Co-parenting after a divorce can seem like a daunting proposition. In fact, it’s possible that differences in parenting styles between you and your spouse were a factor in your divorce, making the idea of having to co-parent after the marital relationship has ended even more stressful. Keep in mind that you are certainly not alone; many just-divorced parents report feeling nervous and anxious about co-parenting.
It does not help that in the media, you may have seen the ideal co-parenting relationship shown as one in which ex-spouses are great friends who are in consistent contact and agree on everything. This puts a burden on separated and divorced parents, who may feel pressure to live up to the media-set unrealistic expectation. In reality, co-parenting relationships typically do not look like the ones we see on TV and in movies.
Because of these unrealistic portrayals, you may actually believe some common myths about co-parenting right now, including the ones below.
You Must Be Friends With Your Spouse
This is one of the most stressful misconceptions about co-parents. Most people would not describe their ex-spouse as their friend. While co-parenting means you must stay in contact with your co-parent, it does not mean you must be friends with them. Setting a goal of being friends with your ex-spouse is unrealistic, and it may also be unhealthy for you on an emotional and mental level.
Instead of worrying about being friends, put your focus on creating a solid working relationship with your ex-spouse, and consider and set your boundaries. For example, detail when and how communication between the two of you will occur and identify the off-limits topics. In many cases, co-parents find it easier to work together when they are not too involved in each other’s personal lives. Keep your focus on your children and how you can support them.
You Have Failed When You Can’t Reach an Agreement
When it comes to co-parenting, you will hear that compromise is crucial. This, of course, is true, but it doesn’t mean you will agree all the time or that you will always meet somewhere in the middle. Compromise, in many cases, means being selective about what you are pushing back on, or choosing your battles.
Sometimes, you will have to concede an issue to your former spouse, and vice versa. When you are approaching a co-parenting dispute or issue, you will need to identify what is truly important to you and what isn’t. You will also need to consider what is important in the long term. In some situations, this may mean you let your co-parent make a final decision on a small issue, even if you don’t personally agree with their choice.
Keep in mind that if you and your co-parent can’t come to an agreement on an important issue and must return to mediation or court to solve it, you have not failed. As a parent, you want to make the best decisions for your children, and you may need outside help when you and your co-parent don’t agree on the right course of action.
You Won’t Have Any Issues Because You Have a Parenting Plan
When you go through a divorce or separation, you will end up with a custody order and parenting plan. While your attorney will work to ensure your order and plan cover as much as possible, there’s always a chance an issue will crop up later. Your children’s needs may change, for example, or your circumstances may change as time passes. So, while you should return to your parenting plan and custody order when an issue arises, be aware you may have to return to court if the documents don’t address the problem. Contact an attorney for help in this case as your court order may need to be modified.