The primary definition of the word “relationship” is essentially “the state of being connected.” Note that this definition does not place any conditions upon this connection. Some relationships are contentious, while others are harmonious. Some relationships are mutually desired while others are grossly imbalanced. If someone was to ask you what your “state of being connected” is with your child’s other parent, how would you respond?
You cannot control how your child’s other parent treats your co-parenting relationship. Even if you desire to have a healthy relationship for the sake of your child and your own sanity, your co-parent may not reciprocate that approach. Nevertheless, you can control how you choose to treat your “state of being connected” to your co-parent. If you desire to have a healthy co-parenting relationship, there are things you can do to facilitate that reality from your side of your mutual connection.
Focusing on your child
As you are likely aware, family law courts are generally bound to support the best interests of any child affected by a custody agreement. Your co-parent may or may not act within the best interests of your child on a regular basis. Few things are more challenging than navigating a co-parenting relationship in which one of the parents tends to be far more concerned with his or her own best interests as opposed to the best interests of the child. Although you can’t control what (or whom) your co-parent chooses to focus on, you can choose where you will focus your time and emotional energy.
When you focus on your child’s needs as opposed to the frustrating aspects of your co-parenting relationship, you will almost certainly begin approaching it from a healthier place by default. For example, if your co-parent has bailed on spending time with your child, it can be tempting to focus on your anger at him or her. However, if you instead say to yourself “What does my child need from me in this moment and moving forward in light of this situation?” you are more likely to react with clarity and intention instead of knee-jerk emotion. This will benefit you and your child in the end.
Focusing on yourself
If your co-parenting relationship is stressful or otherwise unhealthy, it is important to pour your energy into self-care as opposed to focusing on your co-parent’s behavior. Certainly, it is important to process any frustration you have with your co-parent in a healthy way and you may need to check in with your attorney from time-to-time in regards to how best to handle a particularly challenging co-parenting roadblock. But in general, stewing in your anger is less productive than taking time to treat yourself well.
When your co-parenting relationship is driving you up the wall, consider asking yourself, “What is the healthiest choice for me right now?” If processing your anger at your co-parent is healthiest for you at a given moment, go ahead. But if it is healthier to focus on getting some rest, pursuing a passion project, heading to the gym, enjoying a meal with loved ones or some other activity is a healthier choice, consider redirecting your energy.
Over time, your co-parent may or may not become a healthier partner in your relationship. But if you focus on being a healthy relationship partner, you almost certainly will grow in beneficial ways whether or not your co-parent is inclined to follow your lead. And that growth will benefit you and your child regardless.