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Why we can

August 27, 2010

Some of the comments here and in other places have been asking how we can stand to co-parent, or expressing sadness that their situations are different. I thought I’d address the factors that I think make it possible for LOD and me to co-parent in relative peace. Note that many of these are true now, but weren’t a year ago, which is part of why we’re better at it now than we were then. I have hope that we’ll get even better at it still…

1. Things were over a long time ago between us. I hadn’t felt like we were a real couple for a loooong time before I finally asked LOD for a divorce, and then it took two years to get the divorce, and that was almost two years ago. So I’ve made peace with my feelings and lack of feelings long ago. That allows our interactions to be about now. Sometimes if I don’t address things with him our interactions might be about a few weeks ago. But the weight I’m carrying now is the weight of co-parenting, not any weight of leftover stuff from back when we were married or in the process of divorcing.

2. Both of us are mostly sane. Everyone’s a little quirky, of course, but we’re both essentially sane, reliable, trustworthy individuals. I don’t always think LOD’s personal goals make sense and I’m betting he doesn’t think all mine make sense, either (to the extent that we even know each others’ goals), but we both want the most stability and emotional health for the kids possible.

2a. I did some tough work in therapy. I cannot recommend this highly enough if you’re in the process of splitting up or co-parenting. You need to know why you got together with your ex-partner, why you’re splitting up, and how to move forward personally in the healthiest way. If you don’t let yourself move through the emotions fully you can’t be free of them, and a therapist helps you do that safely.

3. We stopped trying to outparent each other a few years ago. Those of you in the real thick of it might recognize the “I’m a better parent/I’m the parent they love better” phase. I think it’s pretty normal, and as long as you let yourself go through it so it doesn’t rule you, you’ll come out of it and be able to trust each other. We got over that awhile ago, and are able to be happy for the kids when they have warm fuzzies with the other one.

4. We live eight blocks away from each other. (Unfortunately, it really is uphill both ways between our apartments, now that I think about it. That feature of our neighborhood is also why I’ve stopped running for exercise.)

5. Neither of us is remarried, so we don’t have any other adults or kids to consider in the equation. Yet.

If these things were different it would be far more challenging for us to make co-parenting work. And if you can’t trust your former partner for some reason, or there’s leftover emotional baggage, or great physical distances, it might not be a realistic expectation that you co-parent well. I was talking to someone yesterday who asked how to co-parent with a former partner who kept trying to bait her. I don’t know, because you can’t, by definition, CO-parent equally if both of you aren’t in it. If that’s where you are, think about parallel parenting (in which you each do the best you can with what you can control, separately) instead.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jodi permalink
    August 27, 2010 2:52 pm

    Since entering my 10th year of divorce (gasp, that seems like an eternity!), and 10th year of successful co-parenting, I resonate soundly with this blog and with what LOD and askmoxie are doing (and doing well, it seems). There are still days when my ex and I can’t see eye-to-eye, or when one of us has forgotten the basic tenet of our co-parenting relationship (always assume good intent), but when I think about how much more stable our kids’ lives are because we have agreed to be uncomfortable sometimes (and let me be clear, we should be uncomfortable, not them, we did this, not them) I know that we’re doing it for all the right reasons (our kids were 4 and 1 when we divorced so it’s really all they’ve ever known).

    My ex is remarried, and while that has introduced another aspect, it hasn’t been all that difficult to bridge (given that he and she parent their own children sorta separately from one another which I think is weird but also works for me since I then don’t have to deal with her desires and quirks as I co-parent). We still have regular phone conversations about what’s happening, we have face-to-face transfers with just the two of us and the kids, and when needed, we sit down, the four of us, and have a meeting if something ‘big’ is happening. In other words, we try to run a family– fractured and separate, but still a family.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that a decade ago I never would have thought all this possible, but I’m actually looking forward to the decades to come– I loved him once, he fathered my children, the least I can do is work with him, and I’ve grown to like him in a whole different way now.

    Best of luck to the two of you! I’ll be here reading.

  2. August 28, 2010 1:31 pm

    Successful co-parenting is often just as elusive in a marriage as in a divorce. I’m new to the whole parenting game, my son just turned one, and I feel like my husband and I have been navigating a minefield all year long. I want to thank you for starting this blog and to let you know your writing is so instructive and real that it is helpful no matter what your marital status.

  3. anonforthis permalink
    August 28, 2010 8:36 pm

    Thanks for addressing parallel parenting! That is the boat we are in and it is difficult for some to understand why “everyone can’t just get along.” Sometimes with mental illness or other serious factors co-parenting doesn’t fly.

    I was sorry to see my other comment deleted, but I understand in context. Thanks again for addressing that for some people what you are doing won’t work, and it doesn’t make them bad parents.

    I have enjoyed reading both LOD and Ask Moxie over the last several years. I look forward to seeing how your experiment works out; it is a very intriguing concept to me.

  4. August 29, 2010 2:09 pm

    Can I link to your blog? I made a website a short while ago about dealing with parents’ divorce by teens for teens, and I have a resources for parents section that I’d like to include your blog in. I think this is a great example for parents out there; one that we kids wish more of our own parents would follow. Great job! đŸ™‚

  5. August 31, 2010 8:41 am

    Congrats on this endeavor and on maintaining a postive co-parenting arrangement.

    I’ve been divorced for about 4 years and advise others to approach co-parenting with an ex like a business relationship. Stay focused on the task at hand (on the kids’ best interest) and remain professional (no immature outbursts at the conference table). At work, you don’t have to like your coworkers, but you still have to treat them with respect, listen to their ideas and work together to meet business objectives.

    I know it doesn’t work if you can’t agree on the objectives, but in my case, it works for us.

    Also, I feel strongly that if your ex is healthy, happy and secure, your kids will be too. So, you should genuinely want good things for them. It can only mean good things for the kids.

    Thanks again. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading.

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