Divorce is a difficult and overwhelming experience and can be especially challenging for those who are co-parenting with their soon-to-be-ex (STBX). You want what's best for your children but you may have difficulty communicating with your STBX. You both may have hurt, angry, and resentful feelings toward each other. There are things you can do to reduce the stress of co-parenting and make it more effective.
1. Communicate with your ex as much as necessary.
It's critical to keep the lines of communication open for the sake of your children. Schedules, pick-ups and drop-offs, extracurricular activities, medical issues and other details should be discussed. The more you can agree on in advance, the less stressful things will be when they arise. And, if disagreements do arise, try to handle them calmly. You don't want your children to see you arguing or hear negative things about their other parent. But you don't have to communicate about anything unrelated to the children. If there's something going on that you'd rather not tell your STBX, it's ok to keep it private. You're navigating a new relationship with your STBX and you can decide how much you share and how much you keep to yourself.
2. Do not use your children to communicate.
Using your children to communicate will only harm your children in the long run. Your children should never feel responsible for things that happen between their parents. If they are required to communicate because you aren’t able to, your children can feel an incredible amount of stress. It’s best to find ways to communicate including text, email and phone calls.
3. Focus on your future.
You and your STBX’s relationship is changing. You’re no longer going to be married, you’re going to be co-parents. That means that everything that happened in the past doesn’t really apply to your new relationship. Let go of the past and focus on your future as co-parents who both care about your children. Be polite and respectful no matter what your STBX does. Eventually you’ll be able to develop a healthy co-parenting relationship. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself so that you won’t be triggered by any inappropriate text or confrontational attorney letter.
4. Talk about feelings with your children
Divorce brings up so many emotions. It’s important that you create an environment where your children can express all of their feelings, even if it’s difficult to hear. Ask your children how they’re feeling and listen to what they say. Listening without talking is an essential skill that parents need to be effective at. When your child expresses a fear, ask them to tell you more. Then ask them, “Is there anything else?” When your child is completely done talking, then you can try to address some of their concerns without minimizing them. Empathize with them and say, “I can see why you feel that way.” Be honest with your children and let them know that it’s hard for you too but let them know that you’ll all be ok. Come up with ideas together on how you can make things better. If your children feel comfortable talking about their feelings, you can all move forward and have hope for a really good future.
Divorce is one of the most difficult things to go through in life. You have to take care of yourself to manage the stress of co-parenting. If you communicate effectively with your STBX, focus on your future and talk about feelings with your children, you will have an easier time managing the stress of divorce and co-parenting. If you’re struggling with any of this, reach out to a therapist or an experienced divorce coach.
Are you in a relationship with someone who makes you feel like you're constantly walking on eggshells? Do you think you can never do anything right and that your partner is always ready to criticize or accuse you of something? If so, then you may be experiencing gaslighting.
Unfortunately, gaslighting is a common form of emotional abuse. In this blog post, we'll discuss what gaslighting is, how to identify it, and what steps you can take to protect yourself from it.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse in which the abuser subtly or overtly undermines the reality of their partner. It is a particularly insidious form of abuse done gradually, making it difficult for the victim to detect. Even if the victim is aware that something is wrong, they may doubt themselves, believing that they are being paranoid.
Signs That You're Being Gaslighted
Listed below are common signs that your partner is gaslighting you:
What Can You Do About it?
Recognize the problem – It is critical to recognize the signs of gaslighting. Common examples of gaslighting:
Practice self-compassion – You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Fill your life with people who make you feel good about yourself and who will support you during difficult times. Healing from gaslighting will take time, but it is possible. You are strong and capable of overcoming this challenge.
Confront your partner – Try to have a conversation with them about it. There's a possibility they're not even aware they're doing it, and simply bringing it to their attention may be enough to get them to stop. You can also put up boundaries. If your partner treats you disrespectfully, end the conversation and let them know that you’ll speak to them when they are respectful.
Leave the relationship – It's critical to take action if you're in a relationship with someone who gaslights you and won't stop the behavior. If your partner becomes enraged or puts you in danger, you should think about ending the relationship. Remember that you’re entitled to a healthy and secure relationship.
