You open your email and there it is – the long, rambling, accusatory email from your co-parent which details all of your failures as a human being. You sigh and briefly scan through it for the answer to whether your co-parent can change the pick-up time by 15 minute on Saturday. It appears that in his haste to berate you for suggesting a time change in the parenting time schedule, your co-parent has neglected to actually agree or disagree with the suggested change. This is so typical. He never commits to anything! He couldn’t even commit to the marriage……Time to settle in to write an equally long, equally judgmental response.
Just as the movie “Groundhog Day” portrayed a man doomed to repeat that same cold, winter day forever, many co-parents have doomed themselves to an endless cycle of negativity and pain. Hurt feelings and lingering emotions related to the end of the marriage or relationship can infect every aspect of co-parenting. Simple schedule changes – experienced by all co-parents in any setting – become symptoms of the incompetence of the other parent. While a friend who is late to lunch every time you meet never receives a harsh word from you, your co-parent receives a tongue lashing for single late parenting time exchange.
The truth is: your marriage may be over but you are a parent forever. It is a hard reality to face the end of your marriage and the transition of your relationship with your former spouse. But your children deserve peace. Recycling old arguments during every parenting communication only serves to undermine the ability of you and your co-parent to be a team. And you must be a team. Raising children is hard enough when no one is fighting to defeat you as a parent. When someone is, parenting becomes insurmountable. The real victims are the children who end up missing soccer games because their parents are unable to discuss who should transport them to events. They end up worrying through high school graduation that there will be a scene if their parents have to sit near each other. That can’t be what you want for your children.
So how do you break the cycle? Start with limiting your communication to child-related issues. The long, rambling email becomes a one sentence answer to a question as simple as “can I drop the kids off half an hour early?” In reality the answer is “Sure” or “Sorry, I can’t make that work this week.” It is not a manifesto on punctuality. At some point you must make the decision to move forward in your relationship with your ex. It is an act of will. Eliminating the long emails which detail every transgression from the marriage forward will go a long way toward creating a peaceful space. It does take time to get on the right track. Someone has to make the decision and make that first peaceful move. Will it be you?