try, you and only you are in charge of what happens at your house.

  2. You are the only person who is in charge of your own thoughts, no one can control those unless you let them.

  3. Control is a word that has negative connotations. Rather than thinking of decision making as someone who takes control, decide that decision making is a joint process in which there is no tally as to who makes more decisions. It does not matter whose ideas were chosen. All that matters is that decisions are made in the best interests of the kids.

Ask yourself, what am I doing to ensure I don’t appear controlling when communicating with my ex?

Feeling Attacked

When you feel attacked, you will respond in at least 1 of 3 ways. You’ll either get defensive, you’ll go on the attack yourself, or you’ll simply shut down. Your ex will respond in the same ways. Every person will respond in at least 1 of those 3 ways. Here’s the secret.

You don’t have to actually be attacked in order to feel as though you are attacked.

Does that make sense? If your ex sends you a message saying he/she feels that your child is failing in a class and feels like it’s because they’re not working hard enough on homework - it’s not an attack. This is a non-emotional way to start a conversation to help your child. The problem is that you may feel it’s an attack on you as a parent and that your ex is saying you’re failing at making him do his homework. It’s not an attack, but it can feel like one. The same situation can be reversed and your ex may feel attacked by you when that wasn’t the point at all. Communication takes a turn because one or both of you feel attacked and respond based on it.

My recommendation is this. First, you cannot control whether or not your ex feels attacked by you, but you can control whether or not you attack them. You can also control your ability to recognize defensiveness, counterattacks, or removing themselves from the situation and address it positively. You can also choose the best option in the 3 when you feel attacked and remove yourself from the conversation long enough to gather yourself and respond thoughtfully.

Communication is necessary. Joint custody mandates communication between the parties. If these are the issues you’re dealing with, you cannot decide how your ex responds, but you can control your own communication. 

Broken communication affects you, it affects your kids, and it derails a chance at positive co-parenting. The Positive Co-Parenting Course gives you strategies for dealing with specific difficult personalities. It tells you exactly how to respond when those attacks come in. It gives you all the tools you need to take the co-parenting relationship forward instead of backwards. 

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Kaern Becker, MA Life Coach