Isn’t the concept of being divorced with kids kind of ironic? Think about it. You and your spouse decide you don’t want to live together any longer, you don’t want to be a couple, and chances are the amount of resentment, anger and animosity you have towards each other is off the charts.
Yet you have these people you created together and have raised thus far, who each of you loves with all of your heart. So now, regardless of how hard you try to avoid each other, how much you cringe at the site of one another, how much he or she annoys you, and how much you wish he or she would move to Australia, because of your children you are stuck. Stuck like two people being stuck in an elevator who can’t go anywhere until help arrives (or in your case until the kids are grownups and even then, you will have to see your ex if they get married, if they have kids who have birthday parties, etc. etc.)
So, when I read this reader’s comment, I couldn’t help but feel the irony at its fullest:
I think it would be easier if I did not have to regularly interact with my ex. We share 50/50 physical and legal custody. Any advise?
Here is my advice: Of course it would be easier! Because people who get divorced harbor resentment and bitterness and anger, it sometimes feels like life would be so much better if you never again had to lay eyes on this horrible, evil person who hurt you so unbelievably badly, who ripped your heart out of your chest and stomped on it, who ruined your life and who aggravates and causes you anxiety every time he or she appears. Am I right?
But the harsh reality is that if you share custody of your kids and if you care about their well being (which you do, of course) you have to make it work. Some how, some way.
Now, how does one do that? Hmm…that isn’t an easy question but my one sentence answer is this: Love your kids more than you hate your ex. It’s as simple as that.
What does that mean? It means:
1. Gritting your teeth when your ex does or says something that makes you want to scream your head off.
2. Avoiding bringing up the past and talking about what happened when you were married, what he or she did to you, etc.
3. Not making accusations based on things your kids or other people say without asking your ex what the story is first.
4. Ignoring petty things your ex might say or do because you realize it doesn’t really make a difference.
5. Picking your battles. Not making a big deal about things that don’t mean that much.
6. Not talking about your ex to your kids or asking them tons of questions about your ex to get information.
7. Treating your co-parenting goals like a business and not getting emotional.
8. Saying things to your ex that put your kids at ease—like hello and good-bye at drop offs.
9. Not acting angry.
10. Not acting cold.
11. Being open and honest with your kids about the divorce, but appropriate at the same time. In other words, they can hear the story but it has to be gentle, non-detailed, age appropriate and one that you know they can handle.
12. Focusing on your life now versus the past.
13. Not bashing your ex’s new girlfriend or boyfriend in front of the kids.
14. Being kind to your ex’s new girlfriend or boyfriend in front of the kids.
15. Talking to your family and making sure they are kind to your ex in front of the kids.
16. Not sending texts or emails or calling your ex with harsh, angry messages.
17. Seeing a therapist if you think it will help you.
18. Recognizing your part in the demise of your marriage and possibly even apologizing to your ex about it.
19. Remembering your ex’s positive qualities and parenting traits, regardless of what he or she did to you in and or after the marriage.
20. Believing in yourself that you have the courage and wisdom to make your co-parenting relationship the best it can be for both yourself and your kids.
These things are not easy to do. Believe me. I get it. But if you can follow some of these things most of the time, it makes co-parenting a heck of a lot better for everyone And, isn’t that the main objective now?
What is done is done. Try to accept that your marriage has ended and that what matters now isn’t what happened, why it happened, who hurt who, who cheated, who lawyered up first, or who went all your assets. What matters are the precious children you created who now have to live in this new situation, who are super afraid of change, and who love both of their parents dearly.
In closing, remember this. You must regularly interact with your ex, not just when the kids are present (at drop offs and pick ups) but in emails and phone conversations and texts about their schedules, their needs, issues that arise at school or health wise. Remember that your kids deserve to have two parents united to raise them just the same as you would if your marriage would have worked out. That is a mindset that will make even the toughest days of co-parenting easier. Love your kids more than you hate your ex. Keep saying that and you’re on the right path.
Like this blog post? Check out my post, “Keep Hating.”