How to co-parent with the impossible co-parent

June 14th 2017 • 0 Comments

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This one is tough.  Believe me.  I see it again and again.  I applaud those parents who divorce and are able to work together with next to no conflict for the good of their kids.  I also see the exact opposite.  If either parent possesses just a small amount of narcissism or insecurity about their own self worth or image then it is going to be a tough uphill battle.  Not only is it difficult to work with this individual directly due to their lack cooperation but they may attempt to erode the relationship with the opposing parent and their children.  That said, if you are on the other end of such an individual there are certainly things you can do to keep your own sanity while maintaining the welfare of your child.

Stick to Written Communications

I'm not a big fan of email.  In general it is good to solve things face-to-face.  We've all seen email "threads" where a misinterpretation has disintegrated into complete anarchy.  One party misconstrues a tone, or worse yet they completely misread an email!  In a high conflict situation, however, face-to-face communication generally does not help matters.  Things are discussed and later forgotten, or in the heat of disagreement a dispute arises leading to stalemate or worse yet, an argument.  Thus, with the modern day world of electronic communications this can be a helpful tool to manage communications between co-parents (and is in fact why unbrokenhomes was created!).  In order to be successful, you will still need to consider some important ground rules that will make you a master of electronic communications.  Here is the short list:

  1. When making requests to the impossible co-parent, keep your requests, information, or message as short and succinct as possible.  Stick to only the facts and information needed to accomplish your goal.
  2. Limit topics in emails, preferably each email should convey a single topic.
  3. Avoid inundating your co-parent with too many requests at once.  If one request or topic tends to be especially contentious let the other parent absorb and potentially respond.
  4. Don't hit send.  Best thing to do is write an email, take a break from it and then return later to look at what you've written prior to sending.  Have another person review it to see how it might be taken or interpreted.

Always Keep Your Parenting Agreement at Hand

This is a key tool, not to mention a legally binding tool, that you will need to refer to often.  While it is perfectly acceptable to deviate on many provisions based on agreement between parties, just remember that you may never get the same benefits in return.  One area that is often not negotiable is child support however.  Make sure you're up to speed on any key dates for given decision points, also make sure that you plan as early as possible to negotiate or agree to how stated deviations, such as holidays, are being handled.  If there needs to be a child exchange you will want to plan ahead to avoid potential disasters later.

Stay Organized

I cannot stress this enough.  If you have an especially complex schedule, many expenses, or a wealth of information that needs to be shared I cannot stress the importance of organization.  Save receipts, review your schedule versus your custody/parenting agreement on a regular basis to determine if there are any exceptions, proposed changes, or areas where you need alternate plans.  If you need a document you cannot expect your co-parent ot be at your service 24/7.  So ensure you have medical ID info, emergency contacts for extended family and other key information handy.

Stay on the High Road

This is the toughest of all.  If you're co-parenting with a narcisissist this requires endless patience and self awareness.  You may find evidence that your ex is bad mouthing you.  You may feel that no matter what you do you cannot win.  In the end your relationship with your children is up to you.  You cannot control what your ex does, and even if it damages your relationship, your only recourse is to continue to set an example for your children in morality and integrity.  Even if this never fully repairs any damage done by your ex, you will be helping your children.  As the saying goes, pray for the strength for the things you can change, the patience for the things you cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.

Just remember, it is easy to let a difficult person to get the better of you.  The people I most often admire in my life are those that can take a patient, calm and collected approach to a problem.  Getting upset happens, emotions are good, but in this situation they usually only hurt matters.  Your kids will grow up fast so spend the time you can working on your relationship with them versus wasting energy on trying to correct acts of malice by your ex.


Need help staying objective and avoiding conflict as a co-parent?  Try Unbroken Homes.  Unbroken Homes is a parenting tool designed by a divorced parent to help manage schedules, expenses and your child's information to make successful co-parents.
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