Saying goodbye to a loved one, whether alive or not, is not an easy task. Let’s just acknowledge that an ending, any ending, is usually very hard. Having gone through a divorce, I have to say, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I know not everyone has the same experience and I envy those that have had an amicable divorce from the beginning. But usually, the word divorce is synonymous with heartbreak, pain, stress, etc. Obviously, if we were on the same page, we wouldn’t be divorced. But we’re divorced, what now?
I’ve learned that as much as a marriage is between two people, everyone in your life usually takes a side. Our families divorced, our friends divorced, teachers took sides. Who knew there were so many people in our marriage? All that doesn’t matter now. What happened in our marriage is over, but what happens from here on out is what matters. The mental and emotional health of our kids is what matters.
In many cases, mine included, it’s an uphill battle. It hurts, and when people are hurt, they tend to want to hurt those that hurt them. Everyone heals differently. The easy part is over, signing on the dotted line and ending the marriage, regardless of the division of assets and such. The hard part is the co-parenting. It’s taken 7 years for us to learn how to co-parent and it’s still a learning process, but we’re getting there. Every situation is different and there are tons of advice I can give, but below are the top 5 daily reminders that kept me sane and fighting to successfully co-parent.
Learn Some Emotional Intelligence
- Learn to NOT be reactive. Understand that you and only you are responsible for your reaction no matter what is done to push your buttons. There truly is a thin line between love and hate and when you have loved someone so deeply and it’s gone, it’s a normal reaction to jump to the other side. DON’T. Love them for the person they are. Love them for what they brought into your life. Remember their good attributes. Focus on the positive. There are plenty of them. Hurt is keeping you from seeing them. After all, you did fall in love with them. Remember why. Not to fall back in love, but to not fall into hate. At the end of the day, they are half of your child and if you hate them, aren’t you also hating that half of them in your children? For the love of your children, keep it positive. If they push your buttons, acknowledge it for what it is, hurt trying to hurt you back. It’s okay for them to be hurt, they will lash out. Acknowledge it, let it go, and address the situation. Mom was right, be the bigger person. Not because they don’t deserve a piece of your mind, but because your kids deserve not to be in a tornado of emotions and fights. Divorce is hard enough on them, don’t make it harder.
Pick Your Battles
- I think this applies to all relationships in your life. Does it really matter that your ex, was 5 minutes late to drop them off? Or that they’re wearing two different socks? Focus on what matters. Are they happy when they come back home? Did they have a great time with your ex? Don’t be hurt, they love you just as much. Encourage them to have a great relationship with your ex. You can’t be the buffer for them anymore. They’re no longer your spouse to tell them what to do. Unless you are at a place that you can co-parent and communicate about your children, then encourage your kids to speak up on how they feel. My kids appreciate being able to speak their voice and not having mom doing it for them and my ex realizes that it isn’t coming from me. The more they speak their mind, the less resistance my ex had towards me and the fewer battles we had between us. During the divorce, everything seemed like a fight, and afterward It wasn’t until there was a consensus that the kids come first, that we had a much easier time communicating. For us, it didn’t happen at the same time, I begged for a very long time for us to ONLY focus on the kids and put them first, but everyone has to work through their own issues to get there. I’m just grateful we’re finally at a place that we can do that and not EVERYTHING is a battle.
- Accept they will be in your life for the rest of your life. Soak that in for a moment. It seems simple enough, but it’s not. We found that it wasn’t over at the divorce finalization. I wanted to get away from him and vice versa, but we had kids. There is nothing worse than being granted that divorce and realizing that you still have to deal with them for the rest of your life. It sounds horrible. Here’s the kicker, it’s not for you. What wouldn’t you do for your kids? Now add biting your tongue for the sake of them having a happy childhood, with both of you. Could you take away their happiness in order for you to be happy? Nope. So accept that you may no longer like them, no longer be married to them, but you can never take away the fact that they are your kid’s parent as well. No matter what the court decides in regards to visitation, holidays, etc, they have the right to a relationship with them as well. The quicker you accept it as a fact of life, the quicker you can focus on more important things. You have birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandkids and more ahead of both of you, why make it miserable events for your children?
This Too Shall Pass
- Pain doesn’t last forever unless you give it life. Everything in the moment seems magnified. Love. Divorce. Death. But as time passes, these too shall pass. When it seems hard, breathe. Remember that you are further today than you were yesterday. Keep in mind that your kids deserve all the happiness in the world. Resolve yourself to be that ray of sunshine for them. They grow, they go off to school, they live their own lives, and they’re not home forever. Why not make those years the happiest regardless of what’s going on around them? If your ex can’t find it in them to make your kids happy, they’ll eventually have adult kids that will make them answer for it. Don’t worry about it. Do your part. Controlling other people and what they do or don’t do for your kids isn’t an option, only what you do is.
Put The Kids First
- I know, you think this probably should be first on the list, but the reason it’s last on the list is because learning to co-parent is a process and there will be days you just don’t have the patience to do anything else on this list. Do this one, if you can’t do anything else. Our kids didn’t ask to be here; they didn’t ask for the divorce, they didn’t ask for the mess, so they shouldn’t have to face the consequences of our actions. We decided to have them and they were made in a moment of love. Don’t begrudge them that love because you no longer feel it for your ex. Your kids are a daily reminder that you once loved someone so much; you created a life with them. Although they no longer hold that love anymore, you owe it to your children to continue to love them as deeply as you once loved their other parent. Consider all that pain you feel and everything you’re going through as a bullet. What parent wouldn’t step in front of a bullet for their children? Do the same with that emotional baggage you’re carrying. Protect them. Divorce is an adult situation that is yours, not theirs. You divorced your spouse, not your kids. Keep it that way.
At the end of the day, these are always easier said than done. I can’t speak for everyone and every situation, only myself. This is what kept me sane. This is what helped on the path of successfully co-parenting. This is just my situation. By all means, the children’s safety is the number one priority and if the situation is such that co-parenting is not an option, do what you can to keep the kids safe. These are not the only steps to a successful co-parenting relationship; there are many ways to learn to co-parent. Understanding that the need is there and the kids come first is that best thing you can do on the path to success and having happy and healthy kids.