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How Do You Co-Parent When You Can't Get Along With Your Ex?

Whether you’re a parent who is contemplating, going through or already divorced; the well-being of your children is often a chief concern. While there are plenty of articles and advice columns written about how effective co-parenting arrangements benefit children of divorce, in some cases, these types of arrangements simply aren’t realistic.

What do you do when your ex-spouse is a narcissist or someone with whom you simply cannot effectively communicate or get along? If you and your ex-spouse are embroiled in a high-conflict relationship, attempting to co-parent isn’t only challenging and stressful for you, but may also be damaging to your children.

So, what are you supposed to do when a judge grants you and your ex joint or shared custody? If your ex has a difficult personality, trying to communicate and engage with him or her isn’t going to be effective. In these types of conflict-ridden co-parenting relationships, the key to making things work may actually be in how effectively you and your ex are able to disengage.

What Is Parallel Parenting?

As opposed to co-parenting where parents are encouraged to come together and work to set aside their differences for the sake of shared children, parallel parenting encourages parents to effectively limit contact with and disengage from one another.

The Rules Of Disengagement

Parallel parenting requires a tremendous amount of commitment and discipline. However, if successful, following this model can save you a tremendous amount of stress and go a long way towards mending and building a healthy relationship between you and your children.

  1. Stop Acting and Reacting — Stop saying or doing things that you know will upset or get a rise out of your ex. Likewise, when baited by your ex, don’t react. The fact is that it takes two people to maintain a volatile relationship and by refusing to engage, you can effectively disarm your ex and quiet the conflict.
  2. Establish Boundaries — Keep all communications with your ex brief, business-like and focused on the children. It’s also wise to limit communications to texts or emails only. Doing so reduces the likelihood of one of you saying or doing something to set the other one off and also provides a written record that, if necessary, can be referred to.
  3. Reach out for Help and Support — Maybe you thought, or at least hoped, that getting divorced would solve the problems between you and your ex-spouse. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that you two may never get along. While disengaging and abiding by the principles of parallel parenting can be tremendously helpful for you and your children, you may still need help to sort out your feelings and cope with your situation. In addition to building a strong support system of family members and friends, seeking the advice and guidance of a licensed counselor can also be beneficial.

If, despite your best efforts, your ex’s aggressive and destructive behaviors continue, it may be time to reach out to an attorney who handles family law and custody matters. This is especially true if you fear for your children’s well-being or safety.

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