One of the realizations many people come to soon after divorce, is that if you couldn’t control your ex when you were living with him, then you certainly can’t control him now and you have to be more trustful about his parenting decisions. For my current guest, Molly, that means being more prepared to “let things go” when they’re not important enough to argue about. It also means consciously looking for a different perspective on issues, looking to see the positives in her ex’s actions instead of focusing on the negatives. Here’s Molly:
One of the things that I do much better now that I didn’t do when we were married, is looking for ways in which to appreciate him, looking for ways in which he contributed, or contributes to our lives now.
I have a perfect example which happened right around my son’s birthday. My ex bought a bike for our son that was too expensive…well I thought it was too expensive, that’s my perspective. I thought it was pricey. He was expecting me to split it with him and he hadn’t consulted me on the cost. We’re going through a tight moment right now, so my first response was,
“How could you have done this?”
I started to get mad and then I immediately thought it wasn’t going to be productive and I should just drop it. So I said,
“I don’t want to talk to you about it, I’ll talk to you about it tomorrow.”
So I let it go. Later I saw a friend who’s also a divorcee and I told her. She got mad too, and I said,
“I don’t want you to make me mad because I can already make myself mad. What I need to figure out is just how to let it go and say ‘is this really that important?’”
She and I went back and forth … “Has he done this before? No he hasn’t, he’s usually really responsible with money.”
I got myself calmed down and decided that I was going to focus again on whether that battle was really worth it and what were the ways he contributes to my life.
He came over the next night because we have Friday night family dinners every week and he spontaneously added wiper fluid to my car and then encouraged the kids to clean up their rooms, which he never does. That made me think that was the kind of stuff I should focus on, not the fact that he overspent on the birthday gift, but the sweet things that he does do.
I find the more I appreciate him, especially as a co-parent, I remember why I want to have a peaceful relationship with him, and also that expands. He becomes a good guy in my eyes.
The Divorce Coach Says
How often have you listened to a girlfriend’s tale of trouble and agreed with her because you thought, subconsciously or not, that would comfort her? Great thinking on Molly’s part to turn that on it’s head and get the support she really needed.
Appreciating what your ex brings to your co-parenting partnership is a valuable technique and most of the time there is more than one way to look at a situation. For example, my own parenting agreement called for my children to go to their dad’s every Wednesday night and every other weekend. My daughter, who was thirteen when we separated never followed the Wednesday night visits.* While my ex did discuss it with her and expressed his disappointment, he never tried to force her or demand other time to compensate for her absence. I could have interpreted that as his not caring, or not being involved but since his agreement was less stressful for my daughter, I appreciated that he was flexible with his parenting time and chose not to make it a legal issue.
Molly and I didn’t talk about whether she had a subsequent conversation with her ex but this would be one of those situations where saying absolutely nothing might be avoiding conflict or not giving voice to your concerns just to keep the peace. I think it would be entirely appropriate to say something at later time explaining that it was more than you were expecting to pay and asking that in future when you’re going to be splitting an expense that you discuss it ahead of time and agree a budget.
*FYI about the visitation schedule, my daughter felt the one night away was too disruptive, requiring too much organization to make sure she had all the right school items in the right place. Once my son got to high school, he felt the same way. A friend of mine has a five/nine schedule where her children are with their dad for five nights and then with her for nine nights and I think the longer periods with each parent is less disruptive.