Many parents living separately attempt co-parenting only to see their efforts fail. But why? For the vast majority of divorced and separated parents, their efforts to co-parent collaboratively don’t fail because they are bad parents, unwilling to give it a try, or want to ruin their kids’ lives. It’s because they don’t know how to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of parental harmony. Three of these obstacles to co-parenting are:
- Being angry or emotionally hurt
- Getting defensive
- Competing for favor
In this week’s article, we’ll address the first of these obstacles.
Being angry with or emotionally hurt by the other parent
When parents suffer an end to their romantic relationship, it usually involves some level of hurt and/or anger. Often, parents focus on these raw emotions and believe that they must get over these feelings before they can move forward as co-parents. They focus on the broken relationship that, let’s face it, both have already declared over. So why give that your energy?
Release the need to fix your relationship with the ex
Well-meaning people say, “Just focus on the kids”. But I believe more is necessary to optimize your chances for happiness. The angry or hurt parent has to do something with these emotions or they will continue to block their efforts. The hurt and anger permeates their every thought about the other person. Everything the other parent says or does is filtered through these emotions. In an effort to stop the pain, the parent tries to ‘get over” their hurt and anger. Then when this doesn’t work, they declare their co-parenting efforts doomed.
“I can’t co-parent with him. I can’t forgive what he did.”
“We can’t co-parent. She expects me to apologize for leaving but that’s not going to happen.”
“He’s an ass!”
What do all of these statements have in common? They’re focused on the romantic relationship. But what if they…
Shift the focus to the “parenting” relationship
While others say, “Just focus on the kids”, what I’m saying is develop a respectful, thoughtful, and caring relationship with your child’s other parent – not with your ex-lover. Stop focusing on the romantic relationship or what needs fixed about it. Redirect all of that effort to being good parents together?
Could it be that simple? Think about it. Being good parents doesn’t require liking the other person, forgiving them, or apologizing to them for past misdeeds. And if you’re harboring thoughts of someday getting back together, you need to come to terms with the fact that the relationship has in fact ended. Your responsibilities as parents have not.
So the key to getting over the hurt and anger is to stop working on that. Stop trying to fix your romantic relationship with the ex. Stop making those things prerequisites to forging a unified front as parents. Choose to be good parents and then choose to do whatever you can to help your children’s other parent to be the best parent they can be. It is for this reason that I don’t often refer to my “ex” as such but instead simply use his first name or refer to him as “my son’s dad”.
Next up, we’ll look at what to do if you or your ex struggle with getting too defensive with one another.
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Like great music? Check out my son’s band The Fiddle Revolt and listen to what our co-parenting efforts helped to nurture.