Your Parenting Relationship With Your Ex

Developing a cooperative type of parenting relationship with your ex-husband will allow you to focus on doing what is best for your children. Even though your marriage may be over, parenthood is forever and you want to make the most of it. If you find yourself struggling in your interactions with your ex, these co-parenting tips can help give you a fresh start.

Changing Your Co-parenting Relationship

Sad children hearing their parent's arguing in the background.

By Brette Sember

The more things change the more they stay the same. Is that you how you feel about parenting with your ex? You go round and round about the same things. You argue over the same issues. No one does anything differently and you feel like you're living in the movie Groundhog Day.

It's easy to be stuck in the same patterns. You and your ex definitely don't agree about a lot of things and nothing you say to each other has any impact. Do you want to live in the same arguments forever? Are you ready to break out of the pattern? Follow these tips:

Change what you say. 

Stop saying what you're thinking. Sure, you're mad, you're annoyed and your ex, as always, is unreasonable, thoughtless, and pulling the same tricks. Instead of saying what you think about all of this, just don't. It's not making any difference anyhow, so try just disengaging. Keep your mouth shut and see what happens.

Switch up the physical environment. 

Instead of exchanging the kids in a parking lot or your ex coming to your house for pick up, switch it up. Pick a different location. Or preempt your spouse so your kids meet him or her in the driveway instead of the doorway. A small change in the environment will change the pattern of behavior.

Do the unexpected. 

Instead of giving a reminder about overdue child support, pointing out that your ex is late, or reminding him or her about your child's science project, do something you normally wouldn't do. Hand over some cookies you just made. Tell her you like her coat. Even simply not being in the room might be a change. Doing something completely different will be shocking and may cause your spouse to behave differently. If you want things to be different, you have to make them different.

Handle communication differently. 

Your ex doesn't listen to you or won't respond to your requests for schedule changes. He or she pretends not to hear your reminders about bedtimes, medication, or allergies. What you're doing isn't working, so if you have a message that is important, change how you're conveying it.

Instead of talking to your ex, send an email. Instead of texting, type up a letter and mail it. Instead of having your kid remind your ex, hand over a written list in an envelope when you exchange your child. Even changing how you say it will make a difference.

Revise your thoughts.

 How you think about your ex impacts how you act, which in turn influences how your ex responds to you. Break the cycle by changing your thoughts.

  • Instead of "He is such a jerk," think "He is my children's father and is important to them." 

  • Replace "That idiot is screwing with me again," with "I can get through this and we only have X number of years of visitation left!" 

  • Instead of "He's late with child support AS USUAL, making it impossible for me," think "It's great he picks the kids up on time and that they enjoy their time with him.

Reframe your entire situation. 

Your divorce or separation was hard. Coping with shared parenting time is hard. Putting your life back together emotionally and financially has been hard. All of this true, but it is time to control how you think about where you are in your life. You have great kids. You have time alone to get things done. You are living on your own without your ex in your hair. You have the freedom to decide your own future. You have a future with your children. These are amazing things and if you remind yourself of them you will feel much less cranky about your dealings with your ex.

Isolate the villain. 

Your ex is difficult and you can't, won't, will never agree. So put all of that in a box and close the lid. Sometimes you have to go into the box to arrange custody, deal with child support, or solve a problem, but the rest of the time, put the lid on it and keep your ex out of your mind and your life. 

Brette Sember
Author Brette Sember

For more information on improving your parenting relationship with your ex, check out the following articles: