If you endured a high-conflict marriage and a high-conflict divorce, chances are you will be facing many of the same challenges when it comes to co-parenting with your ex. Here are some tips on how to successfully co-parent with a high-conflict ex:
Control your reactions. Ongoing conflict between two people is pretty much a product of habit. To keep peace in your co-parented family, you need to break this habit. First, realize you only have control over you, so work on your communication skills by remembering to take the high road, no matter how nasty your ex may get on email, the phone, or in person. It takes two to tango, so if you simply refuse to engage, that will de-escalate any conflict quickly.
Realize you cannot change your ex. No matter how much you may want to, you cannot change another person. This is probably why you got divorced, yes? You wanted them to be X, and they were always Y. Stop trying to control your ex and work on controlling your reaction to their choices or actions instead.
Set and keep boundaries. People who have high-conflict personalities love to push other people’s buttons, usually by running over any boundaries they have established. Some people just love to create drama and leave the emotional mess for others to clean up. To keep your sanity, you need to disengage from a person like this as much as possible. Don’t feed their drama with your own volatile reaction. Don’t reply to every text or email that minute; wait until you are in control of your emotions and either respond rationally if a response is called for, or don’t respond at all. Don’t try to get your ex to see it your way; you’re wasting your breath. And if your ex has violated a court order, don’t go after him or her yourself; let your attorney handle it.
Model good behavior for your children. Children are a lot smarter than most parents give them credit for, and can usually sort out for themselves which parent is the more stable influence. That’s the parent you want to be. High-conflict personalities will probably try to plant seeds of doubt with children, but you can help them understand better by not reacting to any personal insult by your ex and instead tell them, “When Mommy says bad things about me, just realize that she is feeling angry. But feelings are not facts, so if you have any questions about me, please ask me.” Also let them know it is OK for them to ask either parent to stop talking badly about the other parent.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of co-parenting, and we are here to help guide you through the process.