Divorcing a spouse who is drawn to conflict can present challenges on multiple levels. If you have children together, one of the biggest obstacles in this type of situation is determining just how to form a working co-parent relationship. Your co-parent may already have an agenda in mind, and his or her ideas may not align with your own. In addition, when two parents are having trouble cooperating, just bringing up the subject of a parenting approach can be tough.
Dealing with a high-conflict co-parent can make raising your children together more of a challenge, but maintaining set boundaries between yourself and him or her will make the circumstances easier to manage. Take a closer look at some ways you can establish and keep your boundaries intact.
Follow the parenting plan
Agreeing on a parenting plan in a tense divorce requires a lot of effort to begin with, so the last thing you want to do is throw away all that work. Once you’ve got a parenting plan you can both live with, stick to it. A comprehensive parenting plan will take the guesswork out of many parenting aspects and help prevent conflict. Speak to your family law attorney if your co-parent is disregarding the plan to the point where it is causing problems in your life.
Explore parallel parenting
When cooperation and communication with your co-parent just isn’t happening, you may want to consider parallel parenting. This is a form of co-parenting with additional boundaries in which you do not communicate directly with the other parent. You will need a detailed parenting plan for this approach to work, and the method of communication for emergencies and child-related matters is usually indirect, such as through written messages.
Keep your personal life separate
Emotions tend to run high after a divorce, even if you are glad the romantic relationship is over overall. This is why keeping emotions in check is part of a successful co-parent relationship post-divorce and why it’s necessary for you to keep your personal life entirely to yourself. Only discuss your children with your co-parent. If he or she is asking for details about your personal life, politely decline to discuss it. If you have a mutual group of friends with your co-parent, you may want to consider not seeing that group for a time, but you can let those friends know what your reasoning is if you are concerned they will become upset. If you have social media accounts, you may want to block your co-parent from accessing them or disable those accounts for now.
Avoid some common traps
There are many common pitfalls people fall into post-divorce, and one of them is becoming too curious about their former spouse’s personal life. Just as you should not allow your ex to pry into your personal life, you should not be looking into theirs.
You might also notice that your high-conflict co-parent is trying to incite a reaction from you by pushing your emotional buttons or even harassing you. Set clear boundaries for yourself to help avoid conflict. If he or she is speaking negatively about you on social media, for example, limit your time on there. Responding will only fuel the fire because your co-parent is actively looking for a reaction. If, however, you feel your co-parent will not stop or is taking things too far, speak to a professional. Depending on your situation, this could be your attorney or local law enforcement.
Having boundaries in place when you have a high-conflict co-parent isn’t easy, but it will be worth the effort in the end. Always remember to keep to your parenting plan and whatever your communication boundaries are. Keep your private life private when it comes to your co-parent, and don’t give into the temptation to check into their life.