By: Dr. Karen Finn
5 steps to victory … that lasts.
Making the transition from one-half of a married couple with kids to being a co-parent is tough.
One part of you never wants to see — much less communicate — with your ex … ever, Ever, EVER again!
But another part recognizes that your ex is your kids’ other parent. And this part knows that your co-parent will be part of your life F.O.R.E.V.E.R…
You’ve got (at least) these two different perspectives warring within yourself every single time you have to interact with your ex.
Every contact is a battle for you. And it’s got you completely stressed out.
You flinch when you hear your phone notify you of a new text. Your blood pressure soars when you see an email from your ex in your inbox.
When you know you’re going to see your co-parent, you hardly recognize yourself, you’re such a nervous wreck.
The unhappy truth is that even though you’re not married any longer, your ex is still controlling you.
And because they’re controlling you, they’re winning and you’re losing.
Losing is not what you need right now. You’ve already lost enough with the divorce.
So it’s time to take control back, to get strategic about your co-parenting conversations, and to start winning again!
These 5 tips will help you feel victorious when you need to interact with your ex:
1. Limit conversations to only those necessary for conducting the business of co-parenting.
One of the most difficult parts of communicating with your ex is the emotional toll it takes on you.
And the more you communicate, the more painful it is.
So limit your conversations to ONLY discussing co-parenting issues.
2. Decide how you will communicate with your spouse.
There’s no way you’re going to get out of communicating with your ex, because it’s a critical part of co-parenting. But you can choose how you will do it.
Not every conversation needs to be through text or by phone.
Decide what types of information sharing needs to happen by text, by phone call, by email, or in person.
Ideally, you’ll make this determination with your ex.
However, if you need to do this on your own, do it today.
Then, politely and firmly inform your ex of what you’ve decided.
They might test your resolve on holding to your decision, and they might honestly forget what you’ve told them, so be ready for these situations.
3. Decide when you will communicate.
Unless there’s an emergency, there’s no need for you to jump to respond to your co-parent right when they reach out to you.
You can choose when it makes sense for you respond.
For example, you might want to set up a separate co-parenting email address and only check that inbox once a day for messages from your ex.
And if you’ve already implemented the first tip, you’ll know when you have to respond to something immediately.
4. Be business-like in your communication with your co-parent.
Choosing to interact with your ex in a business-like way, and only for the purposes of co-parenting, will go a long way toward helping you feel more in control of yourself and the communications.
Business-like communication means that you’re:
To learn more about BIFF communication, check out Bill Eddy’s book on the topic.
5. Visualize how you want to behave … BEFORE you interact with your ex.
You probably go over every interaction with your co-parent, or spend a lot of time thinking about how you could’ve or should’ve said things differently.
And what happens when you do this? You feel like sh*t.
Instead of beating yourself up for what has already happened, start imagining yourself behaving differently the next time you have to interact with them.
You might picture yourself using the irritating way s/he looks at you as a positive trigger instead of the negative one it is now when it makes your blood boil.
Instead, imagine that when they look at you that way you feel thankful you’re not still married to them.
Then you can see them as just your children’s other parent who needs to be as good a parent as they’re capable of being because your children deserve that.
And once you see them like that, you can easily imagine yourself interacting with them in a business-like manner because you’re doing it for your kids.
Repeat your visualizations of how you want to interact with your co-parent often.
The more you imagine yourself dealing with your ex in ways that leave you feeling good about yourself and the interaction, the more natural it will be for you to behave that way.
There’s nothing easy about learning how to co-parent.
You’ll still have “conversations” with you ex as you begin using these 5 tips. And you may still feel like you’re losing some of them.
But persevere and be patient with yourself as you develop the skills to fully adopt each of these new ways of communicating with your co-parent.
The rewards for doing so are that you’ll start feeling like more victorious and in control.
But even better, your kids will win big because they’ll have at least one parent who sees themselves as a co-parent and not a battle-weary ex who is also a parent.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach who helps clients successfully parent after separation or divorce. If you want help understanding what to do next, reach out to Karen by emailing her at Karen@drkarenfinn.com for a private discussion about the best next steps for you to take.