One of the toughest things about being a single parent has been dealing with my boys’ father. Our divorce dragged on for 16 months. That’s a long time to be in limbo, at odds, and very unsure about the future. We fought a lot and there were many sleepless nights where I sat on my front step in the middle of the night, lamenting my situation and being angry at my ex.
But, as they say, time is a great healer. Since my boys are now young men, there is no need for me to be in much contact. Still, through the years of ups and downs and shared parenting, I did try (not always, but sometimes) to be kind and patient with my ex. Even though it often felt like I was surrendering to him in our weary battle, I found that forgiving and forgetting helped me be a more loving mom.
If you’re in the throes of combat with your ex, here are some strategies that worked for me dealing with my ex husband:
Tips to Help Single Parents Deal with Their Exes
1. You both have a common goal:
Try to operate from a place of providing what is in the best interest of your children as single parents. Obviously, this will be difficult and you might not always succeed, but hopefully, both of you want what is best for your kids—to create the best situations, the best opportunities, and the best life possible.
2. Your ex is someone’s son (or daughter):
Regardless of how difficult he may be towards you, he is very loved by his parents. When I would see my ex mother-in-law, I would imagine her at my age, raising her little boy, and I would think about how much loving emotion and admiration she has for my ex, her son.
3. Your kids are half you, half him (or her):
I learned about this in the court-mandated parenting class I attended. One of the strongest reasons you should never criticize your ex in front of the kids is that deep down, they understand that they have a part of each parent within them. When you criticize their dad, you are in essence criticizing them. Yeow!
4. Now is not forever:
This little nugget has served me very well for so many years, in so many different situations. When I was knee deep in the muck with my ex, so very weary of my life, I would try to remember it wouldn’t always be that way. Even though it most definitely felt like it would never end, I still saw that my situation was constantly changing and morphing. And one day I looked back and realized I had gotten through it! When you discover that fine moment, please stop and praise yourself. This is how we grow, mature, and become better people and parents. Celebrate that!
5. You created beautiful kids together:
At the end of the day, you can never really regret your relationship with your kid’s other parent, because without it, you wouldn’t have them. Can you imagine not being the parent of your children? I sure can’t. You can’t have it both ways, friends, so try to keep that thought in the forefront when the sailing isn’t smooth. Your kids are so worth it.
6. We are all imperfect:
All of us are screwing up constantly, being jerks and totally selfish at times. Give the guy (or gal) some grace instead of using their less-than-stellar behavior as ammo for the machine gun to fire later. Remember, you likely aren’t an angel 24/7 either.
7. Choose forgiveness:
Your ex might be hurting badly as well. And while this doesn’t excuse rude or blatantly unfair behavior, try to see the baseline of where the emotion is coming from. Maybe he’s terrified that he will not be able to have the close relationship with the kids due to part-time parenting. Maybe his finances are super strapped, just like yours. Maybe he’s grieving the loss of the relationship. We all react impulsively at times and take our anger and frustration out on those who don’t always deserve it.
8. Remember, you were once very attracted to him (her)!
I know, you don’t want to admit this but it is the truth. There was a time you couldn’t wait to see him walk through the door. You likely have years worth of happy and loving memories, so make sure you share these moments with your children. They need to know that mom and dad have a foundation of love together.
I hope this post gives you some hope and encouragement to stay the course throughout your single parenting journey. As one who has landed on the opposite shore and can now look back over her ocean of parenting experience, I can tell you, it’s so very worth it.