Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Anyone who has ever tried to coparent with someone after a breakup or divorce knows that it’s… kind of the worst thing ever.
For me, it’s a mixed bag. Tyler and I have good phases and bad phases. Lately it’s been pretty good. I think that as time passes post-divorce, it gets easier to keep that necessary distance while still staying civil. Both of us being in new (healthier) relationships helps a lot, too.
There are a lot of challenges, though. To me, the most frustrating one is trying to develop a coparenting relationship that has a different dynamic than our marriage did. Relationships have momentum, you know what I mean? Once the interaction between two people is established, the pattern is pretty well set, and it’s hard to change.
Tyler and I were together for seven years. We developed a way of interacting over those years that I clearly did not care for, since I filed for divorce. From my point of view, it was basically him telling me that he was going to be gone for long periods of time and that I would need to rearrange my career to accommodate caring for Caroline, so that he could build up a reputation in his field and finish his PhD. In the beginning, before we had Caroline, to be honest… I liked it. I liked to mother him and take care of him and cook him dinner and keep his house, and I was proud of all the things he had accomplished so young. (He treated me more like a subordinate than a partner, but as you can see, I am also at fault for encouraging it.) I liked that he depended on me, even if I didn’t always enjoy being alone while he worked. But eventually I became resentful of everything he asked of me, and the very little that he gave in return… both to me, and to our child. And I didn’t want to back-burner my career anymore, because it was important to me.
Too often, our coparenting relationship reminds me of our marriage. He will text me to say “I’ll be away for x number of days/weeks and I’ll be picking up Caroline for these days and I’ll need you to take her back on this day.” I’ll say okay, rearrange my schedule to accommodate his, and basically do whatever he asks… but then I’ll get mad, and resentful, and pick a fight with him, and then we snipe at each other via text for a few days and act sullen when we finally see each other. Sounds healthy, right? And by no means do I claim that it’s all his fault– fighting takes two.
But how do you change that pattern of interaction? How do you reverse the momentum of a relationship when you have to stay in constant contact after a breakup, because you have a child together? How do you put the pieces of a broken marriage back together to form a healthy coparenting relationship?
It’s hard. It really sucks. I don’t know the answer. I tried, today, to establish something new. He texted me, telling me the way the next visit was going to go. I told him that I had a conflict with my schedule, but I would be happy to have a two-way discussion about it if he would rephrase his order as a request. Somehow, we ended up fighting anyway.
One of my friends said to me tonight, “I hate seeing my ex every day at school. It doesn’t seem fair that I still have to deal with that, every single day.” I looked at him. “I win,” I said. “I have to deal with mine for 18 years.” (He was kind enough to refer to my one-upping as “perspective”.)
But, hey, that’s just life and coparenting after divorce. You’ve got to make the best of it… right? If you’re a single parent, how do you and your ex manage?