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Co-parenting Is Not Always Easy, But We Have a Choice

Money issues might have had a great deal to do with the breakdown of trust and adoration in my marriage. And even though the marriage is over, the conflict and misunderstanding around money is a difficult topic. Even when you love one another, it’s difficult. When it comes up after divorce, it can easily escalate, like war.

But we can stop it. I can stop it. Even if I have no control over the discussion, I have my part and my participation in it. The pause and silence are my friend. If I always try and answer, even when I don’t have an answer, I find myself defending things I wasn’t trying to propose. If I respond with anger, I NEVER get what I need.

I learned something, only recently, that has worked with some effectiveness: I try and respond with an update. At least I’m not freezing my ex out of the discussion. I may not have the answer. (And at this moment, today, I certainly don’t have the answer.) But I am engaging in the conversation.

And sometimes, the response, “I’m thinking about this and will respond to you by Monday,” often has a soothing effect, for both of us. I’m not left with this need to respond, and while I haven’t given the answer, I have expressed my intention and timing for my response. This gives us both a little time to think/work on the answer.

In conflict, my ex-wife and I often do better if we write it down. We even used love letters in our courting period. We both enjoy putting our ideas in a logical sequence and giving them some considered thought. This is a great way to diffuse the potential emotional escalation. And when I take a pause, I can often reframe my initial angry response in a more loving and considered manner.

So today, I can slow things down. I can let her know that I am thinking about her question/request. And then I can set an expectation for when I will be giving her my response.

I don’t benefit at all from firing off a knee-jerk reaction to an angry email from my ex-wife. I don’t have to respond in-kind. I can take the higher road and do my best at giving an honest response, and if possible a solution.

So much of co-parenting is about negotiation and compromise. We no longer have the same loving emotional ties to our former partners. We no longer have to make their urgency and priorities our own. But we owe the considered response to the parenting relationship. By taking our anger elsewhere, we can keep the focus on the REQUEST from our ex and try and keep the response to an ANSWER.

Sometimes I have to parse out the request. And sometimes I don’t have the answer. But the tone and method of my response is up to me.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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image: kids and their parents, creative commons usage

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