I would say we’ve all been there, but in truth some of us haven’t. Although, there is a large majority of us who procreated while madly in love and then that love tanked.
Who are the real casualties of this love war? Our children we made with someone we loved. (Sometimes, it’s not love it’s lust, I am writing from an ex-wife perspective, but I do know there is another perspective as well.)
How do you navigate the relationship AFTER the relationship though. How do you build something out of loss, grief, and guilt.
I have been there, my marriage to my ex-husband was a disaster, we were volatile and we were doing more damage than good trying to continually fix it. We both made irreversible mistakes and neither of us walked out of it unscathed or innocent. We imploded, how did we get to a place where we are best friends, can tell each other anything and co-parent our son almost perfectly?
Communication, honesty, forgiveness…so basically, all the things we should have had in our marriage.
It is amazing to me that I can call my ex, talk to him about anything, even hard stuff, without a second thought. I couldn’t do that in our marriage. What it tells me, is sometimes, we are better as parents if we are not together. Referring to the saying “Don’t stay just for the kids, it is more detrimental than you think”
I teach a parenting class called Parents Forever(TM) that is specifically for parents in transition. This class has taught me so much even though I am the facilitator.
COMMUNICATION IS EVERYTHING
Before Forgiveness, before honesty (right before, because honestly is ALWAYS best) Communication is what makes the co-parenting relationship go ’round. Being able to openly discuss your opinions of parenting, discipline, eating habits…etc. Keeps an open discussion and prevents arguments and misunderstandings. If you don’t agree on a subject, compromise steps in and is the hero of the day.
My ex and I did not used to agree on TV shows and what our child could watch. I was big on the ONLY G-rated TV, and even sometimes limited some of that (Our son is Autistic and can ‘get ideas’ from the wrong sources. ) but he saw fit for our son to watch Family guy, American Dad, Simpsons…etc. with him. I openly let him know that I did not agree with it, but I respected that when our son was with him, I did not have a say, I did not control that. He did not change it right away, but he did start to notice that our son mimicked some of the behavior and then he made the decision to stop allowing such programming. We calmly communicated, I was patient, he was open to suggestion, and when he called and told me he agreed, I did not tell him “I told you so…”
This kind of communication takes a very long time to perfect, we have still had our moments, by ‘we’ I mean me. I have had moments where my controlling nature has taken over and I have given him my opinion bluntly and without pause, sometimes making him feel like I don’t trust him to keep our son safe and I have felt bad immediately afterwards, luckily, he knows me very well, he has patience with me, he knows I’m human, and he ALWAYS forgives me.
Having been married to this man, we know each other on a deep level, and instead of using that against each other as some divorced spouses do, we tend to use it to understand what one another is going through. This was not always the case, it took us a long time to get where we are. We have been divorced since 2012, and just began this co-parenting adventure in 2015. So there is a significant gap in which we both had to forgive each other, learn how to talk to one another without malice and gave each other the space we needed whether we liked it or not. Do we wish we were able to co-parent earlier, DEFINITELY, did we need that time to heal, also, DEFINITELY. Everyone approaches it differently and hopefully some of my words, will help others have a smoother, faster transition.
HONESTY IS BEST PRACTICE. Although, it is not always easy. Being completely honest in a raw sense of the word keeps miscommunication from taking place. It may not be easy to say “I don’t agree with that” because you are worried of the answer you may get, but in the end it shows a high level of respect between you and your ex. Honesty in any relationship should be a priority, but now you are navigating this new territory with someone that you probably were not always honest with before. Let’s be frank, there is a reason you both did not work, conquering some of those faults in your relationship AFTER the relationship, can only improve the two of you. Maybe even help you in future relationships. Open honesty includes notifying the other parent of any romantic endeavors, within reason, that will effect your children. Even a simple “I’ve been seeing someone…” or “I’m going to see this person and I’m not sure how it will go…” can make all the difference.
As parents we are innately protective over our children and sometimes possessive if we are honest with ourselves. Anxiety always comes when the other parent begins seeing someone else and that person becomes a part of our children’s lives. Some of us become overly critical of every move that new person makes. Others refuse to accept their entrance into the co-parenting completely. But in all honesty, that person is going to be a part of your life, and your children’s lives regardless of how you feel. So, we accept that they are now a co-parent as well, and try to make that transition smooth. With HONESTY and COMMUNICATION.
FORGIVENESS, SUCH A HARD WORD TO SPIT OUT SOMETIMES…This is the part where first, we must forgive each other for everything that happened in our relationship, before the relationship. This isn’t always easy, my ex and I did some pretty awful stuff to each other over the years, the end was not smooth and we both did some serious damage. After 3 years of reflecting on it alone though, we forgave each other, we both knew that as ourselves, we weren’t very good spouses, and to forgive each other, I think we had to forgive ourselves. I love my ex-husband exponentially, I genuinely care about his well being, how he feels and how life goes for him. I celebrate his successes and I’m there for him in his failures, and vice versa, he is here for me just the same, and I know without a doubt he loves me. We still continue to forgive each other (again, mostly him forgiving me) throughout our relationship, because at the end of the day, the healthier we are for each other, the healthier we are for our son. My husband cares for my ex and my ex for him, they communicate for the best interests of our son and they genuinely like each other. Someday, when my ex settles down again, I will have to do the same.
The moral of my post is that FIRST and foremost, we are parents and everything we do effects our children, if we hold malice and become toxic to our co-parent, that effects our children directly, they become the casualties of war. They didn’t screw up, they didn’t ruin the relationship, they were born into something that was not of their making. They should never suffer or be punished for it. If you are still in the transition of trying to get along and co-parent with your ex, but haven’t quite perfected it, try to remember that you two created your child/children out of love. That they are a direct result of how you once felt. You won’t get the same type, or same level of love back, but you can develop a new type of love, a new type of relationship that thrives for you, for your ex, and for your children.