When it comes to difficult exes, the best course of action is usually cutting ties entirely. That’s not an option for co-parenting situations, but knowing that won’t make your ex any more tolerable.
Cooperation is non-negotiable, but be sure to set clear terms with your ex. Be firm on your boundaries while respecting theirs. Hold off on criticism unless their actions get too out of hand, and always remember that you’re doing all of this for the sake of your child.
Doing the bare minimum and barely communicating with your ex will make life difficult for your child. You need to cooperate with your co-parent even if it’s exhausting. Aim for a respectful relationship – or a polite one, at minimum, if the former option isn’t feasible.
Cooperate With Your Ex
While your current arrangement is undoubtedly uncomfortable, don’t forget that it’s not you versus your ex right now. Hate them all you want, but they still want the best for the kids you two have.
The less you see them as a threat or hindrance, the more capable you’ll both be as co-parents.
You two will need to discuss custody, visitation times, budgeting, work schedules, and other factors. Boundaries and expectations need to be communicated and respected by both parties.
Be sure that both of you strive to find what’s convenient for everyone involved – it’s far too easy to forget that your child has a schedule of their own.
You need to establish a healthy, sustainable dynamic – especially if you’re co-parenting with someone you hate. That doesn’t mean you need to forgive them or even accept them: just be ready to work with them here.
If you do this right, your child will feel that their parents are working to prioritize caring for them over personal misgivings. Failure to accomplish this might make your child feel like a burden – or even worse, a tool their parents use to hurt one another.
Things to Communicate
If your child is feeling unwell or dealing with difficult circumstances, communicate that to your co-parent. Right now, they are your co-parent – not your ex-partner.
You’re working together for your child’s betterment, with their well-being as the priority here. That means dealing with any problems your child may be experiencing with the help of your co-parent – who gets credited for solving the issue is irrelevant.
Give your co-parent a text to warn them about what your child might have been through. Even if there wasn’t a problem, give them a short update on what played out while they were in your custody. They deserve to know what’s happening in their child’s life just as much as you do.
If your child has a test coming up soon or feels bad because a friend ditched on them recently, convey that to your co-parent. You want them at their best to ensure your child gets the best.
Your child’s love isn’t a finite resource. They can love both of you perfectly fine, but they need love from both of you too. Don’t let insecurities get in the way of your responsibility as a parent.
Set Firm Boundaries
Cooperation, communication, and compromise are key to good working relationships, but not everything should be negotiable. They are your co-parent, but it’s a dynamic between equals.
If you aren’t comfortable with the terms they want to set, you have every right to refuse. They retain the same prerogative for your suggestions as well. Maturity comes from both parties setting their minds to finding an arrangement everyone can work with, even if it takes time.
Make sure that the boundaries and restrictions you set are sensible and realistic to enforce. Work towards a compromise with your co-parent – don’t forget that the person who suffers most if you don’t would be your child.
If your co-parent is acting difficult, gently remind them that you’re both doing this for the sake of your child. It just might get them into a more cooperative mood.
Broaching the Topic
As much as possible, discuss these boundaries through open-ended conversation. Don’t just leave a set of terms for them to agree or disagree with. This leaves too little nuance for proper compromise to be accomplished, and you’d just end up annoying them.
Don’t tolerate disrespect from them, but abstain from acting out of line in kind. Communicate your expectations and responsibilities with one another. Ask what your co-parent would like done, then offer your input and alternative solutions when it’s appropriate to do so.
A random visit could throw your entire day’s worth of plans off, and this would remain a running risk for both you and your ex. A custody calendar is a type of document that prevents instances like this from happening, setting firm boundaries to prevent inconvenient intrusions and friction.
While you are co-parenting, you probably won’t be raising the child in the same household. Having clear-cut windows to plan out quality time with your child is something both of you will benefit from, so try to establish a custody calendar with your co-parent as early as possible.
While you don’t need to clock hours in the courtroom sorting this out, hiring a mediator to draft acceptable terms would be mutually beneficial. Written documents are crucial for transparency and accountability, establishing clear rules and expectations both parties need to respect.
In these cases, you can even push a little more by holding the offending party accountable for any lapses. These would cause legal consequences, which could alter the custody arrangement.
We would STRONGLY discourage such actions – especially if done for petty reasons.
Unless your partner is toxic and/or abusive, their presence in your child’s life is much better than their absence. Don’t manipulate situations to put them under legal scrutiny – you’d be wronging your child, not just your hated ex.
If the situation warrants it, or if they’ve been given ample warning, consequences are more than fair game. Rethink your current arrangement if they’re acting irresponsibly, but don’t try to exploit situations just because you’re annoyed at your ex!
Don’t Criticize Their Parenting Style (Unless It Gets Excessive)
You probably don’t agree with your co-parent on a lot of different points, but you can’t fault them for their intentions. They might go about it in ways you can’t condone, but that alone doesn’t necessarily make their approach problematic.
For instance, your curfew time could be different from your co-parent’s curfew time. It’s okay to let them know about your misgivings on that front, but don’t be pushy and insistent on them changing to suit your preferences.
They’re parenting according to their best judgment, just like you. If what they’re doing is adversely affecting your child though, feel free to warn your co-parent.
In this particular case, you could mention how their academic performance or sleep schedule are being thrown off by their laxer curfew. Frame the issue as an objective amendment rather than a shortcoming on their end, but leave the final decision to them.
Clarify that you’re bringing this up for your child’s betterment, not in an attempt to chastise, shame, or downplay their competence.
Like it or not, you’re working together here. Your ex won’t be changing anytime soon, so if you can’t get comfortable at least try to stay polite with them in all your dealings.
Avoid Badmouthing Your Ex
You likely have good reason to absolutely loathe your co-parent, but there’s no point sharing it with your little one. If your ex is as horrible as you think they are, trust that your child can pick up on it without needing to be coaxed towards the conclusion.
Bad-mouthing your ex with gossip will inevitably reach the other parent. This co-parenting arrangement was tense at the best of times, but active belligerence will make things so much worse.
That doesn’t mean you need to sanitize your history. Simply avoid the topic best you can, stick to objective facts to answer your child’s questions, and keep your emotions in check.
Co-parenting is rooted in communication and cooperation. Badmouthing your ex might feel cathartic at the moment, but you’ll be doing nothing more than sabotaging your child’s upbringing.
Prioritize Your Relationship With Your Child
You aren’t doing this for your ex, nor are you doing this against them. You’re doing this with your ex for the sake of the child you have together.
If your ex has a great relationship with your child, that’s a great thing! Your child deserves the best, and if they’re earnest about providing that everything is well and good here.
There’s no need to feel insecure when your co-parent spoils your child. They can have a good relationship with both of their parents, with no need for comparison or competition. This is a cooperative effort, with your co-parent as your partner here.
You don’t have to like them or even accept them, but let them care for the child you two had. Support their efforts and let them support you, and remember exactly who you’re doing this for.
It’s hard to stand your exes – much less co-parent with exes you hate! But that doesn’t mean you should cut your losses and accept your dynamic. Doing this would only hurt your dear child.
Set strict boundaries and terms for both of you to work with, but try to support one another’s efforts in caring for your baby. Communication, courtesy, and most of all effort are sorely needed to make the most of this awkward co-parenting situation.