Does your ex leave you feeling drained? Are you constantly in a state of walking on eggshells to avoid a fight? Are you constantly finding yourself worried that if you say the wrong thing they’ll blow up and get defensive again?
Are things fine one day, and the next your ex is waging war again?
Or even worse, your ex is overbearing and disrespectful — the kind of person one who routinely discounts you as a parent and always criticizes you.
Whichever ex-drama you happen to be in, it all adds up to a huge drain on your energy and your life. When you’re consumed in your latest relationship drama, you find yourself in a state of constant distraction. Whether it interrupts your day at work, keeps you from sleeping at night, or worst of all, you find it impacts your children, you need to find a way to co-parent with a difficult ex.
According to co-parenting expert, Christina McGhee, the key to co-parenting with your former partner is focusing on what’s best for your children, and not focusing on your contentious relationship with your ex. Learning how to shift your focus can be easier said than done - especially with a difficult ex. Even when you’ve had a period of “peace” your ex finds a way to start up again, and worst of all, it happens in front of your kids - and it breaks your heart.
When you understand and accept why your ex does or says certain things, you’re in a better position to be able to shift focus on what really matters - the kids.
For a lot of parents, learning how to co-parent with a difficult ex, is about understanding what is motivating your ex’s behavior, which takes away their power to upset you. When you have an ex that won’t let up, it is often because they’ve found a way to “gain” something from the conflict—a payoff. What most parents don’t get is that by continuing to fight, they’re creating a negative dynamic, which creates lots of incentive to keep stirring the pot. Where your ex once passionately loved you, they now passionately want to agitate you. For many parents, the conflict becomes the primary outlet for keeping a connection to an ex.
For some, the need to feel in control or powerful is the driving force behind the behavior. For others, it can be a way to offset feelings of helplessness, while others may use the ongoing conflict to assert a false sense of superiority or importance.
One way to counter this type of selfish behavior is to stop responding to every blow up your ex initiates. Rather than responding to each outburst, remove yourself from the conflict. By removing your ex’s payoff, you’re taking away their power and no longer rewarding their bad behavior by giving them your attention.
Co-parenting with a toxic ex can be exhausting. It can feel as though they can do whatever they choose, whenever they choose. Almost like they’re allowed to unleash bad behavior on you and even worse, your children. When you allow those behaviors to disrupt your day, your night, your attitude and your parenting, you’re allowing your difficult ex to assert control over you.
But guess what? You can take back control and create a better co-parenting relationship with your difficult ex.
It starts with creating emotional distance from what the other parent does or doesn’t do. Learn to respond instead of react. Instead of making yourself miserable trying to adapt to your ex, stay focused on what matters most—how you handle the conflict, the way you process the issues with your kids, and limiting the energy that you give to your old relationship drama.
Channel your energy into not feeling resentful when your ex is getting on your nerves. Why? Because it’s not about your ex; the only thing that matters are your kids. Your kids will notice who came to soccer games, concerts, birthday parties, etc. The choices you make today are things they’ll remember their whole lives.
As you and your ex are able to build a solid co-parenting relationship, not only are you creating a better environment for your children, you’re also teaching them good relationship skills. You’re helping to show them that they have at least one stable, consistent, considerate parent — who can help them as they go through their own transition of having two separate parents.
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