Deciding to divorce your partner does not make you a bad person, a villain, or a reject of society. If you have this belief, erase it from your system as it will prevent you from moving forward in life and being the solid support your children need during changing times.
Also, if someone in your life is giving your grief about your decision to leave your partner, and they’re stigmatizing or ostracizing you for it, unfriend them physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially, this includes social media.
Right now, you need to surround yourself with positive resources, and this means people who respect, understand, and support your decision, and who are going to help you be the parent you need to be for your children. This is an adjustment period for all, and you do not need additional stress when your plate is full.
Deciding to divorce your partner makes you human, and one with feelings and emotions. I am almost certain most people do not leave their partners because they love them deeply — unless you are a psychopathic killer with a conscience who decides to leave instead of hurting — still, highly questionable.
Most likely, if you decided to leave is because the core of your relationship changed, and going separate ways was the only option for you, despite your having children together. If you decided to leave is because your balance was lost, regaining it together was no longer an option, and leaving to take control of your life is what you needed to do.
Regardless of your reasons, these are not the dark ages. We have come a long way since the emancipation from unhappiness came to save us via the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) circa the 70’s. Great times says my mother. Getting a divorce should not lead to public or cyber stoning, stigmas, or labels, but, unfortunately, sometimes it does. Like many other cultures, humanity has a passage of life called divorce. If you have not gone through it or are not there to help, kindly move over…
Some People Need Space to Be Reborn.
Now, if you thought divorcing your partner will solve everything, you’re in for a big surprise. Post-divorce, you will be confronted with the newfound knowledge that you must cooperate with your ex in the raising and decision making of your children: you must learn to co-parent. Trying to do this in separate households can be very challenging. Different parenting styles will undoubtedly affect the dynamics and effectiveness of parenting, and greatly complicate co-parenting.
The reality of raising your children in two separate households will not settle in until you have tried it for a few days, weeks, or months. Depending on your ex, the ride can be a smooth ride, or a break your bones and spirit bareback ride. In the end, it’s entirely up to you how you choose to handle this wild ride. Arm yourself with knowledge, strength, courage, patience, lots of wine, and a big ass pair of balls, and let’s see how this is done.
Keep Your Focus on Your Children.
Your children come first, above all, above everything. You are their protector. Act like it. Regardless of age, gender, or temperament, conflict hurts everyone. I say it from experience. My parents divorced when I was a small child, and the concentration was never on the children. You must center your strength and energy on your children and yourself. If you deviate your attention and waste it on grudges, hate, resentment, or trying to ‘get back’ at your ex, your children will suffer. You love your children, right? You and only you have the capacity to help your children recover from the effects divorce can have on them. All you need is love, patience and wine too.
“If you deviate your attention and waste it on grudges, hate, resentment … your children will suffer.”
When co-parenting starts to feel like an elephant sat on your chest and keeps farting, stop and breathe. Keep a clear picture of your children in your head, wallet, phone, desk, car, or any other visual place. Use the visual imagery to stay focused.
Engaging in conflict with your former spouse diminishes your role as protector of your children. It is easier said than done, and depending on your ex’s cooperative co-parenting skills, it can be a clean-shaven ride or rough all the way, like a flight next to a person who keeps falling asleep, slobbering all over your shoulder. True story.
Steer away from comparing your children to your ex. They won’t understanding that it is a faulty defense mechanism you’re using to get over the hurts of the divorce and wonder whether you love them or hate them. It will only complicate their role identity. After all, if you act offensive towards your ex and then compare your child to them, how can they think otherwise?
Do not waste your energy on the minutia of attack and counterattack. If you divorced your partner, it was so you would not have to negatively engage with them anymore. Let it go. Do not engage. Regardless of how difficult your partner makes this, you have the power to steer away from drama. Get the big boy pants and do it.
Allow Your Child to Love Both Parents
Your children should not be forced to choose between parents. Your children’s relationship with your ex must be separate from any views you have of them. When you attack your co-parent, you hurt your own children. They should not get caught in the middle of your co-parenting issues, your divorce resentment, or your dislike for your ex. Grow up. If you are actively or passively doing this: stop being an ass to your children — they deserve better.
Do not criticize your co-parent. If you feel like you need to say something about them, just STFU, especially around your children. You always have the choice of discussing it with your best friend during happy hour. Alternatively, you can buy a punching bag as form of stress relief, it works wonders and keeps you in shape.
Whatever the circumstances, process, and outcome of your divorce, do not be the parent who plays the victim role. Your children don’t need the stress of having to understand adult problems when they are already trying to adjust to a new life, system, and the knowledge that their parents are no longer together. Remember, whether you asked for a divorce or were served with papers, your children didn’t have a say in it, they just have to tag along for the ride. Make it a smooth one.
Understand That Your Role in Life Changed
Over our lifetime, we play many roles. As single or married people, our focus is on ourselves or our partner. As parents, our focal point shifts towards our children. As family members, our focus is on the happiness and well-being of other members of our family. But after a divorce, all of these roles change to help us readjust to the new situation. You must now learn to juggle this new balancing act as a divorced person, single parent, and divorced member of your family.
Just like your former spouse, as a divorced parent, you are now solely responsible for your needs and the functionality of your home. From finances, to social, sexual, emotional, housekeeping, or even friendships and family, it is now your turn to be the decision maker and be held accountable for the results. The only shared role you have with your ex is that of raising your children, and it is completely different from the parenting role you would’ve had in the marriage. Adjusting to it will help you master it.
Managing Anger and Resentment
Anger and resentment are active components of many divorces, and lingering feelings of these can be the storm brewing in the horizon for co-parenting relationships. Anger is a strong feeling that can translate into undesirable actions if we are unable to keep our feelings and emotions in check. This is easier said than done when your ex is actively trying to piss you off, but you must remember that your children come first.
