Divorce can be an ugly beast filled with resentment and emotions. Both parties are often caught in a cycle of retaliation for the psychological harm done to one another. No one is a winner, especially if the couple has children. How can someone co-parent peacefully in a hostile situation? It is not easy but over time it is possible.
Understand your divorce decree
Some of the problems between divorced parents stem from miscommunication or misunderstanding in the divorce decree and the governing visitation schedule. Understanding the divorce decree and visitation schedule at the time of mediation or divorce is crucial to ensuring one less item to argue with a former spouse about. Ask for clarification from an attorney and don't sign any mediated agreement or divorce decree until all questions are answered with clarity and satisfaction. It is very difficult to change a finalized agreement and each party is bound to that document, even if it has mistakes.
There are some states that order a visitation schedule based on the laws in effect the year of the finalized divorce decree. Therefore, even if the laws today say Dad gets kids on Halloween, parents divorced in 2002 must follow the 2002 visitation laws, which do not take Halloween into consideration. Most states have minimum visitation schedules granting non-custodial parents visitation every other weekend. However, joint custody is becoming more commonplace and grants more liberal visitation. Be aware each visitation schedule will vary since no two divorces are the same.
It is helpful for all involved to create a visitation schedule for the entire year, including drop-off and pickup times. Not only will this prevent any arguments between parents, the schedule will help kids understand what holiday time is designated to each parent without the surprise.
Friends and family who have never been divorced have a difficult time understanding the frustrations of having an ex. It is an emotionally draining road to travel. Lies, anger, resentment and manipulation fuel the battle. Ideally, it is in the child's best interest for divorced parents to get along for the child's sake. In reality, emotions run raw, and our co-parenting skills often go out the window. Divorced parents put their boxing gloves on with no regard for the children in the middle of the battle.
Regardless of the platform, it is best to remove all emotion from communication. While it is tempting to rant about the anger felt about your ex's shortcomings at the end of an email about the child's doctor appointment tomorrow, it isn't productive. Avoid the psychological blows directed at hurting each other. It is best to wait 24 hours to respond to any non-urgent message. Keep the communication strictly business professional.
Phone calls and text messaging allow for instant communication on issues, but it also makes it easier to argue. Email and postal mail work great for communicating non-urgent issues and because of the delay in response, it curbs an emotional reaction. Depending on the situation, parents may choose to use all or one form of communication and may agree upon what circumstances permit a phone call or an email.
While many parenting classes encourage getting along for the children's sake, it is OK to accept that in some circumstances, the best communication is minimal communication. The key is to relay important information when necessary. Withholding or blocking information is not in the best interest of the child and has the potential to land someone in contempt in court.
In addition, both parties need to understand kids aren't the messengers and do not use them to communicate any information or manipulate any situation.
Leave the new spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend out
Until emotions subside, it is best to leave the parenting to the parents. Asking the new wife to send the ex-wife an email about an important issue with a child may result in unnecessary hostility. A new boyfriend picking up the kids from school may provoke an argument. A parent may feel threatened by his or her replacement. There may come a time to appreciate the actions and involvement from a new spouse, but until both parents are emotionally removed, it is best to avoid any involvement of a new spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend.
Learn how to forgive and move on
Divorce is a very traumatic event and is often compared to a death. Depending on the circumstances, it may take a person several years to let go of the anger and resentment. It's best to keep busy while the kids are visiting the other parent. Take this time to rediscover yourself and find activities that you enjoy. Learn to play the guitar. Join the gym. Volunteer. Get a part-time job. Go back to school and finish a degree. Pursue a hobby. Date. Seek counseling. Meditate. Read self-help books to understand how to cope with feelings of mistrust, anger, resentment or insecurity. Write a letter of forgiveness addressed to the former spouse and burn it. Keeping busy will help time pass and give you the time necessary to heal and let it go.
The opposite of love is indifference, and it is very liberating when realized. Only then, will a person no longer be affected by an ex-spouse's actions and co-parenting becomes more peaceful.