Ex Marks the Spot
The reality is, a lot of us will have to deal with an ex of our own. When we share children with this ex, things can get pretty dicey.
It is critical as a parent that you remember that your child has an attachment to both of you. Bad-mouthing your ex, subtly (or not so) suggesting that your ex is not living up to his or her end of the separation bargain, bad-mouthing an ex’s new partner…all of these things may give us a momentary satisfaction, but in the long run they only add up to one thing: bad karma. While today you may be the one scoring points for your insightful comments on your ex’s less desirable traits, it won’t always be that way. It won’t be too long before your kids mature enough to realize that you don’t look so insightful anymore simply because you are the kind of person who tries to drag your kids into the middle of your relationship with their other parent.
I implore you: resist the urge.
If you’re finding this incredibly difficult to do, take a look at the book Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behaviour After a Divorce or Separation by Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe. Wondering what makes them experts? Jann is married to Sharyl’s ex-husband; despite starting out with some of the standard challenges co-parents face, these ladies started talking, and even eventually became friends. (Jann also has a PsyD and is a divorce and step-family mediator.) I’m not saying you need to go that far in your own relationship with your ex’s partner, but obviously they know what they’re talking about.
Here are their 10 Commandments for getting along after a divorce (love their term “bonusparent” instead of step-parent!):
- Put the children first.
- Ask your ex for help on parenting issues.
- No badmouthing.
- Biological parents make the rules; bonusparents uphold them.
- Don’t be spiteful.
- Don’t hold grudges.
- Use empathy when problem solving.
- Be honest and straightforward.
- Respect each other’s turf at home and at work.
- Compromise whenever possible.
Sometimes, your ex just won’t play ball, and although you may not be contributing to the badmouthing and spite, you’re still on the receiving end of it. Take a deep breath. It’s lousy, but at the end of the day, the only person’s behaviour you can control is your own, and you’ll feel better about your role in the situation if you handle yourself with integrity. And you’ll also know that you’re setting a more positive example for your kids in how to handle adversity and difficult people. Don’t stoop to your ex’s level; you’ll be glad you didn’t.