Co-parenting. It’s a pretty common topic these days and as common as it is, it can still be a hugely difficult area to navigate. And...depending on the type of person you’re co-parenting with, “very difficult” is putting it mildly.
In this post I want to talk with you about co-parenting, how it affects the relationship with our spouse, how it affects work, how other people view it, and...the golden ticket...TIPS ON SUCCESSFULLY CO-PARENTING so that you can live your life with minimal outside interference and difficulty.
If you’re new here, WELCOME! I’m SO HAPPY you found me! I would love if you check out this blog post from a while back...I think you may be interested in it.
Have you ever found yourself in a co-parenting situation where you’re not yourself? Where you’re disappointed in how you handled a situation or what the outcome was because of how you reacted?
If that is something that has happened or you can see it happening and want to take measures to avoid it, click here for my free download on how to bring yourself back to center when you find yourself in a difficult co-parenting situation.
So, let’s be real for a minute...whether you’re co-parenting with your ex or your husband’s ex, usually what’s at the front of your mind is how much of a pain in the ass that person is. Again, I understand that that may be putting it mildly in some cases, but let’s just go with it.
I don’t want to trigger anyone, but we need to acknowledge when we are in a situation where the co-parenting needs a little help.
What we associate with “the ex”, is a painful relationship and/or a painful split and with that association comes our natural instinct to react, get defensive, and put up whatever walls kept us safe during the relationship or during the split.
Maintaining your current relationship while co-parenting
With all of the history between you and your ex, or your husband and his ex, the defensiveness, the walls, and the instinct to react quickly and emotionally can easily spill into the relationship between you and your husband.
And, because you and your husband are so comfortable with each other, essentially being each other’s “safe space”, unintentionally carrying over this negative behavior is going to be easy.
Why do we do this? Because the person who loves us, we know, will love us unconditionally.
We don’t mean to treat them like shit, we don’t mean to snap at them for no reason, we don’t mean to be defensive about every.little.thing.
But this is what happens and, as much as we love each other, when we act that way, it’s only going to be the other person’s natural reaction to act the same way back to us.
And that’s where the tension begins, where the arguments start, and where there can end up being a huge pain point and a lot of resentment in the relationship.
So...why ruin a good relationship? Why ruin everyone’s happiness, including the kids’, because of one “transaction” with “the ex”.
How is it possible? How does someone not carry over these negative behaviors when things literally take only SECONDS to happen?
Well, it all starts before whatever the “transaction” is, whether it’s a visitation pick up or drop off, a phone call, a text message, or anything else.
I bet you’re wondering how. And I bet you’re wondering why I keep referring to it as a transaction.
Well, that’s the key, honestly. You have to treat each communication with this person as a transaction.
Why? Because transactions are mostly cold.
Think of checking out at the grocery store. That’s a transaction...and you’re not going in with predetermined feelings about the cashier, or about the person in front of you in line. You’re not going in ready to fight the cashier for your money. You’re not going in wondering if the cashier is hungover or drunk or high or whatever your assumptions usually are about “the ex”.
You are going in with a purpose to pay for the specific items in your cart so that you can go about your life.
When dealing with “the ex”, it is very helpful to treat it as a transaction.
Before contacting him/her, before responding to the text they send, before hitting the green button when they call, and before the pickup/drop off on a visitation weekend, put yourself in check.
Take a deep breath and think, “I will respond, not react. I will be conscious of the expression on my face and of my body language. I will engage in minimal conversation and I will be as pleasant as I can be.”
That sounds pretty rough, I know. But it helps. I know it does.
Here’s how I know...my husband and I were dating when he was awarded protective custody of his infant daughter.
The emotion and the tension in EVERYTHING with his ex was strong. It was a goddamned forcefield and it tried to come between us several times for YEARS.
Since I had minimal interaction with her, I was able to compose myself while hearing, reading, or otherwise witnessing the conversations between them. I was able to tell myself that the best reaction was no reaction, and I was able to help my (now) husband do the same thing.
I’m not telling you it’s easy, it’s hard as hell sometimes, but it’s necessary...for your relationship. Because if this one “little” thing (in the grand scheme of things, of course) can rile both of you up, it’s only going to cause future discord in the relationship.
