co-parenting issues

Co-parenting Struggles: Withholding the Joy of Your Kids

My ex-wife and I don’t talk anymore. That’s how she’s laid it out. With every email or text I wrote asking for a join or a meeting to discuss our kids, I would get some off-the-wall angry response. I guess her idea was to be so toxic I would quit asking to be a co-parent.

Withholding the joys of your kids from your ex-partner is actually limiting everyone’s happiness.

Happiness is created when we share our joys and ambitions with another person and see their empathy, support, and joined hope. Sadness and joining with others is the same way. The human experience is a tribal one. We are community animals. We share. We touch. We celebrate joys and milestones with our tribe. If you are cutting your ex-partner out of that tribal, family, experience, you’re actually hurting your kids in addition to the ex.

Birthdays, holidays, and milestones, are all moments along our journey as parents that should be shared. Yes, it can be difficult, but joining your ex-partner at your kids’ 8th birthday is really important. If you begin not inviting the ex-partner to these events you are shutting off your kid’s celebration as well.

As kids, we want our parent’s love and affection. We crave those little affirmations from our dad or our mom. It’s a continual process and a continual need. I’m 55 and I still want my 85-year-old mom to listen to my new song. I still want to share with her when something great happens. I still mourn with her when someone dies, or some hopeful expectation is missed. We’re all in this together. And my mom is still a big part of my life.

When my ex-wife began cutting me out of co-parenting I don’t think she did it intentionally. I think her anger at me, that still seems to fester 8-years later, had something to do with it. When I would ask for a meeting to talk about my son’s car, she would reply, “What do we need to talk about?” When I floated the idea that some of the child support I’m paying to be put into a college fund, I didn’t get a “no” from her, I got a “hell no, and how dare you even ask!”

I stopped asking.

She started making unilateral parenting decisions without even communicating with me. She made deals with my kids about things that I would’ve had HUGE disagreements about. She didn’t ask. She didn’t think she needed to include me in these major parenting decisions. I’m not sure how she stopped abiding by the co-parenting accepted rules of engagement: it’s about the kids. We’ve got a pretty thorough parenting plan, and she simply began to ignore me and move along without any conversation or connection around our kids.

Someday, I’m guessing, we’ll share a beer in the future and one of them will ask, “So what really happened?

I’m over it.

But I’ll never get over the loss that her anger and isolation have caused all of us. When she ignores my request for a mediated counseling session so we can discuss parenting issues, she’s stating loud and clear, “I don’t need your opinion. I don’t want your opinion. Your value as a father is null as far as I’m concerned.

Fortunately, my kids are reaching the age where they get to decide who to believe and who to listen to. Sure, there are plenty of those issues that are now water under the bridge, that I’d love to go back and renegotiate or change. But that time has passed. Today, I focus on my connection with my kids and ignore the void of connection with my ex-wife. My ideas of being a stand-up father and cooperative co-parent have been dashed by her vitriolic mood around anything dealing with me. Sure, I get it, you are still mad about something. But, that is no reason to cut me out of our parenting partnership.

Teens are different from elementary and middle-school-aged kids. My second child is about to get a car. And then everything changes again. My kids are becoming autonomous mini-adults. They are making decisions on all kinds of opportunities in their young lives. Drugs, no drugs. Drinking, not drinking. Sex, no sex. And the sad part is, my ex-wife and I should be united in our discussions and support around these life choices and challenges. We don’t talk about it. She cut me out of the conversation. She still cuts me out of dialogues that could result in stronger kids and healthier co-parenting relations between us.

She doesn’t want to be a co-parent.

She’s doing great. I’m certain she believes she has done all of this as a good parent. She believes she is doing the best she can. I’ve heard her say it, in defense, “We’re all doing the best we can.” Except, she’s not doing the best she can. She excommunicated me from the co-parenting conversation. She’s doing the “single mom knows best” form of isolation and neglect. She does not want me to be part of the most basic conversations about parenting. She doesn’t want to talk to me at all, about anything.

Again, I can only focus on my own experience and my own parenting plans. How I interact and support my kids is 100% of my responsibility. And, I can remember the priority of my kids when I feel upset by her continued righteousness. I can keep my frustrations to myself, work out my issues in my own therapy sessions, and, again, show up to be the best part-time dad I can be. My kids are now old enough that their relationship to me is less colored by their mom.

I wonder, someday, will they ask how the divorce happened? Will my adult kids want to know whose idea it was to break up our family? These are conversations I could never have had with them unless they asked. And as teens, it’s never quite occurred to them. They are too busy being teens. Their lives are complex, challenging, and busy. I will never do anything to damage their love and respect for their mother. Someday, I’m guessing, we’ll share a beer in the future and one of them will ask, “So what really happened?

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John

    Why not just walk away from it all and hope to reconcile with your children later? After two years of fighting to be in my kids life, and losing at every turn I am ready to just give up. I’m really considering my very few options. Can’t call my kids. Can’t see them but every other weekend. It’s like being visited by a ghost to remind you of your prior life. Everything is such a battle. Why not let go and move on?

    1. jmacofearth

      Thanks for your comment, John. I will never give up.

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