My co-parenting journey started four years ago, when my son was 8 months old (I can’t believe it has been that long), and it has been a rough and tumultuous road to say the least. Especially when it comes to dating, for both myself and my ex!
Seeing your ex date as a co-parent is difficult for many reasons. It’s difficult to see your child growing accustomed to a new parent figure in their life. It’s difficult to trust that someone who hurt you is going to be able to keep a steady relationship. It’s difficult because you fear that your child will grow too attached to too many people or the wrong kind of people. These are all valid fears and difficulties, but it is important for your relationship with your child’s other parent that you don’t let these fears fester into anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy, or anxiety. Honestly, these fears will strengthen and change as your ex gets re-married if you stay focused on the negativity. The chance of your ex staying single forever is slim to none, so dating and eventually a new marriage are just all a part of the pie- try to embrace this reality instead of letting negativity fester.
Coming from an attitude of appreciation for this new person in your child’s life is very important- they did not have to date or marry someone with a child they chose to, and most adults understand what that entails. (If they aren’t the type of person who can handle children, they will show themselves out sooner rather than later, but that is not for you to judge.) It does not matter how small of a role that your ex plays in your child’s life, they are still your child’s other parent. Their partner is agreeing to come along side them and help them parent; creating more stress in their relationship through conflict is going to accomplish nothing but inducing more tension between all parties.
Try to keep conflict to a minimum, and if not for your own peace of mind, for your child’s. The last thing that your children need is to hear their parents talking behind one another’s backs about their other parent or their new partner, making your children feel isolated and like they have to choose sides. As long as there is no foul play happening, i.e. actual illegal neglect, conflict is best kept to a minimum.
Three Easy Steps to Keep Conflict to a Minimum:
- Only communicate (text or email) about pick up/drop off, school, and after school activities. (This means no personal attacks, no rude comments about ex/partner. If they send texts like this to you, as difficult as it may be, do not respond)
- Stay off of social media about your co-parenting relationship- if it is bothering you that badly, go to a trusted friend and vent, just remove the toxic thoughts before communicating with your ex again. (Things posted on social media can be used against you in court. )
- Be the bigger person- I literally cannot emphasize how many times I have bitten my tongue, I have chosen to move forward, and I have ended negative conversations right when they started. They won’t get you anywhere, and what goes around comes back around.
We live in a society that teaches us to constantly think about ourselves- our lives, our children, our happiness, our feelings, the list is endless. It is so very easy to get caught up in ourselves and our emotions, without using much empathy- mentally putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes. The importance of taking a moment to feel an emotion or think a negative thought, then let it pass without letting it fester or turning it into a huge melodrama is so important, especially for us co-parents (I’ll touch more on this later). Try to understand and empathize your ex’s needs to feel supported and loved by someone else- they are only human- instead of getting upset or jealous that they are dating someone new. As a co-parent, having a partner that you enjoy spending time with when your children are away at your exes is so important for your mental and emotional health. (As I mentioned before, if this person doesn’t like children, they will show themselves out sooner rather than later.)
If your ex has a problem with introducing multiple people too seriously (i.e. moving in after 3 weeks) too quickly, look into having a clause adopted into your parenting agreement. My ex and I have one that requires we have been dating our significant other for 6 months before introducing them to our child on a consistent basis. This clause is just a good faith clause, which means there is no real way for a family court to reinforce it, but just having it in writing with both of your signatures is important. Ask your lawyer or mediator if this is a possibility for your parenting plan.
- Do not let your fears or negative thoughts fester or they will continue to grow. New relationships are almost inevitable.
- Appreciate your ex’s new partner; they are choosing to come along side and help parent.
- Keep conflict to a minimum by limiting communication, keeping your problems off of social media, and being the bigger person.
- Use empathy- understand that your ex is a human who has the need to be loved- just like you.