In many conversations with co-parents, I've been asked something like, "When does it get easier?" The question comes in many forms, some admitting they're looking for the 'magic pill' to make all the arguing, lack of communication, difficult communication, and bad feelings go away. The reality is, sometimes co-parenting sucks. That brings us back to the original question.
When does it get easier?
Before it can be answered, we have to look at what the actual problem is. I know what you're thinking. You're ready to tell me that your co-parent is the problem. That may be true, but what about your co-parent is the problem?
Does your co-parent refuse to communicate? Does your co-parent communicate only through lawyers and motions? Does your co-parent tell you one thing then do the other? Does your co-parent communicate through the children? These are all problems, but what if I told you that you could make it feel easier even if this is what you're dealing with?
In the Co-Parenting Course I talk about ways around those types of communication, but I get it - that still doesn't make it easier. What if the problem isn't the problem itself, but the way in which we react to the problem?
The answer to making it easier has everything to do with you. Over the years, I've noticed that the co-parents who are least affected by the tough stuff thrown at them by their co-parents (and believe me, there have been some difficult things) are the ones that have the most realistic expectations and the best self-care practices.
These people are putting the kids first by knowing it's important that the kids build relationships with both parents, even though it means they have to work with someone difficult. They don't need to win every argument. They don't need to be the one making all the decisions. They understand that many times things will happen that they don't want for their kids, but as long as the kids aren't in harm's way, they know they can make the best of it for their kids.
How do they do it?
They take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. They've done the work to let go of the pain, the past, the anger, and the resentment. They also understand that all those feelings can and do come back, so they do the work again. They have built a solid self-care practice that allows them to be present with their kids when they have them and loving themselves and taking care of themselves when they're not.
It sounds silly, doesn't it? Maybe you're even thinking you've let go of anger. I know plenty of co-parents who tell me they let go of all their anger through gritted teeth and clenched fists. If that's you, I wonder if there's maybe a little more work to do. It's ok if there is. I can promise you that you're much more able to manage whatever comes your way if you're in a healthy emotional place. What do you have to lose?
One way to tackle anything you have going on emotionally is to journal. This book filled with journal prompts takes you from finding your balance through creating a new life for you. You'll get out of it what you put into it.