It can be really hard (OK, excruciating) to think of transforming the relationship between yourself and the other parent. After all, you didn’t separate because you love, or even like, each other. There is likely a lot of unresolved s#!t between you. You might feel resentment and anger toward the other. It might feel good to hold onto those feelings, to wrap yourself up in them and use them as a shield. Unfortunately, these feelings often provide highly combustible fuel for ongoing conflict with the other parent making it impossible to develop an effective business partnership in raising your children.
Taking ownership of your contribution to conflict with the other parent can be really uncomfortable, scary or threatening. Some people refuse to own their behaviour and emotions and simply blame the other parent for all of the conflict. They may paint themselves as being an innocent victim who is justifiably defending themselves or simply reacting in very reasonable manner to an obvious provocation by the other parent.
Why do I find it hard to admit my part?
- Admitting you’re wrong (or that you contribute to conflict) might conflict with a belief that you have about yourself. It might hurt your self-esteem, your ego, your sense of self. Some possibilities:
- I’m a good person. Part of being a good person is treating other people well. If I’ve done something intentionally to hurt the other parent or keep conflict going (which I know is not good) then I’m not a good person. Well I can’t have that! So I’ll blame the other parent.
- If I give in then I’ll be weak (winning is everything). Weakness is bad. Strength is good. (I’ve been there)
- You feel a need to seek justice for yourself by punishing the other parent. Some ideas that support this are:
- Our Western culture supports concepts like: an eye-for-an-eye, ‘the punishment should fit the crime’, ‘revenge is sweet’, ‘hurt me and I’ll your you back twice as hard’
- You may have felt powerless at some point in the relationship, the other parent might still have some power, and you feel a strong need to balance things out (fair is fair after all)
- The other parent triggers you and you react without thinking. Maybe:
- You still feel hurt or vulterable, and your gut instinct is to fight
- The other parent triggers shame (e.g., you’re a bad mother/father)
- You’ve grown up believing that conflict between people is OK
Some of these might resonate with you, and I’ll bet you can list several others. However, at the end of the day I believe it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, who did what to whom, or why you continue to participate in the ongoing conflict.
What matters is that you recognise that you play a part in it.
Accepting your role in maintaining conflict is not about allocating blame and it’s not about condoning the other parent’s behaviour.
There is absolutely no way that anyone could sit in judgement of each of you and objectively allocate blame (e.g., overall you are 33% to blame and the other parent 67%).
Yeah, I know. Your friends all firmly believe the other parent has treated you terribly and is 99.9% to blame for the conflict. Your mother probably believes the other parent is evil incarnate and should be wiped from the face of the earth. People who know you both wholeheartedly support you, not the other parent.
I’ve listened to the stories of many, many parents who want to negotiate a parenting agreement and am absolutely amazed that each can have such a different view of the same relationship. They each have a different view of the same incidents! I won’t go into why that happens today, but it happens. All. The. Time.
Accepting your role is not about giving it a 1 second, half-hearted thought (just because you ‘should’) then proceeding to blame the other parent: ‘I guess I’m partly to blame, but…’, or ‘I know I shouldn’t yell and scream, but…’. Insert your favourite excuse. I did for 6 years!
If you really want to turn things around and reduce the conflict between you then sit with the discomfort. You don’t need to feel shame (if you do, it’s OK – you’re human and you’re onto it now). For now, take responsibility for your own feelings and your own behaviour. All of it. That’s a good start.
Note: If you are experiencing domestic violence or substance abuse in your relationship please seek help through an appropriate support agency in your area. Each family and their situation is unique. If you have any questions or concerns book for a free 15-minute discovery call and we can talk about it.