Parenting After Divorce – How to Co-Parent when the Co-Parent won’t Cooperate

From the moment you and your spouse said “I don’t” to your marriage, your children became confused, sad, angry and even traumatized.

In knowing this why do so many parents not take the time to recognize what their children need help with? Instead they spend their time and energy on getting back to their ex-spouse and “sticking it to them” as best they can. Often times at the expense of these young wounded souls.

Let’s begin by looking at what an ideal co-parenting relationship would look like. In an ideal co-parenting relationship, which yes there are many the two parents agree to put aside all anger and animosity towards each other. They cooperate and compromise on issues that pertain to the best interest of the children. It takes an undesirable situation and makes it workable. Now, let’s look at what co-parenting is not. It is not a sharing of decisions (you obviously couldn’t agree, what makes you or the courts think that’s going to start now?) It is not one parent in complete control, making up the rules and expecting the other parent to follow.

Co-parenting is not capitalizing on confused feelings that your child has about your ex-spouse. This is not in the best interest of the child. Co-parenting is not a competition. There are no winners here. When you try to be the winner your children lose. Co-parenting is also not pretending that everything is still normal by having your ex join you in activities.

I recall one father who came for counseling with his soon to be new wife and her biggest complaint was that he went over to the ex-wife’s house every morning for breakfast because she thought this would help the children. That’s not helpful. This type of behavior only serves to further confuse the children and prevents the ex from being able to move on and create their own new life.

What happens when a co-parent can’t seem to separate your marital past from your current parental position? They assume that because you weren’t the marital partner they needed for you that you are incapable of being a good parent. I see this often and often times the parent (especially father) turns out to be a great parent after all once they are released from the constant criticism and scrutiny from their former marital partner.

What do you do when no matter how cordial, no matter how amicable you try to be, your ex-spouse has chosen to walk down the road of animosity and hatred? This happens in a higher percentage of divorces than I would like to admit. These ex-spouses cannot seem to interact without an argument or physical altercation taking place. Everything is a battle and court motions and legal battles seem to become a hobby. In these cases there seems to be a desperate attempt to punish attempt to punish you, but It’s not you who’s being hurt, it’s your children.

What do you do when you can’t seem to get your co-parent to be a co-parent and cooperate?

Tip #1 Resist getting defensive. Nothing good ever came from two people acting the fool and arguing. If your ex is the abusive attacking type, put on your armor of protection and let it bounce off of you. Easier said than done, yes but with practice you will come to realize that this person’s dysfunction and inability to communicate is not worth you surrendering your peace.

Tip #2 Keep trying. You may be saying, “are you crazy, you have no idea how nasty this person is. They will just laugh at me, they don’t care what I say or do” To that I say, you are probably right and I could probably say the same for you. I doubt you really care what they say or do, but we are here for the children right? Trust me, you have more influence than you think. Your ex-spouse wouldn’t be acting so argumentative and defensive if what you had to say didn’t bother her. Keep pressing forward.

Tip #3 Avoid transferring information through the children. Depending on the age, things like what time you’ll pick up Susie from her game, can be communicated through the children, but do not use your children to deliver messages to your ex-spouse. If they refuse to speak with you than they won’t get the information. It’s that simple.

Your efforts in co-parenting may fall on deaf ears, but I assure you that trying is better than adopting your ex-spouses mentality. In the meantime, create the loving home for your children. Set boundaries in your own home and remember that your children are confused and disrupted. Gently reminding them of the difference between the homes will help in their feeling loved and cared for.

5 replies
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