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When Co-Parenting is not an opti0n

Unresolved and Volatile Relationships with the Ex is not Uncommon

Often it seems no matter where I look; divorced parents are able to have a respectful co-parenting relationship, including my own husband and his ex-wife.  I will admit, I am often jealous of not only him, but others that are able to do it successfully.  Please do not misunderstand me; it isn’t my desire to be with my ex or missing our marriage; it is the ability to share in the trials and joys of OUR children with one another; including sharing responsibility of raising OUR children.  Even though it has been five-six years from separation to divorce; we still can’t get it right, nor will we ever.  I have accepted that.   

This is not an article of blaming the ex.  It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is honestly.  Instead, this is an article to 1) remind you, if you are in the same circumstance as myself and many other’s, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and  2) provide you with some tips in effective solo-parenting and the acceptance of the reality.  I know for me, it has been a long journey of acceptance that I still battle from time to time.  

I was in the state of denial of our inability to co-parent for a very long time, until this moment:    

As I sat in the bleachers at the hockey rink, alone, I starred at the couple beside me. They had been divorced for nine years. I didn’t know that at the time.  In fact, I had no idea they were divorced.  They laughed with one another, shared in the joy of their son’s success on the ice. They discussed the evening’s events as they went their separate ways. 

My ex was practically on the other side of the rink, which is not unusual. Although our separation and divorce span nearly four years, today, in public, his unwillingness to communicate washed over me as if I was in the ocean, a riptide in fact. No matter how hard I tried to swim, it only became worse. 

To my surprise, tears streamed down my face. It was a constant flow where…you know ladies…no matter what you do, they just don’t stop! The game ended. I stood in the lobby, unable to control the tears. It was a vortex of pain I could not escape.  Hiding the tears was not am option.  I did not want to leave the area for fear my son would arrive out of the locker room and unable to find me.  His father, was only a few feet away, yet, it felt like worlds. I was baffled by the onslaught of emotion. I was confused as to why now since he has refused to speak to me for three years. My son appeared from the locker room, greeted his father with a smile. He was warm back to him. At the very least, I was grateful for his attendance and support of our son. My son and he headed to the cars, together. I watched from a distance; ‘knowing’ my place.  Kam waved goodbye to his father and loaded his bag into my car.  I walked alone, praying for the tears to stop so Kam would not be concerned. My tears continued to flow during the ride home. I tried to hide them from him. But, he is his mother’s son and very intuitive. The rawness of my emotions yielded a beautiful conversation on learning to live again, learning to love again, and learning to honor myself in the process. 

Are you able to have a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex?  Can you relate to my story and the pain I felt?  Do you feel alone in the inability to co-parent?  Do you yearn for a respectable level of a relationship with your ex?  If so, how do you cope? 

It isn’t easy.  Nor do I want to create the illusion that you are the only one who can not have a successful co-parenting relationship.  In fact, as a Psychotherapist and Divorce Mediator; there are many more families in distress than at peace.  Here are a few tips to cope with the reality: 

  1. Do not dwell on the lack of relationship/coparenting. Accept the reality so you may have the most effective relationship with your children.
  2. Do not talk negatively about your ex to your children. It will not change the reality but cause them to feel conflicted, and isolate themselves from YOU. 
  3. Rely on the enforceable custody agreement to make decisions about the children if there is no communication. 
  4. The question ‘Why?’ will not be answered.  Get over it. 
  5. Learn and accept the less contact the better at this point.  It is too painful and perhaps volatile to continue to try.  At this point, move forward and set boundaries. 
  6. Be sure if there is a time you share common areas with your ex, be calm and  keep your distance.  This will lower the anxiety of your children. 
  7. Finally, be sure to have a support system to ask for help with the children.  Also, for you to have the ability to care for yourself.  Single parenting is exhausting.  Show your children a life of integrity and care for self. 

Remember, my friend, you are not alone!  Although it may seem many families can get this right; the truth is, many more can’t unfortunately.  Practice the above tips and live a life of integrity.  You’ve got this! 

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