If you’ve been through a separation or divorce with kids, you probably understand how tough things can be. Most likely, you and the ex feel differently about how to raise the kids. Or maybe it’s been tough because you don’t get to see your kids enough. Perhaps the ex is draining you dry financially, and you just can’t seem to get ahead. All these issues can lead to court battles, emotionally-draining disagreements, and hard feelings that begin destroying your inner peace and happiness. So is there anything you can do that’s guaranteed to make the situation any easier? While some people won’t respond to any sanity, I would say that in about 90 percent of situations, yes, you can.
Leave Everything with Your Ex in the Past
Feelings like resentment and unforgiveness towards the ex can fester a long time. But in the long run, there’s no reason to feel this way. If you know the marriage is over, leave it in the past. And that means any negativity you still feel towards the ex. If you can’t do this, you and the children will suffer in many ways you won’t even be conscious of.
It doesn’t matter who they ex became or what they did. The past is the past. The more you dwell on it, the more negativity you’re going to bring to any co parenting situation.
In my own experience, I felt justified to be angry. As far as fairness and feelings go, I was justified. But only in my eyes – the truth of any situation is relative to the person, so your ex isn’t going to see things the way you do, especially if you’re not leaving the negativity in the past. If you want them to see their faults, you both have to move on, and any contributions you’re making that make that hard makes any co parenting situation worse. If you truly want to make things optimal for your kids, then leave every negative thought about the ex in the past.
So if you’re still hurt or angry, how do you do this?
Try Switching Your Focus
The best way to start building a better co parenting situation is by thinking good about the ex. Try and remember the good things that originally attracted you to him / her. What made you decide to be together in the first place? Focus on that! Whenever anger or resentment rises up over what they did or said to you, switch your focus to their best qualities. Everybody has something good about them.
One of the worst things I did after my separation was to concentrate on all the hurt she caused instead of some of the amazing times we had before things went south. Then one day I decided this was only making my life worse. If the ex saw a negative attitude in me, how did it affect the way she thought about my time with kids? Certainly not good. And the truth is I was making it harder on myself.
As soon as I began to shift my focus on her positive traits, I was able to take the next step.
It’s Amazing What You Can Get out of the Ex with Simple Acts of Kindness
Within a month of focusing on the ex’s positive traits, I was able to start demonstrating small acts of kindness towards her. For example, when we met at Walmart (halfway between both our houses) for pickups and dropoffs with the kids, I began to give her compliments. I started finding little things that I knew she would appreciate. I would thank her for being on time and for all the things she had done for the kids during her time with them. I even took it a step further and told her she looked nice with her new haircut, or that I had noticed when she lost a little weight and was looking fit. It doesn’t matter what you choose to say, as long as it will mean something to them.
About that time a great opportunity arose. She was making a move. I offered to drive the moving truck and help her load the heavy furniture. And when she got a storage facility that was too small, I offered my extra garage space to keep a few furniture pieces for her. It was a small sacrifice on my part, but it meant a lot to her. In the beginning she didn’t trust me, but over time she came to understand that I was serious about having a good relationship with her for the kid’s sake. It worked like a charm. Six months later we began having regular family outings with the kids. I didn’t even mind that she brought her new partner along, and I told her I was happy that she was settling down with someone she really cared about.
Was it a little hard at times? Of course. But over time I began to mean every word, and some amazing things happened. We were suddenly friends again and we both did a lot of giving and taking in our schedules for the kids. She was more than happy to switch weekends just so I could go on a vacation with my new girlfriend, and I returned the favor for her. If something special came up that I wanted to involve the kids with and she wasn’t doing anything special with them, she was more than happy to let me have them.
This all happened because I decided that anything that happened between us was no longer relevant. A positive co parenting experience for the kids sake became the focal point for both of us. An added bonus was that we really did become friends again. We both agreed to be there for one another, and we have been on many occasions. When I broke my ankle and couldn’t drive, she picked up groceries for me and did some cleaning around the house.
This had a great effect on the kids. They were much happier to see mommy and daddy happy together again, even if we lived separate and no longer wanted to be together romantically. The kids did better in school and some of the emotionally issues with my daughter cleared up.
Getting What You Really Want
Think about it. What do you really want from your ex? You want their cooperation, of course! You want things to run smoothly. You don’t want them to be demanding and distrustful. You want life to be easy-going for the kids, and yourself. So put away your pride, resentment, and anger, and start doing the little things to make a magic co parenting experience that both you and your kids deserve. It may take some time, but I’m positive you’ll see great results. I understand that some people will never reason with sanity, and will always hold onto to anger, guilt, resentment, etc. If you’re in this situation, consistently show them kindness and over time, you might be surprised how even the most obstinate ex can soften a little 🙂