Why we can
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.