Co-Parenting When You Really Can’t Stand Your Former Spouse

Let’s face it, divorce can be messy. While the goal for many couples is get to a place of peace with one another, it can take time — often a great deal of time — to get there. If you and your soon-to-be former spouse don’t have children, taking a break during the divorce process is as easy as letting his or her calls go to voice mail when you don’t want to talk. But what about when children are added to the mix? Dealing with issues such as child custody arrangements, who helps your child with his homework, and who gets called in case of emergency at school, typically require both parents to communicate frequently and stay in close touch.

When you’re still in a place of anger or resentment over the divorce, how do you let go of negativity when dealing with your child’s other parent? Here are dos and dont’s to help you maintain peace of mind:

  • Do take time to view your family’s situation from your child’s point of view. As much as you want to berate your spouse in front of your child for being a few minutes late for parenting time pick up, think about the happiness and relief your child may be feeling at that exact moment. Which is more important?
  • Don’t hold your spouse to your same parenting standards. Maybe your spouse was the one who handled the finances during your marriage and now you are finding yourself having to learn the basics of family finance all by yourself. It’s not esay, is it? Consider that your spouse may be in the same boat with parenting. If your child comes home and tells you that the other parent let him stay up until 11 pm, don’t jump to conclusions. It could be that setting and enforcing a bedtime is something the parent is just now learning. As long your child is safe from harm when they are with their parent, you may need to let go.
  • Don’t follow the co-parent around after an argument, especially if your child is around. Why? A number of reasons: It’s not good behavior to model for your child, and there’s a good chance you’re going to be accused of harassing or stalking.
  • Don’t call the co-parent repeatedly and hang up the phone. This behavior can be construed as harassment and land you in some hot water.
  • Do use email and texts to communicate. Talking over the phone can lead to the same blow ups and fights as meeting face to face. As much as possible, stick with texts and emails when it comes to any matter related to your child. In addition to being able to communicate when you’re calm, you will also have a written record of all matters involving your child, which can help if the other parent tries to accuse you of actions you didn’t take.
  • Don’t put down your spouse in front of your child. Speaking in derogatory terms about your spouse in front of your child is confusing and antagonistic. Is your hurt really worth making your child hurt? Consider this in all dealings with your former spouse.

Also remember that in most cases, time really does heal all wounds. If you feel you do need extra help, meeting with a family counselor may be helpful for all of you.