If you have researched any recent divorce statistics in the US, you know that divorce is a common scenario that occurs in 4 out of 10 marriages. Divorcing when you have children adds a considerable amount of nuances and complications to the process, such as working out the child custody arrangements.
While a complicated and often painful situation, steps you take as you navigate your post-divorce lifestyle and co-parenting can greatly reduce stress for everyone involved.
Identifying YOUR Post-Divorce Co-Parenting Relationship
No two marriages or divorces are the same, so your post-divorce relationship with your former spouse could take on many different forms.
1. Friendly Co-parents
In this beneficial post-divorce relationship, the exes have amicable feelings toward one another, often for the sake of preserving some elements of the cohesive family lifestyle for the children. These former couples are comfortable attending school events together, occasionally enjoying a meal with the kids, and even taking trips together.
If both exes have truly moved on past the pain and awkwardness of divorce, they can either feign friendliness for the sake of the kids or even enjoy a truly platonic relationship. This is a healthy and balanced set up for the kids, but also rare and hard to sustain through the daily stresses and changes of modern life.
2. Fully Estranged
These are ex-couples that are no longer in touch. This can happen for many reasons – a move for one of the exes, mental or physical issues, or a deep resentment or anger on one or both sides. This type of relationship can offer a clean break and closure to the ex-spouses, but when there are children involved, can be extremely painful. Parents often forget what kind of negative effect this type of post-divorce relationship might have on children.
3. Highly Contentious
This type of post-divorce relationship has a very high level of anger and conflict, so much so, that the parties often have to communicate through lawyers or a mediator. The anger of one or both of the exes gets in the way of making decisions about the children or ironing out the details of the divorce. This type of relationship is harmful to all and very stressful for the children.
The good news is that it often calms down after the divorce is finalized, or when a good amount of time passes. If you both make a good faith effort to try to get passed divorce, this toxic post-divorce relationship can be avoided.
4. Partially Contentious
Not as toxic and tense as the Highly Contentious relationship, the exes that have a Partially Contentious relationship post-divorce tend to have a strong dislike for one another, and trouble agreeing on anything. They generally do communicate directly but argue frequently. This type of relationship is also very hard on the kids, and the exes.
5. Efficient Co-parents
This is a largely neutral post-divorce relationship between the former spouses, but one that is cooperative and positive about matters having to do with the kids. For the sake of having peace and harmony for everyone involved, the exes try to be flexible about things like kids’ schedule changes, making important decisions about schools and camps and working together to plan for key milestones, like college. Many exes even take co-parenting courses to try to act as effectively as possible.
Assess How You Would Like Your Post-Divorce Life to Be
After you endure the whirlwind emotions of navigating the divorce process, it is important to take a step back and assess where you would like to be after some time passes. In many situations, even the toughest situations can settle down after both parties have had some time and closure. You might not be able to carve out your ideal situation, but taking steps in a positive direction can help achieve some measure of peace in the future.
Separate your Divorce Baggage from your Kids’ Experience
In many situations, an ex spouse can be an amazing parent while being a terrible spouse, or ex. Take the time to recognize these differences. Maybe your ex is rude and dismissive to you, but patient and kind as a parent. Do not let your hurt feelings ignore the positive effect your ex has on the kids. Do your best to support your ex as a parent, especially when your child has specific development needs.
Improve Your Communication
Most issues between divorced spouses stem from bad communication, and emotions can often get in the way. Think about what is effective communication for you and your ex – perhaps emailing or texting is better or planning ahead. Once you find what results in better understanding, implement those communication methods for better results.
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