Holding resentment towards your ex will make you angry, and if you’re not cautious about your behavior, your children will learn to act the same way, and respond with anger and resentment when dealing with a situation they are not comfortable with.
Whatever leads you to hold a grudge forms part of the past, a past you chose to leave behind. Find a way to get over your resentment and learn to use that energy as a constructive force for your children, instead of it becoming the destructive cyclone that feeds your anger. Learn to recognize when you’re starting to feel angry. Is your heart pounding? Are you sweating? Do you feel tension on your neck or jaw?
Recognizing these signs will help you get a hold of yourself and not explode. Nobody is saying you have to tolerate your ex, especially if they’re impossible to deal with, but you must be able to identify the signs of anger in your system and change the outcome of that encounter. Your children are watching and listening to everything you say, and they are similar to sponges: they absorb everything around then. Get a hold of your negative emotions.
Controlling Possible Conflict
It seems as if nobody takes note of how arguments happen, and in your co-parenting journey, the likelihood that conflict will arise is higher than normal. It’s important that you decide from the beginning when, where, and how to communicate with your former spouse, as well as which topics are off-limits. Setting communication guidelines and boundaries can prevent conflicts from even taking flight.
Keep in mind that words can serve as the wood to light fires in most co-parenting relationships. Be mindful of your tone of voice and body language when communicating with your ex and keep all divorce related matters out of any child related conversations or communication. Arguments can start small, and if you and your ex don’t have a good co-parenting relationship or even a civilized level of communication, the wrong tone of voice via phone, harsh words via text message or email, or threatening body language in person can easily spark up an argument.
Don’t add fuel to the fire. Remember that any spark without fuel will eventually burn itself out, and this holds especially true for possible arguments with your former spouse. It takes two to argue, and if both co-parents insert criticism, sarcasm, or other negative remarks into conversations, conflict is sure to arise. Be the parent who extinguishes the flame. If you like to spark fires, then take your children camping, it builds better memories and skills than witnessing conflict between parents.
Choosing and Sticking to Your Own Path
Your relationship with your ex is no longer a marital one. Both of you need to understand that. If you were the spouse to leave the marriage, then chances are that letting go of the concept of a married couple will be easier for you than for your former spouse. You must concentrate on your new journey and understand your new role as a divorced person, a parent, and a co-parent. You must choose to be happy, and not stay unhappy by reliving past marital drama during your co-parenting relationship.
Once you are able to let go, then disengaging from the drama your ex tries to insert in your life will be easier and will simplify the realignment of your new life. Understand that a new relationship with your former spouse is necessary to ensure you’re providing the best possible post-divorce environment to raise your children. If you have a difficult ex, learning to treat your co-parenting relationship like a business connection will help you stay on your path and maintain a corporate level of communication. You must not allow any issues related to your former spouse to keep you from sticking to the path you have chosen, for your sake and that of your children.
In a business relationship, all parties involved are committed to winning. Your co-parenting relationship should be no different, with your children’s happiness and proper adjustment as the winning prize.
Your children’s overall well-being should be the common goal. Learn to negotiate differences and recognize when new obstacles lie ahead so that you can adjust accordingly. Keep your co-parenting communication limited to objectives related to the children and to specific topics.
And as much as it might pain you, be the one to behave courteously. Common courtesies in business relationships can go a long way, especially when they enhance the common goal, in this case, your children.
Be the one to make the doctor’s appointment instead of whining about your ex not doing it. Use a pleasantly leveled tone of voice when speaking with them and stick to facts without inserting feelings. Simple adjustments can go a long way.
Become a Master Negotiator
Almost without exception, problems will arise for parents after the divorce. While some of these issues might require for legal documents to be drafted, others will simply need strategic problem-solving techniques to deal with them. Regardless of the problem at hand, all efforts towards deflecting an argument should be made, because in a co-parenting relationship, arguments and disagreements will affect the children. The long-term goal of raising happy and well-adjusted children should be your number one motivator. Even if your ex doesn’t show signs of understanding that you have a common goal, you need to put the big boy pants on and learn to become a master negotiator.
Start by recognizing the problem. Whether it’s a small or a significant issue, implementing conflict prevention guidelines from the beginning will reduce the chances of any conflict that arises from difference of opinions. Give your opinion on the matter and how you think the problem affects your child and be ready to also reflect on your co-parent’s opinion. If you do, the conversation will be one focused on resolving the issue at hand, rather than derailing into divorce related matters. In addition, if your opinion on the problem comes out as accusatory to the other parent, or if you don’t put your emotions in check and reflect on your co-parent’s opinion on the problem, then you are not concentrating on the long-term mutual goal of raising happy and well-adjusted children.
The key to becoming a master negotiator with your former spouse is to approach each situation calmly, with open ears, self-control, and knowing that you may never fully agree on every topic. Despite any grudges you two may still have, you should have a chance to give your opinion on the [child related] problem, and how to resolve it. You should also attentively listen to your co-parent’s point of view and plausible solutions, without judging, even if what they are suggesting sounds batshit crazy. Once you have managed to listen to each other’s opinions on the problem, choose a solution and work together to implement it and put your plan into action.
They say co-parenting is forever, and if you have small children, then forever might seem like a distant place in another galaxy. But you can’t avoid it, and you can’t fight against it. You can be smart about it and prepare for it. You can also get some wine, it helps. Despite all the precautions and preparations, you may have for your co-parenting journey, you and your former spouse will inevitably have disagreements. Keeping your focus on your children and firmly sticking to your own path will help you stay sane. Getting your feelings and emotions in check and understanding that co-parenting requires flexibility will go a long way and will make the journey smoother.
Communication is an intricate part of successful co-parenting.