Published originally today on the Huffington Post:
Co-parenting following divorce can be very challenging to say the least. You feel like you have finally broken the ties of marriage, but you find yourself having to deal daily with the one person you want nothing to do with. As soon as you are able, you need to do everything in your power to remove emotions from the co-parenting equation. Do not enter this new role with preconceived ideas. Try to focus on the fact that the marital relationship is over, so this is your new role as co-parents. For the kids, you must remove emotion and start fresh. Let the old ghosts go.
Sure, I get that your ex was irresponsible with your finances. That’s awful. Yeah, so maybe she was having an affair with your next door neighbor. Despicable! But what do those past transgressions have to do with raising your children NOW? Nothing. The marital relationship is over and the co-parenting relationship has begun. And this relationship will last for the rest of your lives.
Just like in a business partnership, you must remain professional in this new role. It seems that the parents who focus on their own agenda or refuse to cooperate with the other parent are the ones who are still harboring a great deal of resentment or anger over the divorce. As a result of this anger, they are only hindering the children’s healing.
From my experience, I have learned that who initiated the divorce is not predictive of who harbors the most anger. I think that the pendulum can swing based on certain life changes. The pendulum can also swing based on the passion each side feels about a certain topic — for example, educational or medical decisions.
The problem with allowing emotion in is that when emotion is involved, logic isn’t. You cannot have a reasonable discussion or think logically when you are caught up in your own internal emotional battle. How can you possibly agree on any major issues when you are being ruled strictly by your emotions? The anger you may feel toward your ex will only cloud your judgment and cause you to make decisions based on revenge rather than focusing on the best interests of your children.
Sure, you can claim to be unemotional, but if you resort to name calling or hanging up on your ex or refusing to respond to emails/texts, then you are clearly working on emotions rather than focusing on your shared vision for the children.
In order to put the kids first, you first have to release your anger. You may feel anger over the events that led up to the divorce. You may feel anger over your ex getting remarried. You may feel anger about how your ex treats you. All of this anger is valid and is a natural part of the grieving process, but just like grieving, you have to work through the feelings to move on with your life. And your children NEED you to move on with your life.
Playing the victim card doesn’t work in this new role as a co-parent either. If you find yourself playing the victim role, then you are basically declaring that you are not strong enough to move forward. If you repeat the story about how you were wronged in your marriage over and over to anyone who will listen, then you are stuck. It may be time to seek professional help. Why are you allowing him/her that much power over your emotions? You need to gain control of your emotions so that you can be a good parent.
Letting go of your anger and emotions all starts with your thoughts. Turning those thoughts around is something that only you can change. Changing your ex is out of your control, so take control of YOU and start the process of healing.
For your children, you need to make it your priority to do whatever is necessary to be able to have a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex. So remove the emotion and embrace this new role as a co-parent. Your children will notice the change in your interactions with your ex and EVERYONE will be more relaxed as a result. You will be surprised when you find yourself able to discuss situations with your ex without raising your voice. Disagreements are inevitable, but with emotions removed, you will be able to handle them together as business partners invested in the future of your kids.