When I separated from the children's dad, our lives were in a complete mess. The arguments between us both were so bad that I had to be protected by the police. I won't go into too much detail but I have never hated anyone as much as I did back then. However, I had these two beautiful innocent little boys to think about that still needed their dad. The battle to arrange how their dad was going to spend time with the boys was exhausting. I had to get friends and family to help with the change over at weekends because he wasn't allowed near my home. Four years later, we still struggle to talk on the phone without it turning into an unpleasant conversation but regardless of my feelings about the man, I have to put that behind me. He is the father of my children and we need to work together to raise them in a positive environment. Raising two children as separated parents isn't exactly the ideal situation I had imagined for my children when they were born, but it's happened and it is for the best. My boys deserve a healthy upbringing and they have been amazing at adjusting to this new arrangement.
If you too are struggling to co-parent with an ex you despise, I thought it might be helpful to list five tips to help you manage the experience:
1. Lose all feelings of hate
If the breakup was an awful experience and you have an overwhelming feeling of hate towards your ex, try and keep your feelings to a minimum as best as you can. Hate causes stress and will make it harder for you to care for your children as you may become short tempered, lose sleep, and become ill more often. Do not be afraid to consider sitting in a room together with a third person such as a mediator to see if you can move your hate to a level of tolerance so that you can co-parent effectively.
2. Communicate through texts/emails
I try to avoid talking to my ex on the phone as much as possible. When they are talking to him I tend to walk out of the room so I didn't have to hear his voice. However, we are co-parenting so we have to discuss all matters regarding the children together. Texts and emails are perfect because not only does this prevent the children from overhearing things they don't need to hear, it takes the personality of the person out of the communication. Also I like the idea that texts can be saved as a sort of contract when a decision is made between you both to prevent arguments and broken promises occurring.
3. Let go of having full control
Co-parenting with an ex is difficult because you have to let your ex make decisions on how the children should be raised even if their methods are different to yours. You may not approve of your ex's parenting style or what he or she does with the kids during their time together, but this is out of your control. While the children are away with their father, my anxiety is through the roof because I have no idea how the boys are being cared for/disciplined but I have learned that I really need to stop worrying and start making use of my time alone.
4. Communication is key
Work hard to figure out a schedule that works for the two of you and print off a copy for you both to keep as a type of contract. If you need to make changes, don't be afraid to discuss your needs with your ex and be understanding of their needs in return. Children are not objects so avoid using them to hurt one another or complicate each other's lives. If you can make the changes then great! If not, then be clear and communicate that and if anything find a way to be helpful in making the adjustment easier for the both of you. I was guilty of using my children to get back at my ex in the first few months of our break up but I quickly saw how terrible my behaviour was and how it was affecting my children. I still feel guilty to this day. Also, even though I dislike my ex, I also saw that it is important to communicate the good things about him to my children. We often talk about the good times we shared when we were a complete family and also I want to hear their stories of the times they spend away with their dad.
5. See your ex through your children's eyes
You are most likely making your children the priority when it comes to co-parenting, but sometimes the mind can become clouded with negativity. Empathy is a great stress reducer, and it can really help to shift your negative views you feel towards your ex. Try to see your ex the way your children see him, a view that is positive and better than in reality. You can really learn from a child's innocence by watching how, even in the face of horrible behaviour, they still attach themselves to that person.
Divorce/separation, no matter how common it has become, is stressful, unhappy and I wouldn't wish it on anybody. When kids are involved, it is up to the parents to figure out a way to communicate and to protect them from the adult issues that come from a messy separation. Every couple is different in how they deal with co-parenting so find what works best for you and stick to it. One final note, try to ensure you don't miss out on your child's childhood by worrying about your ex. Move on, forget the past, and try to tolerate each other for the sake of everyone's happiness.