Seeing your ex as a good guy

One of the realizations many people come to soon after divorce, is that if you couldn’t control your ex when you were living with him, then you certainly can’t control him now and you have to be more trustful about his parenting decisions. For my current guest, Molly, that means being more prepared to “let things go” when they’re not important enough to argue about. It also means consciously looking for a different perspective on issues, looking to see the positives in her ex’s actions instead of focusing on the negatives. Here’s Molly:

[contemplate1] One of the things that I do much better now that I didn’t do when we were married, is looking for ways in which to appreciate him, looking for ways in which he contributed, or contributes to our lives now.

A different kind of kid's bikeI have a perfect example which happened right around my son’s birthday. My ex bought a bike for our son that was too expensive…well I thought it was too expensive, that’s my perspective. I thought it was pricey. He was expecting me to split it with him and he hadn’t consulted me on the cost. We’re going through a tight moment right now, so my first response was,

“How could you have done this?”

I started to get mad and then I immediately thought it wasn’t going to be productive and I should just drop it. So I said,

“I don’t want to talk to you about it, I’ll talk to you about it tomorrow.”

So I let it go. Later I saw a friend who’s also a divorcee and I told her. She got mad too, and I said,

“I don’t want you to make me mad because I can already make myself mad. What I need to figure out is just how to let it go and say ‘is this really that important?’”

She and I went back and forth … “Has he done this before? No he hasn’t, he’s usually really responsible with money.”

I got myself calmed down and decided that I was going to focus again on whether that battle was really worth it and what were the ways he contributes to my life.

He came over the next night because we have Friday night family dinners every week and he spontaneously added wiper fluid to my car and then encouraged the kids to clean up their rooms, which he never does. That made me think that was the kind of stuff I should focus on, not the fact that he overspent on the birthday gift, but the sweet things that he does do.

I find the more I appreciate him, especially as a co-parent, I remember why I want to have a peaceful relationship with him, and also that expands. He becomes a good guy in my eyes.

[contemplate2]

How often have you listened to a girlfriend’s tale of trouble and agreed with her because you thought, subconsciously or not, that would comfort her? Great thinking on Molly’s part to turn that on it’s head and get the support she really needed.

Appreciating what your ex brings to your co-parenting partnership is a valuable technique and most of the time there is more than one way to look at a situation. For example, my own parenting agreement called for my children to go to their dad’s every Wednesday night and every other weekend. My daughter, who was thirteen when we separated never followed the Wednesday night visits.* While my ex did discuss it with her and expressed his disappointment,  he never tried to force her or demand other time to compensate for her absence. I could have interpreted that as his not caring, or not being involved but since his agreement was less stressful for my daughter, I appreciated that he was flexible with his parenting time and chose not to make it a legal issue.

Molly and I didn’t talk about whether she had a subsequent conversation with her ex but this would be one of those situations where saying absolutely nothing might be avoiding conflict or not giving voice to your concerns just to keep the peace. I think it would be entirely appropriate to say something at later time explaining that it was more than you were expecting to pay and asking that in future when you’re going to be splitting an expense that you discuss it ahead of time and agree a budget.

Molly writes the blog Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce – I encourage to visit and follow Molly’s journey. She’s a terrific writer and poet. And if you’re curious about those Friday night family dinners, Molly mentioned above, keep visiting – there’s a post coming on that soon.

*FYI about the visitation schedule, my daughter felt the one night away was too disruptive, requiring too much organization to make sure she had all the right school items in the right place. Once my son got to high school, he felt the same way. A friend of mine has a five/nine schedule where her children are with their dad for five nights and then with her for nine nights and I think the longer periods with each parent is less disruptive.

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  • Anonymous

    Great post.  My experience with receiving advice from friends when I was going through my divorce was that usually the advice came from their emotional reaction.  Now we had two emotional reactions going on at the same time, mine and theirs.  Not a good combination for making decisions. 

    I have found that frustration and anger are fueled by the emotional energy that we hold in our body from childhood conditioning and when we can let this go then it is much easier to not feel angry and to say what we need to say from a centered place. When we are still carrying this energy around then the only thing that we can do is what Molly did, make a conscious choice about she wanted to behave.

    I also loved that she looked for what was good in the relationship and felt that sense of gratitude.  

    Jacque
    http://www.yourdivinedivorce.com

    • Anonymous

      @Jacque – it’s easy to see how talking to friends could make a tense situation worse. This is another reason why I’m excited to see divorce coaches becoming more popular.

  • Grace

    I applaud divorced people who get along with their former spouses.  My divorce has been final over four years, but the lawsuits have continued.  It’s finally over, and we’re now in a peaceful place.  It feels good!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Grace – I am so happy to hear that the lawsuits are finally over. I was waiting for blog post … I would love to hear your suggestions for how to handle a litigious ex. What do you do to stop it from consuming you?

  • Momma Sunshine

    It’s great to see divorced couples getting along so well. My ex and I have a good relationship (now) but it took us a long time to get here. Kudos to anyone who is able to accomplish the same.

    • Anonymous

      @Momma Sunshine – thank you for commenting – I see your tweets all the time :) Would you be interested in guest posting on what it took for you and your ex to have a good relationship?

      I think working to create and maintain a good relationship with your ex could be as much work as working on your marriage, especially if you have young children. So kudos, definitely deserved.

  • Being Me

    I think I gave up on this possibility a while ago, it’s one of the thoughts that possibly kept me going in this ‘relationship’ for so long eventhough I recognised already that one hand was attempting to clap alone.  I don’t hope for anything more except finally peace.
    God bless those partners who are reasonable and rational human beings but mine is not.

    I’ve read the posts and reality of different situations and personalities of divorced partners, different problems arise but I pray there will not be more appeals or suits after this round is settled.
    Mostly I want the kids to be able to move forward and be happy and I hope my ex in his narcissistic mind wants that too. 

    • Anonymous

      I have to say that dealing with a vindictive narcissistic ex must be the worse situation you could be in and I feel for you. I hope the appeals and suits do end because until they do, it’s so hard to move forward and it doesn’t do anything to help your children. Have courage.

  • http://www.divorceutah.com/ DivorceUtah

    I think It depends on how quickly she began to see the other guy.

  • http://www.themomarchy.com Angela

    She is right. Unless he has been an abusive addict, he is probably a good guy. However, it is important to know your ex-man. Even if they are good guys, they are more than capable of acting badly. Too often a peaceful relationship between partners and ex-partners means the woman has made adjustments to her preferences. I suggest capitulation is too often equated with peace.

    In the interest of peace, I would give my ex an inch and he would take two miles. “i am working late tonight, can I pick them up in the morning?” On the same weekend, “I have to travel for work tomorrow, can I drop them off early?” However, when I would ask for adjustments like trading weekends or picking up the girls while I attended a community meeting, he would say no because “it is important to maintain a stable schedule.” Right….

    I am glad it worked for you. However, you seem to have a reasonable co-parent. BTW, is he remarried or have a live-in girlfriend yet? This could make a difference.

    • Anonymous

      @Angela – you make an important point – not expressing your own needs or making them less of a priority in the interests of avoiding an argument is not the peaceful divorce we’re talking about. And I agree totally, flexibility should be mutual although I’d never want the children to feel they’re not wanted or not welcome at home.

      PS. Molly’s ex does now have a serious girlfriend.