Years ago, we had a friend and neighbor that had the best co-parenting relationship with an ex-spouse that I’d ever seen. Her husband frequently spent the night at her house to watch their daughter when she had to be out of town. I never heard a cross word between them, and they had nothing but good things to say about each other in the presence of others.
After observing how well they co-parented for a year or so, I finally asked her how they did it. How did they create such an incredible relationship to co-parent their daughter after a (not rainbows and unicorns) divorce?
Here is what she said:
There were actually a few rules we put into place early on that we both agreed to:
1) [Our daughter] comes first. We came to realize eventually that it wasn’t about us anymore, it was about her. Our feelings about each other were irrelevant; her feelings about us and herself were the most important thing.
2) Don’t talk about the other to [our daughter] and don’t allow family members to do so either. We didn’t want her to have to figure out whether it was OK for her to love one of us if we hated each other.
3) We talked to each other almost every day after the separation and subsequent divorce because one of us would call [our daughter] to say goodnight. I actually believe we worked through a great deal of the anger and the emotions by talking every day. Even if it mainly consisted of conversations like ‘[our daughter] was sick today and stayed home from school. When you pick her up later, she may need Motrin.’ We actually inadvertently worked through our own issues by focusing on [our daughter’s] well being.
I hated talking to him every day, oh by the way, that was one of the hardest things I did that first year, but [our daughter] was [young] and she needed us both, just like she does now.
I could talk about how impressive and healthy this is forever. But, to me, the most important thing was that she hated talking to her ex, but did it every day for the benefit of her daughter. She and her ex made it about their child, not because they didn’t have hard feelings, but despite those hard feelings.
Surely, their journey was more complex and more challenging that can be reflected in her few paragraphs of wisdom. But, hopefully, their blueprint helps you in your efforts to co-parent your children through a separation and divorce.