Though we like to think otherwise, love does not always last. We all have that story about the one love we thought would be forever, but got away. The issue comes when that love resulted in a child. Though we love our child dearly, we are not as in love with the ex. Still, the two of you are bound together in a way that sometimes feels like torture because a permanent reminder was made with a temporary lover. This can be a shock when we realize that life will not get easier just because we want it to. Everything we do leaves a mark, especially when someone else is involved.
Some will want to hurt their ex. If this is you, move on to a different article. This advice is for those who remember that you are a parent first and the child has two of them. We must learn to be people and parents so the child does not suffer thinking they missed out on some important aspect of life. There is no specific step by step route for this, but there are a few things to understand that can help.
The first thing we must remember is that healing is messy and mutual break-ups are only in the imagination. Even when breaking up was necessary, one person is always hurt more than the other. This pain effects child rearing. We must build a relationship with the ex that is sustainable and healthy because having two parents, even those who are not together, is important. This requires healing on both sides. It may take space and we must be okay with that space. There may be radio silence, strained kid-only conversations, and awkward child handoffs, but be okay with this. This time will pass eventually and if things were kept civil than it will get better. You do not have to be best friends.
Next, set up boundaries that allow for co-parenting. This means that some topics will be off limits because it is no longer your business. Stick to parenting topics and child needs until you can be a bit more friendly again. Your ex does not need to know you are dating and you have no real right to know if they are either. You both need and deserve privacy. Parenthood can be lonely, but it is what is necessary. Learn to be separate people who happen to co-parent.
The next, possibly the hardest on occasion, is to be respectful to the other person, especially in front of your child. We often see two people in our coparent. We see the one we fell in love with and the one we had to leave or that left. Make sure you present the best possible picture of the other parent to your child. Any hatred should be kept to yourself when it comes to the other parent. Your child needs to know they come from a beautiful loving place so they can be rooted in that love.
It may sound odd, but get laid. It may take a year or more before you are ready for something serious, but definitely get out and play the field. You are a parent, not a hermit. Find time to date, find a Netflix and chill buddy, or just have some fun. When we make an effort to find a new love then we also put love into ourselves. Just because you have one failed love does not mean you are doomed.
Remember that the coparent is now family, like it or not. Get to know them in that way and be respectful. If they find someone new, be respectful of them as well because your shared child needs this community of support to thrive and grow. Though you are not together, pick a day a month to spend time as a family doing something light and fun.
Enjoy your child above all else. This does not have to be a big production, but something to unwind and enjoy. Spend Friday night watching children’s movies with lots of popcorn slathered in butter or ordering pizza and playing games. Create joyful experiences for your child, within reasonable boundaries, but never fear a bit of fun.
Utilize the internet to help things run smoothly. Technology can actually help coparenting because you can connect from across the street or across the country. Try setting up a digital diary that both parents access and share stories and photos that the child can access at 18. Utilize things like FaceTime, Skype, and Hangout to help children connect to the other parent when they are not together. Make sure you are part of this as well as you share about your child and other appropriate topics. Even things like an online calendar can help keep track of who is doing what and when. There are also options for keeping copies of important documents like medical records, birth certificates, and finances surrounding the child.
There will be times you mess up, but there is no need to let it be a focus. Own up and try harder because though it can feel like it, you are not ruining your child’s life. This is the journey that you are meant to be on for whatever reason, learn and grow from it. It is all beautiful in its own way so accept this beauty and raise your child with the coparent as an ex and embrace the process. It will not always be easy, but you can smile while continuing to love yourself and the child you created.