In this post I share some more advanced strategies to help reduce conflict with the other parent. Let’s recap the last post:
- Learn how to control your emotions better when you interact with the other parent. Understand the signs that you’re about to ‘flip your lid’ and be prepared to make a quick exit.
- Reduce / eliminate distractions, such as whingeing children. Arrange to talk when you can give the other parent and yourself your undivided attention.
- Be prepared to exit quickly if the other parent flips their lid (or is about to). Make a polite excuse, commit to engage on the topic at a later time and make sure that you follow up. Do not tell them they’re being unreasonable or to calm down.
You can read my previous post here.
Some Intermediate Strategies
Why do I call these intermediate? Becase I feel they’re harder than those in my previous post. Not that any of the strategies are easy. Let’s face it, if you didn’t get along before you separated then trying to get along afterwards is much harder. But I believe it’s worth it, for the sake of the kids and your sanity. You don’t have to like each other. You just have to do what it takes to work together to raise those kids!
Forget the past
Leave the past in the past. Avoid bringing up what the other parent did or said that offended, insulted or hurt you at any previous point in time. Don’t keep score of whose made the most insults or digs. It’s in the past. Leave it there. Nobody can change it.
Try to let the past go. Completely. Don’t think about it and don’t discuss it with anyone, not even your best friend. Why? Because talking negatively about the other parent reinforces your belief system (your BS as Steve Wells calls it). Every time you pull something out, mull it over in your head, talk about it with someone else, you reinforce negative beliefs about the other parent. You experience further stress, distress and possibly trauma. You bring this BS into every interaction with the other parent and it absolutely, 100% impacts on your behaviour.
I know it’s sooooo nice to feel validated by your friends and family, your hairdresser, your massage therapist or any other audience you can find. But it’s like gorging on a large block of chocolate. Tastes really good in the moment, but how do you feel afterwards? Try very hard to give up on this habit! If you can’t give up on it completely (and, I’ll be honest – I still have an occasional whinge about my ex about once every 3 months) then do what you can to limit it. Pick one person to speak with and limit negative conversation to less than an hour a week if you can.
Identify the other parent’s triggers for conflict
Identify what seems to trigger a negative response or even an explosive reaction in the other parent. You might not understand why they get triggered. That doesn’t matter. The point is to avoid triggering the other parent. It could be the way you say something, your tone of voice, the way you look at them, or the topic of conversation.
For example, “I want the kids this weekend because it’s my sister’s birthday” might be seen by the other as demanding. You’re thinking you made a reasonable request (since the other parent asked for the kids for their brother’s birthday a few weeks ago). Could you rephrase the request, for example ‘my sister’s birthday is on Saturday and we are having a party. Would you mind if I have the kids from 3pm Saturday until 9am Sunday?”
This strategy might take a considerable amount of honest thinking on your part. It will be hard. It might be gut-wrenching, possibly painful. Getting honest feedback from your confidants might help. If you can get them to give you written feedback then do it. Because, as you are listening to the feedback your brain will be yelling, ‘BS!!!’ As hard as it is to do, this will definitely reap rewards!
Again, what else do you have to do on your commute?
My mother always told us: ‘If you can’t say somethine nice then don’t say anything at all’. Saying something that you know will hurt or anger the other parent can leave you feeling really powerful in the moment. Whether you’re swearing at them, listing everything they do wrong as a parent, or threatening to not ‘let’ them ‘have’ the children (I’ll do a full post on that one later), you feel strong and empowered! At what cost?
Practice being respectful and polite to the other parent. Pretend they are your boss and you need to get along reasonably well in order to keep your job and minimise stress at work. Visualisation (on your commute to work) can be powerful. Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and keep your voice calm. Be the best role model for your kids (even if they aren’t there).
OMG, this can be really, really hard and it can take a lot of effort to get there. But, it’s definitely worth it! The other parent might continue to behave badly for awhile, but your good behaviour will be a model for them to follow.
Adulting… two wrongs do not make a right
Act like the adult that you are. Please don’t engage in childish behaviour that’s designed to hurt or anger the other parent. It might feel really good to run your keys down the other parent’s car door when you think nobody is watching (but you’re pretty sure they’ll suspect it’s you), or even bang your car door into theirs and sarcastically yell ‘soz’ out the window as you speed away (yes, I’ve listened to parents admit to those behaviours). You might justify childish actions to yourself, telling youself the other parent ‘deserved it’. A part of you might be trying really hard to believe it. But, when you think about it, are you proud of yourself? How do you really feel? Did you just gorge on another block of chocolate? Here’s something to ponder: would you put up with your children treating others that way?
If you really believe this type of behaviour is valid then stop reading right now and don’t contact me. We can just agree to disagree on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in this world. But, if even a little part of you is somewhat ashamed of your behaviour then own it. Work on stopping it. Get help! If you stumble, get up and try again. Practice makes perfect. Gee, I sound like my mother!
Keep an eye out for my next post which will include more advanced strategies. Are you up for it?