Another title for this post could have been “Growing Pains” and I hope you take what’s being said as a positive as it relates to personal growth. Growing pains can hurt, but they’re typically a sign that you’re making progress. It’s true when your body is growing and it’s equally relevant when embarking on a new direction in your life. Let’s look at your divorce as an example. You’ve worked hard to maintain a positive relationship with your ex. Despite some bumps in the road, for the most part you’ve both been able to see past it and have worked relatively well together. My hunch is, that there are good weeks and bad weeks. I mean let’s face it; if you were able to work that well together consistently, you’d probably still be married. But you’re not. A truth that over time will likely build distance between the two of you despite your best attempts to continue parenting as a tandem.
Sometimes one of you just needs time to digest recent events that may have rubbed you or your ex the wrong way. Sometimes life simply pulls you in another direction. I think it’s an illusion to believe that every attempt to work closely on schedules, events and parenting issues is going to go smoothly. It didn’t happen when you were married, no reason to believe it’s magically going to start happening now that you’re divorced no matter how good you get at compromise.
As your life takes you in new directions, it’s also likely that your confidence, both in being a dad and the choices you make as a parent, is going to grow. You’ll start to find your own groove and get accustomed to making decisions about things that in the past were made as a team. You’ll start to get more comfortable with doing things without consult and realize that, while many issues will always require a discussion or notification, not all roads have to go through your ex when it comes to parenting. And to an extent that’s fine. Just don’t get cocky about it.
There are going to be moments when it sinks in a little deeper that you’re no longer a couple. Part of the purpose of working closely with your ex is to help maintain that sense of family that is so important to the kids. But from time to time, things are going to happen that will remind everyone that you’re not. And it’s going to suck. It’s not necessarily the end of the world, but reality has a nasty way of slapping us in the face from time to time. So just be aware. Recognize that you’re not going to be thrilled with every decision your ex makes when it comes to the kids. Conversely, you’re going to make choices that are going to piss off your ex.
When that happens, stop for a moment and consider, even if for just a moment, if you’ve gone too far or if the decision you’ve made is actually quite reasonable. Is your ex over reacting and making assumptions? Are you? It’s easy to presume that one deliberately did something in an attempt to undermine the other. Typically that’s not the case and all you can do is reassure the other person of the truth and then it’s up to them to take your word for it or not. Still, when you work closely with an ex-spouse, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the boundaries between still being a family unit and being a divorced couple.
I made an agreement with my ex-wife that we would try to include each other in a lot of things like holidays, birthdays, extra curricular activities, school events etc. And so far it’s gone pretty well. We’ve even had each other over for dinner from time to time. But sometimes, I think it’s natural for it to feel a little too close. There comes a point where in some respects, you’re going to want that space. Especially as you start to feel more at ease with being a single parent.
When that happens, I think you should embrace it as it means your’e growing. But I also believe, it’s worth considering the other side of the coin. I’m not saying you should necessarily change your course every time, since there comes a point when your life and the decisions you make are going to be more and more your own. Just remember the shoe will likely be on the other foot at some point and be prepared for the fact that once you start to take those steps there is another person who will likely take some of their own. And it’s going to hurt when they do. Just as it did for them when you found your own stride. And it’ll be up to you to acknowledge and not make it an excuse to get angry. It won’t always be an easy decision, but it’s an important one.
There are going to be struggles for both of you as time passes and lives take their own turns. It’s all about navigating those ebbs and flows and remembering that it’s a two way street and that from time to time, it’s going to hurt. Just promise yourself that you’re going to do whatever you can to ensure that you’re the one who’s going to be feeling the burn, not your kids.