Gaslighting can be a sign of emotional abuse, and it can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health. If you're in a relationship with someone who is gaslighting you, a therapist or marriage counselor can work with you individually or as a couple to give you ways to improve the behavior and possibly improve the relationship.
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences and involves complex emotional, financial and legal issues. In order to be able to think clearly through your divorce, it’s so important that you take care of your emotional self.
1. If it feels wrong, don’t do it
The ability to set boundaries is crucial and can be hard, especially after separating from a long-term relationship. What do healthy boundaries look like? Not doing something that feels wrong or uncomfortable is a great starting point. If your Soon-to-be-ex (STBX) tells you to do something and you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you need to be able to let him or her know that you disagree. This doesn’t mean that you should be disrespectful, it means that you can let them know that you appreciate their perspective. But in the end, you get to decide what you want to do.
2. Stay calm when you communicate with your STBX
Communication is key in any relationship, divorce included, and being calm will help you effectively communicate with your STBX. Try not to react to the emotion in the other person’s voice, this can escalate a simple conversation into an argument. Instead, recognize that you don’t have to respond right away. Take some time to breathe deeply, and think about how you want to respond. Not only will this prevent an argument, but it’s less emotionally draining on you. Lastly, if the conversation is getting escalated, remove yourself until you are both able to respond calmly.
3. Trust your instincts
Your instincts are there to tell you when a boundary is being pushed too far and it’s key to listen to them. When you can feel yourself being pushed too far or being put in an uncomfortable situation, trust when that gut feeling kicks in and walk away.
4. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
Sometimes we say yes because we feel intimidated or want to please others. Saying “no” helps to establish healthy boundaries and enables others to understand what to expect from you. When a situation arises, you might feel obligated to go along for the sake of agreement but if you say yes and then feel resentful, that’s not good for anyone. Learning to say no and not feel bad is key to taking care of your emotional self.
5. Let go of what you can’t control
You won’t be able to control everything. There are things that may happen that are not ideal for you or your children. In most cases, everything will still turn out ok, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted. Detaching and letting go are such important skills when you’re going through divorce and will save you so much stress. If you’re struggling with this, I recommend practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Caring for yourself emotionally can make a huge difference in helping you move forward through your divorce in a healthy way. When you’re able to take better care of yourself mentally and physically, your decision making will improve, you'll be able to think clearly, you’ll be able to be there for your children and you can conquer anything that comes your way!
When I was going through my divorce, I didn’t know what to say to my kids. I was doing my best to protect them so I didn’t share much with them about the divorce. I assumed they would open up to me if they needed to talk. Knowing what I do now, I would do things differently. Following are some key points to help kids open up during divorce.
1. Start things off with honest communication.
How you are going to communicate with your children during divorce starts when you tell them about the divorce. It’s important to tell them together - with both parents if possible - without blaming either parent. You don’t have to give too many details, but answer their questions as they come up.
Kids are focused primarily on themselves and mostly care about how the divorce will impact them. They’re typically not thinking about their parents’ feelings too much.
You can give them information like:
It’s so important to be available to your kids when they want to talk. You can intentionally create situations where they’re relaxed such as when you’re driving in the car or before they go to bed. Here are some ways to encourage them to open up with you:
Kids live in the present moment - they’re much better at doing that than adults. When they don’t like what’s happening, they may say hurtful things to their parents. Try not to get caught up in the things they say during a stressful moment. They may seem extremely upset one day, but that doesn’t mean it’s how they’re going to feel the next day or next week. Do your best to let little things go and not to take it personally. As a parent, it’s devastating to know they’re hurting, but kids are very resilient. Their moods will not last forever.
However, there are times that you should consider reaching out for help. There are some clues to show if your child is simply upset and processing their feelings or if they are having deeper struggles. Here are some examples:
These behavior changes are signals that your child isn’t coping well with the divorce and may need extra help from a counselor or professional.
The great news is that the most stressful parts of your divorce will not last forever, and that there are clear ways to keep the lines of communication open with you and your children. Many times, parents can have even deeper relationships with their kids after divorce when the strain of the marriage isn’t a part of the parent/child relationship. In the meantime, these strategies can give you a positive direction for how to get your kids to open up.
