Nearly 50% of all first marriages ends in divorce. As staggering as that number may be, it’s a painful reality for many, including myself.
I’ve felt compelled recently to share some insight into my own family situation, in the hopes that it may help someone else going through something similar. I’ve always been taught that our trials and tribulations are learning experiences meant to be shared with others. Our stumbles and pitfalls can help others avoid the same problems, or perhaps, simply help to cope. We create a bond, a sense of community, over shared experiences.
As I share with you, please keep in mind that each and every situation is different. My perspective, and our arrangement, will probably vary greatly from anyone else’s. So please be nice. 🙂
A little background:
My daughter is now almost 11 years old. When she was 3 years old, her father and I divorced after only four years of marriage. Initially, we were civil to one another. We have always maintained a 50/50 arrangement regarding parenting time, even though the days have shifted through the years. Six years ago, when I met the man who is now my husband, the relationship between myself and my ex-husband began to deteriorate rapidly.
Over the past six years, we have done everything wrong. We’ve blamed and accused, pointed fingers, yelled, cursed, hated, angered quickly… Both of us are guilty of being selfish and petty, making false assumptions about the other parent, on and on and on. It only worsened over time – until very recently.
In April of this year, we spent four days in court. When it was all said and done, not much changed except for our daughter’s schedule. Even the negativity continued. Something had to give.
The judge ordered us to go to Parent Coordination, which is similar to marriage counseling, but for divorced parents. Essentially, you pay a counselor to listen to the two of you battle it out in a confined space for about an hour and half every few weeks, in the hopes of finding common ground and improving communication. Sounds fun, right?!
Well, it’s working. I never, ever, in a million years expected us to be where we are today, in just two short months. We can talk like normal human beings – on the phone, in person, wherever – and not yell and scream. We can compromise for the greater good of our daughter. Don’t believe me? We actually had a 30-minute conversation on the phone Monday morning discussing the drama that has become our “tween” daughter, and reached an agreement for disciplining her accordingly. Awesome-sauce!
Allow me to share a few things that I have gained from this Parent Coordination. These are things I should have taken into account years ago to avoid the issues that have plagued our family for so long. Hopefully, someone out there reading this will learn from my (and my ex-husband’s) mistakes.
- Always be the bigger person. Regardless of who is right or wrong in an argument, you should always be the bigger person. Stop the argument before it gets out of hand. Admit when you make a mistake. (And this is the really tough one…ready?) Apologize. UGH! I know! It’s so hard, right? Those two tiny words pack such a punch to the gut, but say them when you need to. “I’m sorry.”
- Don’t assume anything. You know the saying: “When you assume it makes an ass out of u & me.” You may assume your ex-spouse is rolling in the dough and tries to buy your child’s affections because your child constantly talks about all the new things they have at their other home. You may assume they are trying to steal your parenting time away because plans are made without your input. You may assume the child lives in squalor because they show up at your house with unwashed hair. Whatever. Don’t assume anything. If a situation arises (and it will) in which you feel that there is genuine concern for your child, suck it up and call your ex and talk to them. Discuss the situation like an adult. Which leads me to my next point:
- Only concern yourself with things you can control. Keep in mind that you are the only person you can control. I know you may think your ex-spouse is the epitome of evil and the only reason they continue to live and breathe is to piss you off. But it’s simply not true. Promise. However, they may tend to be a bit difficult to talk to about anything you bring to the table. When a situation arises in which you need to contact your ex, try this first.
- Pause for a moment and consider the lasting effects of your impending conversation. Is it worth it? Is this thing, this itchy little nuisance you are going to confront your ex about, really something worth potentially arguing about? Do what I do – the 1-5-LIFE thought process. How will this thing, whatever it is, affect my child in 1 year? 5 years? In her lifetime? If you truly feel it’s worth reaching out, then move on to the second tip. If not, LET IT GO.
- Sit quietly and imagine how the conversation should go. Envision a positive outcome, a calm conversation, and a compromise. This isn’t something I learned from Parent Coordination. I recently participated in a 30-day challenge on thoughts done by Crystal Wilkerson, and it was mind-blowing. Seriously. Go to her blog and read through the challenge. It rocked my socks.
- Give yourself a script. Seriously, it works. If you have a hard time talking to your ex, like I have for several years, talk it out first. You need to prepare yourself so you can avoid any confrontation.