Co-parenting can be difficult and for many it isn’t an option, because it requires that you get along and cooperate with your ex. However, if you can forge a path of cooperation after the end of a relationship for the greater good of your child, it is very rewarding and makes life a lot less stressful.
I admittedly was a person who in the past would cut people off when a relationship was over. Sometimes, I remained friends with an ex, but for the most part it was easier for me to cut my losses and go. When you have a child with a person, cutting the other parent off and not dealing with them many times is not an option, especially if you feel it’s important for the other person to be involved in your child’s life. I personally think, it’s important for a child to have both parents even if separated, because kids need that emotional support. However, I know that sometimes it’s impossible to have an amicable relationship.
The first thing you need to realize when you decide to co-parent, is that you and your ex are not going to always agree. As a matter of fact, you might have many disagreements because eighteen years is a long time. Thus, co-parenting is about having those tough conversations concerning your child with your ex and many times having to walk away from an argument. The key is not to attack, make your point and then move on without holding grudges. Many times, I would rather walk down a foggy road and disappear, than have tough conversations with my ex that I know he will take as a personal attack, when in fact that is not my intention. However difficult, we usually figure out a sensible way to resolve our differences, because frankly there’s really no other choice. I’d be lying, if I didn’t admit I get aggravated and pissed off sometimes, but I work through it.
I have a great co-parenting relationship with my son’s father, we can communicate cooperatively (most of the time) about our son’s education and upbringing. We also both attend, our son’s school activities and extracurricular activities without conflict. Our situation happened with work and therapy. I went to a few therapy sessions, that empowered me to gain skills to manage raising a child with someone that I didn’t particularly like. I liked him at some point, but I hated him at other points and that’s the truth. However, I knew it was important for me to move past those feelings and the negativity surrounding that so we could raise a happy and healthy child.
Co-parenting for me was an exercise in growth. I had to come out of my dysfunctional comfort zone of not dealing with issues and communicate productively. It required me to learn something different and be different, for a reason that was more important than my ego. Co-parenting is strictly about the child, it’s about getting along and working cooperatively for the sanity of the parents and the child.
It’s important to keep in mind that, the issues that pulled you apart as a couple to cause you to end up in a co-parenting situation, are the issues that linger and occasionally cause blow ups in the co-parenting situation. It’s good to be insightful and remind yourself as problems arise that changing someone else is not your goal. Your goal is to keep your sanity and to protect your child to ensure your child is happy and cared for. The beauty is, if you manage the relationship well, you will have a well-adjusted healthy child that will grow up into a well-adjusted adult.
There are a few things I recommend to keep the peace in a co-parenting relationship:
1. Limit discussions to child related topics. In my co-parenting situation, I generally only discuss child related topics with my ex. I don’t want to know or care to know what is going on in my ex’s personal life. If I need to know because it’s effecting finances, visitation, or health then I am willing to discuss to a certain extent, but I don’t want to be fully informed about what’s going on in my ex’s life. For me, less is better as I have my own life and I really don’t care what my ex is doing unless it pertains to my son’s well-being. We do occasionally chat about other stuff, but I keep small talk to a minimum.
2. Be helpful, when you need to be. My son’s father is not good at shopping or remembering where he needs to be. As a result, I buy all my son’s clothes and I give his dad extra clothes to keep at his house. He sometimes gives me extra money to buy things for our son that he needs at his house. This works well because I’m picky about how my son dresses, so I don’t have to worry about my son looking crazy when I’m not around because his dad is a horrible shopper. I also send my son’s father reminders for school events and lessons that are happening as I know he sometimes forgets. Making an effort to be helpful to do things I don’t mind doing, keeps the peace and minimizes conflict.
3. Confront issues calmly and know that an argument could result, but it’s necessary. In the past, I sometimes would wait to confront issues until I was completely annoyed. I’d get really upset and say a lot of mean things. Now as issues come up, I confront them head on. I don’t yell or curse, but I do express myself reasonably and clearly. I find that a lot of the conflicts I have are for reoccurring issues. These issues are fundamental personality differences, which will probably never change. However, it’s important to communicate and let people know how you feel about issues that impact your child. Usually the other parent does care enough to try for the sake of the child. I find that even though my son’s father initially will be negative and defensive when I bring up issues about things he’s doing, he typically will take corrective action.
Communication is key in having a good co-parenting relationship. Also, working together and helping each other in areas where the other is weak, makes a big difference in building bridges. If you know the other parent is weak in an area you’re strong, it might be in your best interest to offer some assistance in that area. That help could alleviate unneeded stress on your co-parenting relationship.
The biggest thing in co-parenting is not being afraid to seek help from a therapist. If you find that you are continually having conflict, it is a good idea for you to seek help to learn how to communicate better with your ex. This doesn’t require your ex to participate, because it’s about you and your communication. Therapists can be very helpful with teaching you better ways to communicate, especially if you are dealing with a difficult person. Many times, only one person in a relationship is willing to seek therapy. If you go to therapy alone, you can explain to the therapist the type of person you are dealing with and the therapists can provide insight and suggestions on how to improve communication with that person, even if they aren’t there.
My final thought is, it’s important to pursue happiness and positivity in your life in all aspects. Most people leave a broken relationship because the relationship didn’t make them happy. So now you are away from an unhappy situation do everything in your power to have the happiness you deserve and the life you want. Life is too short to be in constant conflict with people and to have persistent negative relationships. Co-parenting is about seeking a fulfilling and amicable parenting path.
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