My divorce came as no surprise. We had been married for thirteen years, and our marriage had been dissolving for the last six. Although we both knew the end was inevitable, we tried to stick it out. Hell, we had built a life together, a home, created financial stability, but most notably we had a beautiful little girl—which, as with most families, was the reason we stayed together as long as we did. We wanted to provide her with all of the love and support we could, but mostly a healthy and happy home.
As time passed, we realized we could not resolve our own conflicts, but knew we could still keep her happy and healthy. After many fights, tears, not to mention chest pains and heightened anxiety, it was time to stop the marriage. Just stop. We had to do it for our own health as adults. We pulled the trigger and filed divorce papers. Sounds cut and dry, right? It wasn’t. Even though the decision had been made, and the wheels for dividing our worlds were in motion, there was a whole slew of emotions I was not prepared for. Sadness, regret, fear, loss, and jealousy.
Fast forward sixty days from filing. It was done. I was officially divorced, had my own place and was adjusting to the new custody schedule with my young daughter. Although I knew that divorce would change the landscape of time with her, I don’t think I realized how much it would hurt to be away from her. I was so caught up in moving, paperwork, dividing the money and thinking about the future, I took for granted what it would actually feel like when the dust settled and our new normal took over.
In the first few weeks, my ex-husband and I did our best to be polite and amicable.
And then a shift occurred. As soon as we were faced with our first custody and possession hurdle (due to scheduling and organizing the new normal), emotions took over. Overnight, we went from being friendly to being controlling, ugly, angry people. Suddenly, every tiny issue turned into a threat of calling the attorney or a restraining order. I constantly felt like my blood was on fire. I was ready to fight at every turn, and I took it out on everyone else around me. Then new love interests entered and so did the emotions jealousy, fear, and loss. This escalated the tension between us and stones were thrown. More attorney bills, therapists, and divorce-decree amendments. It sucked. We both felt it, but guess who suffered? The child between us.
She was teary, confused and was able to articulate her pain.
Enter sadness and regret.
How could we fix this situation if we couldn’t even fix our marriage? Two words: let go. We had to let go of our own emotions so they would stop ruling our decisions. We let go of trying to hurt each other, so we didn’t hurt her along the way. Letting go did not happen overnight. It took a lot of learning on both sides. My ex and I would get along great for a week, and then we would hit a snag and take two steps back. Each time we would take those steps back, all of my emotions would resurface, and it was like we were back to zero, and had to start all over again. So, what did we do ultimately to learn to get past all of this? We had to learn to let go of our own egos and put our daughter first. She was the most important part of the equation, and we were the only ones that could make a difference for her.
Our Rules for Co-Parenting
We had a mea culpa. We sat down at a local Starbucks and came up with our own set of rules to live by to help us let go and co-parent.
1. Put her first.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? This is where we remove our egos and own selfish motives to make it right for her. We agreed to stop making disparaging remarks about each other, entertain requests from her to see the other parent during a possession period, and overall show that we were not withholding love. This has helped tremendously, and she has become a confident, open and trusting little girl. I give her father and me direct credit for this.
2. Utilize a collaborative approach.
When making decisions about school, doctors, or any extracurricular activities, we do it together. This avoids trouble and miscommunication and helps us be a united front. This is also in her best interest as we are both still her parents.
We agreed to communicate as adults first before discussing big issues with her. We want any messaging that comes from her parents to be consistent so that she is not confused about what mom or dad is saying. We make an effort to be on the same page. This comes in handy when dealing with a challenging friend at school, discipline or even the death of a pet.
4. Stay organized.
We realized the best way to stay organized regarding schedules, custody, and finances was through an app specifically designed for divorced families. Let’s Coparent is a new up-and-coming app that aims at keeping co-parenting amicable, simple and organized. It will help you keep track of money and when and where to be for soccer practice and provides supportive blogs on co-parenting. This is a hub and where co-parenting lives can exist.
Co-Parenting: The Bottom Line
Divorce is not fun for anyone. It is an emotional, disruptive and traumatic event for a family. And like everyone says, it is harder when children are involved. Make it easier on yourself, ex-spouse and kiddos by just letting go. Breathe, and let go of any ugliness, anger or lingering issues from the marriage. Make an effort to create peace by co-parenting with your children in mind, and peace will surround your family.
Holly Caplan is a career coach, women-in-business advocate, award-winning manager and author of Surviving the D**k Clique: A Girl's Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com.