One of the most important skills you need when you’re getting divorced is knowing how to successfully negotiate your agreement. What makes this so difficult is that emotions can get in the way and then you can’t think clearly. You need to be able to put your emotions aside and think clearly through your divorce negotiations. Here are 3 key points you must keep in mind to negotiate your divorce agreement well. Your divorce agreement is simply a legal business transaction.
1. Your divorce agreement is simply a legal business transaction.
This is about your financial future. You wouldn’t make a business transaction without thinking through all of your options. Take your time to think through what the best decision is without being distracted by anger or revenge. For example, do you really want that old coffee table or picture just because he wants it? Emotions block you from having clarity about your priorities and end goals. I know divorce is an emotional time and you are hurting. It is important to deal with those feelings, but learn how to separate them and put them aside for a while. Make space and time for those feelings and then put them back on the shelf so you can focus on your finances and make smart decisions through your divorce.
2. Identify and rank your top priorities.
What are your priorities? What will you fight for? NOTHING ELSE is as important as this thing! Maybe it’s your retirement account, your schedule, where you live or if you keep your house. Rank 3-4 things that are the most important and realize you probably won’t get them all. Maybe you give up the #4 priority for the #1 priority. Knowing what matters keeps you laser focused and allows you to be flexible with the hundreds of other less important decisions that come up in divorce.
Separate short term and long term priorities. An example of a short term priority would be that you need your car repaired. A long term priority would be the custody arrangements. Your top 3-4 list should be long term priorities.
3. Know your ex’s priorities and be creative!
Think about your ex’s priorities. Do you know what’s important to them? If you discuss what matters to them as well as your own priorities, you can reach an agreement much quicker.. Tell your ex, “I don’t want this to drag on forever and spend all this money on attorneys. What is it that you really want? If you can tell me, I can try and make that happen.”
If your ex won’t share, use what you know about them and be creative! Let go of things that are not your highest priority. In my divorce, I realized I was digging in on short term things like season tickets when all that truly mattered to me was the parenting schedule. My ex, as a financial planner, felt strongly about certain financial assets. In the end, I let go of things my attorney wanted for me financially because I understood what mattered to my ex and what mattered to me.
5 helpful phrases to use in your negotiations:
Remember, this is a business negotiation. Nothing that your ex has done to you in the past matters now. Use these phrases in a businesslike manner and respectful tone to better understand your ex’s priorities so you can be an educated and creative negotiator.
Knowing your priorities in divorce makes all the difference with negotiating your agreement. If I had been clear on my own priorities and what mattered to my ex in the beginning, I would have saved SO MUCH MONEY in lawyer fees and arguments and bickering and stress. If you use the approaches I outlined, you are well on your way to negotiating a divorce agreement that works for both of you in the end.
Does every communication with your ex end in you feeling frustrated and emotional? Then your ex is probably a high conflict person. Divorce is hard enough when both parties are reasonable. Throw a high-conflict ex into the mix and it can feel unbearable. Communicating peacefully with a high-conflict ex may seem impossible, but there are things you can do to communicate effectively and navigate this process with less stress.
Here are tips to keep in mind when communicating with a high-conflict ex:
You can do this! Your children are worth the effort. If you can use these tips successfully, conflict between you and your ex will decrease and you and your children will benefit.
Parenting is difficult when you have a good, strong marriage. When going through divorce, parenting has additional complications. In order to co-parent effectively, you need to have mutual respect, strong communication skills and a willingness to compromise and work together for the good of your children. It's extremely difficult to have all of the skills necessary to co-parent effectively when you're angry at one another and are in the middle of divorce negotiations.
After a marriage ends, there can be a lot of built up anger and resentment. Sometimes attorneys can exacerbate those negative feelings as they try to get the best deal for their clients. Meanwhile, if you have children together, you need to interact with each other to discuss parenting schedules and various issues that come up with your children. This can be a recipe for disaster because the children see and feel the tension between their parents. Children can be significantly impacted by this tension.
Co-parenting counseling can help. Co-parenting counseling enables parents, with the help of an experienced professional, to work together to build communication and other skills so that they can work together productively. The professional can be very clear about where the boundaries are - what's acceptable and not acceptable for the parents to say, email and text each other. For example, one of my clients thought that it was fine for her to ignore the other parent unless it was an emergency. The other parent would get frustrated and would lash out. Obviously, these are not ideal ways for co-parents to communicate.
