Relationship breakups are highly complex. They can go back for years and involve several layers of conflict and resentment. If you have broken-up with your partner, especially if children are involved, it will be because you were unable to find a resolution or a way forward.
We are certainly not able to rectify the problems from your past relationship. However, there are ways to develop a more peaceful relationship with your ex-partner which will make you better co-parents. Working on a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex-partner is the one of the very best things you can do for your children as a separated family.
This article gives you tips and ideas to help heal the rift with your ex and be a better co-parent.
1. MAKE THE DECISION TO CHANGE
It is challenging when you have been through the stress of a breakup to then have to work together to bring up your children. This is particularly so if your breakup was high-conflict. You will have developed a way of communicating which may be less than effective, and at times unkind or hurtful. When you co-parent, this must stop.
Nothing will change unless you want it to and you are prepared to put in the work to make it happen. It takes one person to forge the way. Will it be you?
Make the decision to improve your co-parenting relationship with your ex-partner and stick to it, however hard it might be at times.
2. WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION
Talking of communication, if you are struggling to communicate with your ex-partner, step back and work out where it is going wrong and how you can both improve.
It may be that you are both still very emotional about the breakup. This can easily creep into conversations making them uncomfortable and unproductive. If this is the case, consider communication via text, email or a co-parenting app. This has two main benefits:
- By removing the emotion from a conversation, you can instead concentrate on the issue to hand and find solutions together.
- You can re-read your text or email before hitting send to ensure it comes across in the right manner. This should be polite, respectful and to-the-point.
Changing and working on your communication is key to successful co-parenting.
3. GET A PARENTING PLAN
Having a plan is an excellent way to pave a clear path for your co-parenting journey. In this case, a parenting plan is a godsend. As per Relationships Australia, this is:
“A voluntary agreement that covers the day to day responsibilities of each parent, the practical considerations of a child’s daily life, as well as how parents will agree and consult on important long-term issues about their children.”
Although it can be difficult finding middle ground on which to make your parenting plan, it allows you both to have a say in the upbringing of your children. And, ultimately, it alleviates conflict in the future as decisions have been made and cannot be argued over.
Note: Parenting plans are a written agreement between you and your ex-partner. They can be made legally binding by the Family Court who will transfer them to consent orders. It is sensible to take this extra step to formalise your plans to ensure that both you and your ex-partner stick to them.
4. REMEMBER THE GOOD PARTS OF YOUR PAST
It is important to remember that although your relationship with your ex-partner did not work out as you hoped, there were some good times. And whatever the outcome, you have produced wonderful child/ren who you adore.
When times are hard and you are feeling the stress of co-parenting, remind yourself of the qualities you like about your ex. Perhaps they are funny, a great cook or a kind parent. Think about the positive qualities they have passed onto your children.
You can even mention particular good times you have had together to your ex-partner. A smile or giggle about the good old days is great to ground you both and remind you how you got to this point.
Going through a separation can bring some nice surprises, one of which is building a new friendship with your ex-partner.
5. BE KIND AND THOUGHTFUL
Think about how you would like your ex-partner to behave towards you. You would like him to be kind, respectful and considerate of your feelings. Make sure you treat him the way you would like to treated. This is not always easy but it definitely makes you the better person and sets the bar of how you should treat one another.
It is also worth recognising your relationship will have affected your ex-partner as well as you. Even though they may not show it, or show it differently, they will be going through their own form of distress. An article in The Guardian about amicable divorce suggests:
“Never lose sight of the fact that the breakdown of a marriage affects everyone involved – not just you. It’s the key to having the compassion to get through it together.”
If you can bear to do it, throw your ex-partner the odd complement, offer support if you see them struggling or simply smile and be friendly at pick-up.
6. AVOID KNOWN TRIGGERS
Triggers are the things that annoy or upset us, and we all have them. If you were in a long relationship with your now ex-partner, you will know their triggers better than anyone. This means you can anticipate them and use them to your advantage.
It might be that your ex-partner finds it hard to talk about the past, in which case stay focused on the present and the future. Or maybe they get stressed if you are running late, so put lots of effort into being on time.
Keep the peace by being aware of and avoiding triggers that could tip the balance of a precarious co-parenting partnership.
7. GIVE IT TIME
We have talked about the enormity of what you are doing. You are working with someone who you have chosen to be separated from to care for the most precious people in your world.
It is going to take time to get this right. If you expect it to happen instantly, you will become frustrated and feel as if you have failed.
Solid co-parenting relationships take several years and many mistakes to create. Even when you finally think you’ve got the perfect set-up, things can fall apart. As your children grow and their routine and needs change you will have to adapt accordingly. Co-parenting is a long haul and it is ever-changing.
However, with time and dedication from both parents who genuinely want to heal the rift, co-parenting can work exceptionally well for your separated family.