Think of it as a transaction.
How co-parenting can affect our jobs
So, most people wouldn’t think that co-parenting would affect our jobs. And we REALLY TRY for it not to.
But, there are times when it’s unavoidable.
You get a call or text from your ex, or your husband gets a call or text from his ex and calls or texts you to discuss it.
When you’re the biological parent in this situation, it’s a little easier to validate responding.You can close your office door, or step outside, and respond.
When you’re the “step” parent, it’s a little more delicate because people who have never been in your situation usually don’t understand that you ARE involved, you ARE a parent, and you do have a say in the decisions that are being made.
When we have people who haven’t been in this situation, it’s easy for them to think that because you’re not the biological parent you should leave your husband to handle everything.
The two of you run the household together, you run as one unit (most of the time) and these decisions, these conversations, DO involve you.
You treat the child as your own, his/her happiness, health, and overall well being is at the forefront of your mind because you don’t want.
My advice here is to #1, make sure your performance isn’t suffering and #2 don’t feel like you have to validate yourself to anyone.
If you care to explain it to select people, please do so. Keep it short and simple and relatively polite because, it’s likely they aren’t really that invested in what you’re about to tell them.
Every other weekend our son/daughter goes with his/her mother/father. My husband and I coordinate these things together to make sure everyone involved is under the same understanding with days, times, and events taking place. It’s all in the best interest of the kid(s).
Simple. If they want you to go into more detail, they’ll ask...but don’t bank on it.
And as long as your performance isn’t suffering, just keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s working =)
How other people view co-parenting
Aside from the work situation we already talked about, we may have family and friends that just don’t “get it”.
They may feel that since it’s not your child, or not your husband’s child, that the non-biological parent shouldn’t be involved. They have a “let them figure it out” mentality.
But that’s not the case because you are all one family unit and those kids are loved no matter what relationship they came from.
If this is the case, you can use the same simple explanation as used with the co-worker. It can be a little harder with family because these things usually come out when emotions are already running high, but having a plan of what you’ll say if it comes up can help keep everything on an even keel.
When “the ex” is the person who doesn’t view co-parenting the same way, now that can be a real issue.
There’s always a parenting plan, at least there should be...and if there’s not...GO GET ONE! Don’t know how to start? GOOGLE
Anyway, there’s always a parenting plan, and more often than not it seems that one parent selectively remembers what is said in this plan. They tend to remember what only serves their motives and they neglect anything that serves the child for the better.
Why the selective attention? It could be a million different things, but from what I’ve seen, experienced, and heard is that the other parent simply is resentful that you (or your husband) has moved on and is happy.
Seriously, do you know how much someone’s happiness can stick in the craw of someone who is utterly miserable?
It amazes me, really, because the person who hasn’t moved on, the person who hasn’t found peace and happiness, goes completely out of their way to try and cause issues, whether it’s between you and your husband, or between one of you and your job, or in your respective families.
If this is the case, take a deep breath, it’s the best thing for your own sanity.
But seriously, my recommendation here is to understand that the other person isn’t happy. I really don’t want to use the word jealous, but it may apply in some cases, but thinking of it that way will only breed more negativity.
Understand the other person isn’t happy and by them making vain attempts of causing rifts in other areas of your life is only going to give you and your husband the experience necessary to create an even stronger relationship and help your kid(s) learn the appropriate way to present themselves in life.
Successful Co-Parenting Tip #1
Leave the past in the past, it doesn’t help to keep rehashing things.
Successful Co-Parenting Tip #2
Stop being angry at or about the other parent...just stop.
Successful Co-Parenting Tip #3
Reassure your kid(s) that everyone loves them.
Successful Co-Parenting Tip #4
Treat communication as a transaction. I know I said this already, but it is SO important.
Let’s recap quickly…
Click below to download your copy of Successful Co-Parenting Tips...print a copy or just download it to your phone...this will take you leaps and bounds into a better place when communicating with the other parent.
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Hey, I'm Natalie and I'm an author, a wife, and mom of two kids and two dogs.