You’ve made it through the separation: you have a new living arrangement, a new schedule for yourself and your kids, and you are on your way to a new life. Of course, things aren’t ‘perfect’ with your co-parent but they don’t need to be. How do you know if your relationship with your co-parent is worse, better, or the same as other people’s? Here are 5 signs that your relationship with your co-parent needs to (and CAN!) be better:
1. You get pre-annoyed when you see your Ex’s number.
Do you have a physical reaction when you see your Ex’s phone number? Do you immediately feel tight and defensive and dread answering as much as you dread having to call back later? It’s okay to be a little agitated but if the thought of talking to your Ex dominates your thoughts until you visit with them, if seeing their number changes your mood – this isn’t good for you or your kids. Things could be better.
2. Your stomach is in a knot at every exchange.
You start getting anxious when thinking about the exchange. You worry about what your Ex is going to say, about what you are going to say, and maybe even about what the kids will say. Sometimes you don’t get stressed until you are almost at the exchange point, but sometimes you start feeling the stress hours before. If your thoughts are more on your Ex than seeing your kids, or your plans while the kids are gone, then this isn’t good for you or your kids. Things could be better.
3. When you make decisions about the kids, you hear your Ex’s voice in your head.
When something out of the usual comes up with school, activities, or expenses, you make your decision based on what your Ex’s voice is saying in your head. You would like to sign Mollie up for a recital but you are sure it will only cause a fight and you’ll never get the money for her dress , you can’t afford the expenses by yourself so unless your Ex agrees Mollie is going to end up being upset. You know the subject will just cause a huge fight between you and your Ex so you tell Mollie she can’t be in the recital. If you are weighing decisions about your kids based on future arguments with your Ex, this isn’t good for you or your kids. Things could be better.
4. Every time you notify your Ex of something simple, they bring up a list of grievances completely off topic.
You just wanted to tell your Ex that Alex got in a fight at school with Parker but that you’ve talked to Parker’s parents and everything is okay. Instead you end up listening to a rant about how all of your faults created this situation and by the way, remember how you never cleaned up around the house? If conversations about the children don’t stay focused on the children and veer off to old complaints about your relationship or personality, this isn’t good for you or your kids. Things could be better.
5. You have concerns about the kids when they are with your Ex.
Contact with your kids is limited when they are with your Ex. Communication with your Ex is ALWAYS limited. You worry about your Ex’s new partner, adequate supervision, the kids’ diets and sleeping schedules, knowing that the kids do their homework and get to where they need to be on time. Some worries are inevitable, as a parent you never stop worrying, but some can be resolved and dissolved. A complete lack of confidence in your Ex isn’t good for you or your kids. Things need to be better.
Make a change!
When it is hard to talk to your Ex about even the little things, communication about the kids (their activities and well-being) really decreases. That just makes things even worse! The dread of contacting your Ex makes you defensive and stressed which leads to negative emotions when you finally do talk to them. That can cause an even more negative experience than what you had created in your head, which creates more dread about speaking to them, which means you find every reason NOT to communicate with your Ex EVER! This, in turn, causes your Ex to have more negative feelings, which causes even more negative interactions, etc… etc…
The best thing you can do to make your co-parenting relationship better is to create better communication. Create some space between you and your Ex, set boundaries around times and topics when talking about the kids, and learn to interact in a detached and business-like manner. More communication is the answer but it has to be the RIGHT kind of communication. If you or your Ex want to vent your frustrations with each other, rehash past wrongs, or express negative opinions about the other’s choices go ahead but NOT ON YOUR KIDS’ TIME! Any and all communication about the kids must be ONLY ABOUT THE KIDS. Full stop.
Conversations about the kids need to be scheduled and structured. Spontaneous updates are a fantastic way to build trust with the other parent and an important way of maintaining closeness with your children, but unscheduled communications are just notifications – they are not openings for discussions. Discussions should be reserved for your weekly conversation about the kids. If something at your weekly conversation needs to be resolved, come prepared: know what outcome you would like, why you think that your idea is the best for your child, and know in your head what other outcomes you would be willing to consider. Make your decisions about what happens to your kids based on all of the information and the outcome of a rational and reasonable discussion.
Want help making things better today? Text Your Ex can help you make things better right away by taking the emotion out of your communication with your Ex and focusing it solely on what’s important for your kids! We talk to your Ex so that you can have rational, objective conversations that are always clear, concise and polite. Try it today! Make life better.