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The Bigger Benefit

The Bigger Benefit

He is free-spirited.  He is spontaneous.  He doesn’t use his calendar to track activities.  He lives his life with confidence that the next step forward will take him where he needs to be – wherever that may be.  His thoughts are mostly the after kind.

She is organized.  She is predictable.  She is meticulous in her planning and preparation. Her life is well-managed in all its details.  She has already started filling out her 2018 planner along with an outline of goals.

You know the story – opposites attract.  They fall in love.  Wed.  Then divorce.  Now they find themselves facing co-parenting with their opposite personalities and needs.  The polarizing traits that used to bring balance in a combined household are now a seeming barrier to a harmonious post-divorce future.

We (and our ex-spouses) will not fundamentally change who we are as a result of our divorce.  We will remain who we are and so will your spouse.  As a result, we will need to find balance to our personality, that our spouse used to provide, when parenting our children.  We also cannot ignore that we know our former spouses needs to make parenting easier.

Exhibit A:  He plans a vacation with the children.  He emails her 2 days before departure that is taking their kids camping.  No mention of location, contact information, timeline for travel, or any indication of his plan.

She feels her anxiety rise.  She is annoyed.  He always does this.  In her frustration, she has a bad attitude in front of her children about their camping trip.  She doesn’t pack the sunscreen, the toy binoculars, or the swimsuits she knows they will want and that he will forget to pack.

Exhibit B:  She maps out the school schedule, holiday schedules and all of the game and practice calendars months in advance.  She determines best transportation solutions, cost and payment due dates, and identifies all equipment and supplies needed.  She emails him seeking approval of the schedule and asking 7 numbered and detailed questions.

He feels his anxiety rise.  He is annoyed.  She always does this.  In his frustration he has a bad attitude about her in front of his children.  He responds to the email with two words “got it.”

Instead, what would it be like if each parent gave the other what they needed?  What if he provided details and let her know all of the needs for the children that, in fact, he has anticipated and was making plans for?  What if he asked her to send over the swimsuit?  What if she broke down her emails into smaller ones and made simpler, easier requests that dealt with a timeframe of immediacy rather than months away?

I can hear the responses to the choices we have:  “But why should I when he/she doesn’t?”  “Why do I have to follow the rules and he/she gets away with everything?”  “Why do I always have to be the responsible parent?”  “Why do I always have to accommodate?”

We all know why.  If we don’t, the children and your integrity suffer, not your ex-spouse.  Good behavior is never bad – in litigation or in living your life.  It may not be acknowledged and that is frustrating.  But being the bigger person will always have the biggest benefit because your children’s best interests will be bigger than both of you.

Angela Dunne