Excerpt from "An Unexpected Journey: The Road to Power and Wisdom in Divorced Co-Parenting" By Alisa Jaffe Holleron
Imagine that we have a given amount of energy to expend in a day--let’s say 1000 units of energy. Knowing that we have a finite amount, we would want to make sure we spend our precious units on actions to help ourselves move forward in our lives and help our children move forward in theirs. In other words, we would want to engage in actions that had value and effectiveness, actions that “packed a punch.” Right?
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To be sure we expend our energy on actions or thoughts that have value and will be effective, we have to look at what we do and do not have control over. If we continually put energy into what we cannot control, we waste precious energy. Even worse, it also keeps that energy from going into productive action. When it comes to acting in a way that will contribute to our own well-being and the well-being of our children, why would we want to waste that energy?
It is critical to recognize that we absolutely cannot control another person. We can INFLUENCE others, but we CANNOT CONTROL them. When it comes to our ex, we must accept that we cannot control her. We especially cannot control her if we are telling her or even just thinking about how bad and wrong she is, or if we are telling her or thinking about how she SHOULD be. Think about it. Do you respond well to someone who tells you that you are wrong or bad, or how you SHOULD be? Do you respond well to people who you know are thinking you are bad and wrong, even if they are not voicing it?
There is an exercise that I call “The Table.” Go to a table in your home and look at it for a minute. Now, describe the table in terms of its physical attributes, such as, it is made of wood, it is square or rectangular, it is three feet high, etc. Now ask yourself what you would and wouldn’t expect this table to do. For instance, you would expect this table to stay in the same place unless you move it, right? You would expect that if you put a plate on this table, the table would hold it up. But you would not expect the table to say “Good morning” to you and you would not expect the table to walk into another room.
You may laugh and say how silly, but what is really silly is that in spite of the fact that our ex has never behaved in some certain way, we continually expect her to behave in that certain way, and then get disappointed when she doesn’t.
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Example: Your ex has never been a good listener and does not try to understand your point of view. But, when you talk to him on the phone, you get upset and disappointed that he isn’t listening and understanding your point of view.
Why do we expect people to do what they’ve never done? That’s like looking at the table and being surprised when you say good morning to it and it doesn’t say good morning back.