The word “co-parenting” can be a detriment. It is a mushy and loving word, but many people in these situations are not feeling mushy and loving. As a divorced co-parenting teacher and therapist, I often hear comments like: “It is absurd to think that we are ‘co-parenting’-- my ex is a bully and has no interest in compromising and communicating. How do you co-parent with someone who has no interest in co-parenting?”
The problem with the word “co-parenting” is that it implies that the two people in the relationship should be able to cooperate and communicate, and that if they can’t, they are hurting their children. The problem with this, and the most frequent complaint I’ve heard about this way of thinking, is that even if your intention is to communicate effectively, you cannot make the other person do it. People get frustrated, because they feel like they try, but they can’t control what their “co-parent” does. When you are holding out hope that your ex will “co-parent” with you, and then they don’t, it actually makes things worse.
It is not true that you both have to be on board in order for YOU to make things better. If you are in a conflict with your ex, and feel as though you can’t communicate with her/him, you can still significantly improve the situation just by the changes that you make within yourself.
Here are some ways:
ACCEPT WHAT WE CAN AND CAN’T CONTROL:
We can spend a lot of time and energy being aggravated and irritated by the things our co-parent does. It is not uncommon for divorced co-parents to put a great deal of energy, both physical and emotional into trying to change what they cannot change. The energy we expend doing this could be channeled into many other things, most importantly, spending quality time with our children. Learning to accept the things we cannot control is not easy- when we accept what we cannot control, we often find ourselves in a place of grief. Even though we don’t like the way grief feels, grieving is an important and necessary part of growing and moving forward. Being conscious of the ways that you expend your precious energy being irritated by your ex, and shifting toward accepting what you can’t control, will free up emotional energy that will benefit your children, no matter what your ex does.
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