Each year, I get to work with more and more co-parents. Each year, I learn something more from them. There are many differences between each of the co-parents, but there are also a lot of similarities. One of those similarities is that each of the co-parents spends time telling me all their co-parent has done to hurt them in one way or another. I get that.
Have you seen the movie War Room? There's a spot in the movie where Elizabeth is asked to write a list of things her husband, Tony, has done wrong. There are pages and pages of paper and she says she can keep going. Don't we all have someone in our life that we've felt like that about? For many co-parents, it's their ex. The divorce happened for a reason, right?
Getting this out is healthy. You cannot hold onto the list forever. It's important to get it out of your system and writing this list is a healthy way to do it. There are many other very healthy ways to get it out and I'll mention a few of them in just a bit. Here's the thing, though, what many people miss is that once it's out - you need to let it go.
Too often, I work with co-parents who present me with this list of things their ex has done wrong, but then they want to hold this list against them for the rest of their co-parenting relationship, or worse, they want to get revenge on their ex for this list. Have you ever wanted to make your co-parent "pay" for what they've done to hurt you?
All that's created in those situations is a constant angry cycle (which is explained in the Co-Parenting Course). There cannot be a healthy co-parenting relationship if one of the co-parents is holding onto the list. You notice I said one, not both, right? You can do your part even if your co-parent doesn't do theirs. You can let it go for the sake of the co-parenting relationship, for the sake of your children. You don't need to wait for your co-parent to do it first.
Whenever I've presented this to co-parents, there's always a fraction of them who give me a "HA!" which is usually followed by either, "You don't understand what they did" or "They're not letting it go, why should I?" Let me be clear. I don't need to understand how much hurt there was. I just need you to understand that holding onto the hurt, using it against the person that hurt you, ensures you relive that hurt every time you interact with the person who caused it. It's hurting you now more than it's hurting the person who created it. (Side note: if a co-parent tells me that they're doing it because their co-parent did it first or they're not letting it go because their co-parent doesn't, the only question they will get from me is "What do you tell your children when they give you the same argument?" With that said, it's not worth going into more detail here.)
You guys, it's time to let it go. Here's my therapeutic take on how to help you see exactly how beneficial it is to let this go. I want you to head to a craft store or a rock garden somewhere and get a bag of stones. These need to be big enough to write on. Then I want you to write down everything your co-parent has done to you on these stones. Write down what this pain has caused. Really get this out of your system. Now put these stones in a backpack and walk around with it for the rest of the day. It may sound completely crazy to you, and if it does, I dare you to try this. After you've walked around all day literally carrying the weight of the pain on your shoulders, it's time to let that pain go. It is very freeing to take each of those rocks and toss them. For added dramatic effect, take them on a hill or near water and toss them in. Literally drown out the pain you've been carrying around and replace it with a fresh start. Feel the weight being lifted off of your shoulders and know that's what it's like when you finally decide to let it go.
I get that this isn't easy. Letting it go does not, in any way, make what happened right or fair. It doesn't 'let them off the hook'. It simply let's YOU off the hook because you can't take the next step if your feet are stuck in the same position. Time to move on.