Are You a Coparent Bully? - Part Two

In my recent  post: Are You a Coparent Bully - Part One, I asked these questions:

stressed co-parent dad Now let's a take a look at more questions we can ask to gain insight into a co-parent's bullying behavior. You may even recognize some of these as your own traits, but remember, you could not only be hurting your kids and your ex, you could also be making it more difficult to find happiness in your own life. 

 - Do you make your coparent sweat it out when they ask for something? 
You have control, and that's the way you like it. When your coparent asks you for something, you sure do let them know it. You make them hold on for a few minutes, hours, or days before giving them an answer, or heck, just say no altogether!

Example: If your coparent asks to get the kids on what is normally your day, do you tell them you'll think about it and then say something like "After much deliberation I've decided to let you take them", when really you knew you had no plans that day from the get go? As if they owe you, that you have done them a favor by letting them spend some time with their child?

What are you gaining by playing this card with your ex? The fact is, the kids are 50% their DNA. They are not your possessions to wave around ownership of whenever you have an opportunity to exert control over your coparent. If your coparent wants to take the kids out on "your" day for a special occasion, then of course (safety concerns aside) you should give them every opportunity to do so. Because there may come a day when your ex stops asking, so as to save the the trouble of having to deal with your control issues. Then you may end up regretting being so difficult, both for your own sake and for your child's. 

Do you expect your coparent to get errands and jobs done when they have the kids? 

Understand that when your coparent has the kids they may have their own plans, and they may not have time to get the jobs you have assigned to them done when you would like. Of course, there are always things that need to be taken care of, and surely both parents should share in that responsibility. If there are errands that need to get done when your coparent has the kids, make sure you give them plenty of time to plan ahead. 

Example: Your ex was supposed to take the kids to buy school supplies this weekend, but they were at a family event that took all day and now they've come home without them. Now you are royally irritated because you will need to take time out of your busy week to get it done yourself. Keep in mind that not all things are going to work out the way you would plan when the kids are with their coparent. What if your child got sick and couldn't go out? What if your ex realized that they didn't have the extra cash to buy the supplies this weekend? There are far too many variables in life to try to plan for them all. If there is something that you insist be done when and where you want it, then plan to take care of it yourself, don't put those burdens on your ex. You do not have the authority to set rules in your coparent's home, and you cannot expect them to live up to your expectations, because they may not share the same standards as you, and that also does not means that yours are right and theirs are wrong. You may think that school supplies are of upmost importance, but your coparent may hold time with their kids and their family in higher priority. Communication with your ex about what needs to get done is the only way to be sure you are both on the same page. 
- Do you revel in seeing your ex fail? And do you make sure the kids know about it?  
If your ex does something wrong - whether it directly affects you or not - there is nothing good that can come of rubbing it in - either to them, and especially not to the kids. Everyone is human, and your coparent will make mistakes, you can count on it. But so will you, and it will serve you better to be gracious about your coparent's mishaps than to harp on them for every error they make. 

Example: Your ex wrote your child's birthday wrong on a school form. The first thing you do is post it on Facebook, tell your kids that their parent doesn't know when they were born, then tell everyone about it at the school the next day. "See what I have to deal with?" is what you end your rant with.

First, stop and think about how likely it is that your coparent actually forgot their kids birthday - chances are it was a simple error. Even though you may want to jump to the conclusion that they are the worst parent ever, and shout it off the rooftops, realize that everyone is human, and that you make mistakes yourself (gasp!). Does your ex call you out on them every time? Did they really screw up so badly that it truly makes them a horrible parent? And how do the kids benefit from knowing anything about your coparent's missteps? Is the point to make them think their parent is terrible - to make them resent, or be disappointed in, their parent? Does that make life better or worse for your child? And how, exactly, does this reflect on you? It surely does not put you in a positive light in your child's eyes when you tell them about every mistake that their parent has ever made. This goes under the category of: it will hurt you more than it hurts them - not only does it make you look unsavory in everyone else's eyes, but to your child's eyes as well, and that is the last thing you want to accomplish. 

Do you threaten your coparent with court action? 
Or do you turn to the courts for simple, easily remedied situations? If your lawyer is on speed dial, it may be time to rethink your co-parenting relationship. This is a time-consuming, costly, and stressful way of managing a co-parenting relationship. Of course, there are many situations which completely merit court action, but if you turn to your lawyer at every one of your coparents actions that you aren't happy with, this is anxiety that may be misguided. Can you sit down with a mediator instead of turning toward litigation? Does your parenting agreement need to be modified? Is it simply a matter of having a talk with your coparent to work out your concerns together? Is it a simple misunderstanding?

Example: Your coparent's payment is late again for the second time in a row. Instead of calling your attorney, pick up the phone and call your coparent instead. There may be a simple explanation. Ask yourself: Is this behavior consistent enough to merit court interference? Is there another way we can come to a resolution? While, yes, your ex should be adhering to the guidelines of your divorce agreement, you need to be sure that court action is your last resort. We all slip up sometimes, so make sure that you don't jump the gun and call your lawyer for a situation that is easily resolved with a simple talk with your coparent. 

Divorce can be an unfortunate situation for kids, but not if their parents work together to maintain as normal a "family" life as possible. This is a new definition of family, for sure, but one that can resemble a separated, yet undivided family, more than a broken family. 

Take care to cooperate with your coparent. Remember that you are BOTH only human, and that you will both surely make mistakes. But if you can manage to coparent peacefully most of the time, then you are doing your kids a great service that they will remember for a very long time. Imagine if your kids grew up to say "my parents are divorced but they always got along so well", instead of "my parents hate each other"? And realize that if you are a coparent bully, then you are doing far more than your part to ensure the latter. 

As always, better communication can be the key difference between frustrated coparents, and coparents that manage their lives successfully. Please take a look at www.TwoHappyHomes.com to see how you can better organize parenting between two households with a shared calendar, lists of contacts, storing medical information, expense tracking, and more. 

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