Becoming a Single Co-parent by Releasing Your Ex

Becoming a Single Co-parent by Releasing Your Ex

My single parent prayer to my ex:

“I wish you happiness in your new life, I always want to see you shine, you are the other half, the partner in this parenting journey we accepted together. Your joy is joy for our kids. Your peace is their peace, and mine. As we walk separate paths we are blameless and grateful for the gifts we’ve been given. And to you, my dear ex, I give the deepest respect and love. Thank you for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going, still a family, still parents, still blessed.” (see: Prayer for All Single Parents)

It’s time to move on. The divorce has happened. And, regardless of how your ex is treating you, it’s time to let that anger go, process it, use it, but quit directing it at your ex. There is nothing to gain from fighting with your ex. There is no joy in being a witty badass when she sends you a crappy note. Just. Let. It. Go.

Easier said than done, right? Let’s find the focus to put our energy on, so we can take back our power from our ex. After all, it’s no longer about them, it’s about the kids. So how do we pivot our anger and reclaim the power we’ve continued to give to our angry exes?

  • Pay attention to your kids
  • Be the 100% positive parent
  • Never talk bad about your ex (even if you hear disparaging words)
  • When you get angry, imagine the face of your smiling child, put your energy there, how can you improve their situation?
  • Always be flexible when scheduling issues arise
  • Give your ex the benefit of the doubt (I use this phrase, “They are doing the best they can.”)
  • Find ways to be a cheerleader for your co-parent, tell your kids how you think their other parent is doing a great job
  • Live your happy life (demonstrate what a positive approach to difficulties looks like)
  • Find the spiritual side to parenting, this relationship is so much bigger than you
  • Imagine your ex in a happy place, and imagine how much easier this makes your kid’s lives
  • If you’ve got issues, deal with them outside of the parenting relationship (you’ve got nothing else to work out with your ex)
  • When something difficult comes up, take a minute to re-center yourself, breathe, and choose the positive action.
  • Always choose the positive action
  • Remember the penguins in Madagascar, “Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”

As we move on and grow the anger and issues tend to diminish. I say “tend to” because it is possible that your ex will never evolve past their own rage at you. And it’s important you let them be wherever they need to be. The good news is, you don’t have to take care of their feelings or react when they behave poorly. The bad news is, their anger and vindictiveness can rub off on your kids. It’s a fine line. After years of fighting the good fight and taking a lot of angry arrows, I have learned to let my dream of being the friendly co-parent go.

That said, I will never stop loving my ex for being the mother of my children. I wish only the best for her in her new life, with her new husband. But, I don’t have to participate in her maelstrom of madness over every single detail of our kids lives. And what I learned, over this past summer, is I also don’t have to take the abuse of her anger as part of my parenting relationship with her. I’m sad that we’re not friends. I think it would be so much easier and better for our kids. For whatever reason, there is no path to friendly co-parenting with her. My job now is to accept that, and bless her anyway.

Let go of your co-parent and let them live their own lives. We are all on our independent human journeys. Your ex is no longer your concern. Only your kids matter once the divorce is set in motion. And as you grow into a single co-parent you can begin to heal your own wounds. It’s an odd concept, co-parenting alone.

Co-parenting Alone

It only takes one person to co-parent alone. As your love and meta-consciousness expands to move beyond the relationship you once had with your ex, you can easily maintain your attention and energy on your children and the relationship you have with them as individuals. Holding your ex in love, you can ignore angry messages, you can still attend parent-teacher meetings and school performances, and you can allow them to be whatever kind of parent they want to be. Not being a co-parent with your ex is okay. It’s not optimal, perhaps, but it can be done. As a single co-parent, I take complete responsibility for my actions alone. As a single co-parent, I understand that my interactions with my ex are only in the service of my children. As a single co-parent, I ask nothing of my ex, except to do their best as the other parent of our children. Chances are, they are already doing the best they can. Their struggles are about themselves now, and not about you or the failed marriage. There is freedom in letting go of your ex. There is freedom in becoming a single co-parent.

Bless your co-parent just as they are. Let go of your expectations about co-parenting. Then parent as best you can. Release everyone, even yourself, from the expectations and dreams you had of a wonderful co-parenting relationship. And be okay with that transition. I am a single co-parent. I am working to be the happiest and most supportive dad I can be. That is all that is within my power.

Sometimes the Serenity Prayer helps:

God, grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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