THE 7 KEYS
TO MAKING SEPARATION WORK WITH YOUR CO-PARENT
My daughter’s father came and spent five days in my home to celebrate her 16th birthday.
And it went well.
Some context: Our daughter has grown up in her father’s home until a few months ago when she came to live with me. I spent a lot of time over the last 14 years having to track her down. Her father was so insecure about whether I would try to take her away from him, that he ran away from me from day one, even after I had packed his car and boat with everything he needed to go off and be the parent with my blessing.
It took a lot of strength to get through this journey, but I did it, and now we can share the same house peacefully, as adults, as parents and make it work.
Here are the 7 keys that made it possible:
1. HAVING CLEAR BOUNDARIES
I chose to end the relationship with this man. Which means from day one of separation there was no sex, no kissing, nothing, Don’t complicate the message you are sending, not only to your ex-partner, but to yourself. There is a reason why your relationship wasn’t working, remember that. If you feel safe to do so, a hug to say goodbye will keep a bond of care between you. A hug will also benefit your child/ren who are watching, and who may have already seen the worst from both of you. A hug is an opportunity to show them the best of both of you.
2. OWNING MY FEELINGS AND MY REACTIONS
No matter what I’m feeling about my co-parent or what I don’t like about him, I keep my mouth shut.
My response ability is MY responsibility.
3. DEVELOPING SELF-AWARENESS
I know what upsets my co-parent, I know how I could hurt him. I know what would be considered mature behaviour from me or what would just be the ‘long time ago hurt little girl’ part of me wanting to make him pay for it. I don’t let myself go there. EVER.
I also know what annoys me about my co-parent’s behaviour and so I must find that place in myself that chooses not to react, that chooses a way to make it ok for him to be him and me to be me, safely.
It is up to me to find a way to communicate successfully and if it doesn’t work, I must be prepared to try something else.
4. HAVING GRATITUDE
I have known the entire time that if it was going to work between the two of us as co-parents, it was up to me to be the change. I remained grateful for the moments that worked and found a way to create more of them. My co-parents was not planning on changing, ever. His new relationship was having the same problems that I had experienced with him. This was his lesson as much as it was mine and even today I remain grateful that we got the opportunity to live and learn and grow, no matter how slowly. And now I get to watch as he has finally come to the place within himself where he is ready to learn what he needs to so he can have a happy and healthy life. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m grateful to be there to witness the humbling experience he’s having.
5. HAVING PATIENCE
It didn’t always work.
I argued at times when I should have shut up. But each time I spoke to him, I did a little bit better. Because as frustrating as I felt he was, the more upset I got, the worse I felt.
One day after arguing with him on the phone, I ended up with a severe ear infection that lasted three weeks. It was horrible. But through it I acknowledged that it was only there because I didn’t want to hear what he was saying. From that moment on I found ways to keep the subjects that got us fired up out of the conversation.
I learned how to treat myself and him kindly when we did need to communicate.
6. GIVING UP BLAME
There were so many reasons why I blamed him, he was selfish, an alcoholic, irresponsible.... blame blame blame. In the end I had to acknowledge that I chose him in the first place. I created the reality that led me to the relationship that resulted in a child. He was always who he was and even though I didn’t like his behaviour it was me who stayed. It was my own behaviour, my own choices that held me there. I have no one to blame, not even myself. It was a choice that I made and I came to accept that.
7. LEARNING SELF-LOVE
I chose to learn as much about myself as I could from the experience.
What led me to experience this (what did I believe about me)?
How can I make it different for myself in the future?
What do I need to teach my child so that she can feel empowered to experience something different/better for herself?
How can I now be a great example for my kids?
What can I do to break the cycle of abuse that I was brought into the world with?
Who do I need to be?
What do I need to believe?
I knew the change had to start with me.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking ‘No way, he’s horrible, we could never’. That’s ok. Be there for now. Print this off and come back to it in a year. Maybe two. Be kind to yourself, for the sake of your kids. This is your journey. You get to write the story.