When I work with co-parents, I encourage them to think of each other as colleagues or coworkers. This enables them to take the emotion out of their communication with each other. I work with them to be respectful of each other, use I messages, listen to each other and come to compromise. Throughout our work, I stress that they're doing this for the good of their children and although it can be difficult, most of my clients are successful. When my clients develop strong co-parenting relationships, they're giving their children the gift of a better future life.
Sometimes you may feel your relationship is going well and other times you may be worried about the strength of your relationship. It can help to take a step back and see what’s working and what’s not. Here are some areas to look at:
These five areas are important when assessing the strength of your relationship. If you’re doing most or all of these, you’re probably doing pretty well. If you need work on one or more of these areas, don’t be discouraged. These skills can be learned. You can improve the strength of your relationship yourselves or you can always try couples counseling.
For most parents, telling their children about the decision to divorce is one of the most difficult things that they have to face. It is helpful for both parents to discuss ahead of time what they’re going to share with their children and how they’re going to respond to their children’s questions.
Parents should make several agreements:
If you don’t know where you’ll live, that will create some stress for children. Letting children know a plan for where you’re living, even if it’s just for the near future, will help lower children’s anxiety.
If there are issues that the children already know about such as substance abuse, sexual orientation or an affair, it’s better to acknowledge the issue rather than avoid it. If you discuss it with the children, it will enable them to ask questions and feel that they can come to you to talk about things that concern them.
Discuss what the schedule will be and anything else that will impact them. Children need to know things like will they be moving, where will each parent live, who they will live with, when will they see each parent, will they stay at the same school and what will happen on their birthday and holidays. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, telling children what’s happening in the near future will help.
It’s best for parents to tell their children about the divorce together. It helps children see that their parents are still working together. It provides a sense of safety for children through an unstable time. It also provides an opportunity for children to process the information in a safe environment as both parents are available for questions, reassurance and support. Choose a time where there's no distractions and everyone can be together.
If children don’t feel like asking questions or talking about anything, don’t push them. Allow them to have time to process the information. They probably feel a lot of conflicting emotions and may not be able to verbalize their feelings right away.
It’s ok to tell children that you’re sad about the divorce and that with time, you will all heal and adjust to the changes in the family. However, try not to show intense emotions like crying for hours or saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Even though you may be struggling emotionally, you need to deal with your emotions separately from your children. They need to know that you are strong enough to deal with the divorce so that they don’t feel obligated to take care of you. If you need help dealing with all of the emotions and overwhelm of divorce, see a therapist so that you can be there for your children.
Relationships are tricky. In order to have a healthy relationship, you must compromise. You have to give up some things that you would want and hopefully your partner also gives up some things that they want. But how much giving up is too much? How do you both give to each other while making sure that you're meeting your own needs?
Communication is key to finding the balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your relationship. Make some time to talk when you’re both relaxed and can focus on the conversation. Listen to each other and try to understand the other’s point of view. If you find that your partner doesn’t allow you to have your own friends or activities, that may indicate a serious problem in your relationship. If you can have a reasonable conversation about how you can work through this issue, that’s a very good sign for the health of your relationship.
Too many people get into relationships and find that everything they do revolves around their partner. The problem with this is that it may work in the beginning but after some time you'll most likely feel resentful. You'll wake up and realize that you’ve become distant from all of your friends and you don’t have any outside interests. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can give of yourself to the relationship while you take care of yourself.
The first step is to think about what’s important to you. Prioritize the things that you do that make you happy. Is it important to attend a weekly book club with your friends? Is it important to work out every day? Is it important to spend time with your sister regularly? You probably won’t be able to do it all but you can choose some things that you value the most. You need to feel grounded and happy. If you find that you’ve given up too much and you’re starting to feel resentful, that needs to be discussed.
Good communication is essential to finding the right balance for your relationship. Check in with your partner regularly and make sure you’re on the same page regarding time spent together and time spent apart. If you do so, you’ll develop the basis for a really strong, connected relationship.
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.