Negativity. The challenge in all relationships. It's so easy to get caught up in the cycle of seeing only what our partner does wrong. While it may feel good at the moment, it does nothing to resolve any of the conflicts we may be experiencing.
While working with a couple who is in the middle of a divorce, I noticed most of their focus was on what is wrong with the other person. "Dean never does ...", "Sarah can't do..." On and on it went. They said they wanted to co-parent well after their divorce. Their actions said otherwise. I gently reminded them they need to co-parent well during the divorce as well. Their kids were paying the price for all the pettiness, and this was doing nothing to help their future co-parenting relationship. Start now! There isn't a magical time when you co-parent well unless you lay the groundwork now...living in separate homes wouldn't magically fix things. Forever and always, you will be connected because of their kids and there are ways to make it more tolerable. You're probably thinking, "But during a divorce, it's hard to see anything positive about my soon-to-be ex, which is why we are separating." That's so true! When we are frustrated with someone who has hurt us or let us down, the last thing we want to do is give them credit for anything positive. It is much easier to stay in our fault-finding cycle of blame. As co-parents, there is a bigger picture, one that is so much more important than who is always running late or who doesn't ever mow the lawn. In order to raise independent, healthy, confident, secure kids, it's important to keep the bigger picture (your kids) in mind. If you can redirect your energy away from fault-finding and intentionally choose a different way of interacting with each other, your kids will benefit immensely and so will your future co-parenting relationship. So, let's start planting the seeds... Let's take a quick sneak peek into your mindset. When you think of your partner where does your focus go? Do you conjure up a list of all his faults first? Do you think about the kind things he did for you over the weekend? Which came to mind first? It's this way with co-parenting too! It's so very easy to give a checklist of faults, not as easy to find the good. Here's where the hard work starts! You need to make a choice... Either you will co-parent in a way that rips each other apart and in turn, hurts your kids or in a way that allows your kids to still feel loved, confident and secure. You choose. For Dean and Sarah, their desire to ensure the kids were okay was their "common ground" for launching an effort to change things. Watering those seeds There are many steps to working through a co-parenting plan. The most important is to come to the table willing to listen and learn, be respectful, and negotiate. Co-parenting requires a lot of give and take. Done well, you can find the common ground that will lead to a strong family foundation. It'll be different from what you originally envisioned when you started your family, but different doesn't mean doomed by any means! The 80/20 Rule Remember that image of your partner? Did you focus on the 20% wrong or the 80% right? Applying this to your co-parenting partner helps! Here are some examples: While he may drive you crazy because he's not as regimented about bedtime as you are, take a look at why he wants that extra half-hour with the kids! Is it because he misses them and wants to make sure he gets that bonding time? Perhaps he has a hard time relating to your preteen on some things, but they both love sci-fi books and that's their "common ground" that keeps them close. Is mom a stickler for making sure the kids do their chores? Ask yourself why? Is it because she wants to make sure they are learning the life skills they'll need to be independent adults? Is she teaching them responsibility? Are the kids learning that being a part of a family means pitching in to help? Are you willing to take the time to see beyond the surface for what's really going on? Are you willing to give your partner some grace, instead of automatically finding fault because he/she did it differently? Taking a step back and asking yourself to look past the 20% and find the 80% can truly shift the dynamics between you. If you are more focused on what's best for the kids, then the two of you can put ego's aside and work towards the final goal...raising future adults who will be kind, compassionate, independent and confident. If you need help with figuring out how to co-parent well together, I'm here to help you find that common ground! Simply click here to book a Discovery Call and let's chat. (No pushy sales pitch, I promise!)