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“It’s Nearly Impossible to Co-Parent With My Ex-Husband”

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  • #1098563 Reply
    Dear Wendy

    From a LW:

    My ex husband and I have been legally divorced for going on 4 years now. We have two young children – now young elementary age and day care age – who I feel are greatly impacted by the continued conflict between us. My ex is very disrespectful to me in almost every interaction we have which is one of the reasons I left him as I didn’t want my children to think that was ok as they grew up. He is also a very negative and angry person in general (I think there is some element of untreated mental health issues there) which results in almost constant arguments, tension and a negative environment around the kids. To the point where the kids even say sometimes they don’t want to see him or don’t want to go to his house, which breaks my heart.

    I have tried everything I can think of to alleviate this – talking to him repeatedly about it, asking him on multiple occasions to leave my house when he begins his ranting/gets angry, and moving to a schedule where we barely see each other and keep the exchanges for custody brief. I’ve found multiple parent counselors/therapists for us that he will meet with jointly once or twice but never put in the work long-term to improve our relationship. He is still very angry over the divorce this many years later, upset he has to live far from his family (and in a state he hates) to be near his kids as well as about the increased costs of having two households. All things I cannot change or control. He does admit he does not want to get back together (and neither do I, that’s for sure!)

    My issue is that of course it’s impossible to co-parent our children without needing to interact and talk with him – i.e. soccer games, scheduling/adjusting parental time around the kids’ activities, problems/things that come up at school or day care. I am working with a new therapist on ways to respond when he gets angry and disrespectful but I would also welcome some real world advice from you and your readers. Everyone says it will get better when the kids are older but I’ve been struggling with this for four years with no relief. It just feels like a huge anchor around my neck and is weighing me (and I think my kids) down in general. It’s like a cloud over our lives.

    P.S. And yes, I have explored in therapy why I even married him in the first place. I can say that he was not the same person when I met/married him. Yes, there were signs of some of this but I think as life got more stressful and complicated with marriage, buying a house, shared finances, infertility and finally having our kids, it just got too much for him to handle. And rather than trying to fix it, he let the divorce happen and is content to lay the blame on me for divorcing him and breaking up the family.

    #1098577 Reply

    Parenting software called My Family Wizard.

    He shouldn’t even be inside your house. You shouldn’t be trying to “reason” him into being a different person. You shouldn’t be on the receiving end of any rants.

    Your boundaries are not firm enough. Make sure the therapist(s) are aware that very strong boundaries is your goal. You shouldn’t be working on trying to get along with him — it’ll be years of torture. He’s never going to become a nice guy, and if you don’t accept that then he will continue to make your life hell.

    Your kids won’t see arguing if you stop arguing. Also read some books on boundaries. See a lawyer if he continues to be an ass to your kids.

    #1098591 Reply

    Echoing FYI: Why is he in your house?

    Only communicate with him through digital means.
    Only communicate about things relevant to co-parenting (scheduling etc…). Ignore any comments about anything else.

    #1098592 Reply

    Agreed – he should not be in your house. There is no reason for that. You can schedule pickups and drop offs at a neutral location or he can simply wait in the driveway and you send the kids off with their knapsacks.

    Also, start moving everything to email or text. You don’t actually have to talk to him. When he calls, just respond by text “Can’t talk- what’s up.” “No no, text is easier – what’s up?”

    You can also request that the school provide copies of all schedules and events to both houses. You don’t have to be the conduit. Believe me, they do this all the time. Also, you can request the teachers contact both of you separately if there are issues or annual discussions. Again, nothing they haven’t seen before.

    Love the idea of the software.

    #1098600 Reply

    There is a thing called email. This is how you communicate with him. This is not a friendly ex. Email is great because it leaves a paper trail. Have as little interaction with him in person as possible. So what if he does not like the state he lives in or that he took a financial hit. Stop it, you are divorced – act like it.

    #1098839 Reply

    I could have written this letter ten years ago.

    This is my story, but I will start by saying that our children are fine, despite the parenting challenges, which is the most important thing.

    I always hoped to have a good, civil relationship with my ex but it takes two to tango and my ex was simply unwilling. He is still angry and hostile towards me. As much as I dislike it, I have had to accept that he is entitled to think whatever he thinks of me and act however he wants towards me.

    So, over the years, I have learned to set boundaries. We always communicate by email now (always keep a paper trail) but on the phone I have previously said things on the line of “This conversation has become quite heated. We can continue it when you are calmer.” when he is rude to me, and ended the call. It never changed his behaviour but it made me feel more in control.

    I’ve also had counselling and sought parenting advice over the years to help her learn to see those boundaries.

    I’ve also had to grieve for the fact that my parenting relationship isn’t what I would wanted. I was going to write how unfortunate it is that my children didn’t get to see a loving relationship between their parents but actually this isn’t true. My current partner and I have been together for eight years and he has always been a wonderful stepdad to the children, and we do demonstrate what a courteous relationship should look like.

    I left my ex-husband originally because, even though I still loved him, I couldn’t bear how constantly rude and aggressive he was to me. I didn’t want my children growing up thinking that was normal (I grew up witnessing and experiencing emotional abuse from my dad so it’s not entirely surprising I wound up with a similar husband. Happily I have broken the cycle in my current relationship.)

    Sadly, but unsurprisingly, my ex has turned out to be an unkind, unhelpfully critical and aggressive father (while not violent, he often threatens violence and is a very intimidating man.) This has been difficult to navigate as I have to remain neutral (never ever ever ever badmouth a parent to their child, but do not sugarcoat stuff either – always be neutral). I have had to work with the relevant protection authorities at times when my ex’s behaviour became concerning.

    The children are both now teenagers. A while back, they decided they no longer wanted to see their father in person. Instead, they communicate a few times a month by phone or text.

    The father blames me for this, of course. But again, he is entitled to think what he wants.

    It is not the childhood I would have wished for the children. But. They are happy and healthy. They have strong relationships with each other, with me, with their stepdad, and with other family and friends. They have had the confidence to understand that they didn’t like how their dad was treating them and that, when he refused to change his behaviour, they weren’t prepared to put up with it any longer.

    As I say, I has always hoped my ex and I could co-parent happily. I had a vision of us all sharing family occasions together (like we do with my partner’s ex and their children – we have a wonderful relationship).

    But sometimes it simply isn’t possible and you just have to do what’s best for the children single-handedly.

    Build those boundaries up.

    Good luck xx

    #1098840 Reply

    “I’ve also had counselling and sought parenting advice over the years to help her learn to see those boundaries.”

    This should have been “ I’ve also had counselling and sought parenting advice over the years to help ME learn to SET those boundaries.”

    #1098843 Reply

    Me again. Reading it back, it sounds like I’m saying “he’s entitled to act govee he wants towards me and I have to put up with it.”

    No, I mean more that I can’t make him change his behaviour so I have to look after my wellbeing and strongly reinforce my boundaries when he acts inappropriately towards me.

    Enough from me! I’ll leave it there!!

    #1098844 Reply

    Omg, govee? However!!! Phone autocorrect is hopeless

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