How do you break the news to your kids? What’s the best approach to co-parenting? When do you introduce your kids to someone new?
You get the idea.
But some times it’s not the big-ticket items that throw us for a loop. Often it’s the little everyday stuff that send us right over the edge. Like when your Ex has a habit that truly drives you crazy. A mom from our parenting community faced just such a dilemma.
“I have a “divorce dilemma.” My Ex and I have a 50/50 parenting arrangement. Overall, we co-parent together really well. Unfortunately, there’s one HUGE area of our parenting where we’re totally different. His house is disorganized, cluttered and filthy. It’s drives me nuts!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to cleanliness. However, I work VERY hard with our daughter on improving study skills and staying organized. I feel like her dad’s home is the complete opposite of what I provide in my home. As parents, I believe we should be modeling the behavior we want to see in her.
I’m struggling with how to handle this.
On one hand I think we need to talk about it on the other, I don’t want to stir the pot. Do I need to let it go or should I say something (nicely) to my ex?”
Here are my thoughts on the situation.
From one control freak to another, I feel your pain. It’s hard to sit back and keep quiet about what goes on in your children’s other household. Especially when it’s the polar opposite of how your house is structured.
It sounds like there are two issues at work here.
First, regarding Dad’s less than stellar housekeeping – I think this is one of those issues that you probably need to stop sweating. Chances are no matter how “nicely” you offer your opinion Dad will probably end up feeling defensive. After all, if the shoe was on the other foot how would you feel about him critiquing your home?
In reality, a messy house doesn’t equal bad parenting anymore than a spotless house equals good parenting. As long as there are no health risks on the horizon, do your best to stay focused on the positive things Dad has to offer. Yes, modeling the values you want your children to grow up with is important. However, you and Dad value different things. As a result, you’ll undoubtedly role model different ways of living life. Hopefully, your daughter will be able to draw on the very best you each have to offer and carry that with her into adulthood.
While the thought of Dad’s house may leave you feeling twitchy, keep in mind that as your daughter gets older she will encounter wide variety of attitudes, habits and lifestyles. Even though it may be more challenging for her to shift gears between households, perhaps in the long run the differences between you and your Ex will help cultivate some adaptability. Think about it, what will she do if later in life if she has a messy disorganized roommate?
Also, don’t forget that your influence and support will go a long way. Continue to model what’s important to you and lead by example. Just make sure that you keep any judgments about Dad’s choices at bay.
Cleanliness aside, I do think it would be a good idea to have a chat with Dad about how the two of you could work together on helping your daughter develop better study skills and be a more organized student. Consider having a meeting on neutral turf to discuss/share some of the strategies you are using with her. Ask for his feedback and give him a chance to share his perspective. Then you can shift into discussing how the two of you could work together on mirroring that structure in each household.
So while Dad may have dirty dishes in the sink that doesn’t mean he can’t play a more active role around homework and helping your daughter maintain good study habits.
Is there something your Ex does that completely drives you up the wall?
Do you ever worry about your Ex bad habits rubbing off on your children?
How do you handle those differences in a constructive way?
If you have some wisdom to share about not sweating the small stuff, please post your comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.
Until next time,
Got a question you’d like me to weigh in on? Want some feedback from other parents? Jump on over and join us on our Facebook page.
While they would go through periods where things were fine, it usually didn’t last for long. Eventually Maria would unexpectedly explode over something trivial and a slew of angry email, texts and voicemails would ensue.
When this happened, Joe would usually drop what he was doing and immediately respond to Maria’s outburst. Most of the time Joe did his best to calm Maria down and work things out. If she sent him an accusatory email, he would reply with an equally long email explaining his perspective point by point. Every voicemail and text she left, he would return, resulting in numerous back and forth exchanges and heated debates.
Joe knew none of it was good for his 10-year-old son, Sammy. While he wasn’t willing to be Maria’s doormat, he desperately wanted to do right by his son.
What Joe didn’t get (and most parents don’t) is that he was giving Maria lots of incentive to stir the pot.
REMOVE THE PAYOFF
When dealing with a contentious ex it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the drama and miss what’s really driving the train. Let’s take another look at our buddy Joe. Every time he and Maria got into a spat, Joe unknowingly was giving Maria exactly what she wanted, his undivided attention. This dynamic is sometimes referred to as negative intimacy. In other words, since Maria no longer passionately loved Joe, she put her energy into passionately agitating Joe. For Maria, the conflict had become the primary outlet for keeping her connection to Joe alive.
Keep in mind that there can be lots of different payoffs for a conflictual ex. For some, it may be the need to feel in control or powerful. Others may try to offset feelings of helplessness while another may use the ongoing conflict to assert a false sense of superiority or importance.
Without a doubt, dealing with the unrelenting antics of a contentious ex can be exhausting. If you’re tired of feeling emotionally drained, frustrated and hopeless, here are a couple of tips for minimizing the BIG payoff and curbing divorce drama.
• Respond don’t react
Just because you share parenting responsibilities doesn’t mean you have to be at your ex’s beck and call 24/7. Aside from emergencies, very few situations require your immediate response. When a demanding email from your ex pops into your inbox, resist the impulse to rifle one back. Instead give yourself some time to consider what the issue is and if it truly requires a response. Remember you don’t need to swing at every pitch your ex tosses your way.
• Stay consistent
If your ex has a track record of playing nice one day and nasty the next, do your best to make your interactions consistent. Regardless of how your ex behaves establish healthy boundaries for day-to-day interactions.
• Be realistic
While it’s fine to hope that some day things will change, be realistic about your situation. Come to terms with the fact that you cannot change what your ex does, the choices they make or how they behave. Instead of turning yourself inside out, stay focused on what matters most — how you handle the conflict, the way you process the issues with your kids and limiting the energy that you give to divorce drama.
• It won’t get better overnight
When you repeatedly refuse to take the bait, expect your ex to up the ante. Do your best not to impulsively respond to situations that come up. Over time as you continue to hold your ground chances are your ex’s conflictual behavior will become less frequent and intense.
• Keep your eye on the prize.
Dealing with a contentious ex is without a doubt mentally and emotionally draining. Make sure you have other supports in your life to help you go the distance when your ex is being especially difficult. Often working with a good life coach or counselor can help your gain clarity and emotionally disconnect from the conflict.
Although you may not see the results of your efforts immediately, in the long run staying committed will pay big dividends for your kids.
Have you been dealing with a difficult Ex? If you’ve got tips for removing the big payoff or curbing divorce drama, please share your wisdom in the comments section below.
Until next time,
Just about anyone who has ever met me knows I am absolutely passionate about helping separated and divorced parents raise happy, confident and successful kids.
Over the years, I have poured my heart and soul into developing a wide range of resources aimed at making a difference for children when parents part. It’s always a real treat to meet others who share that passion, which is why I’m so excited to introduce you to filmmaker, Ellen Bruno and her fabulous team.
Let me explain.
Several months ago, I had the good fortune of connecting with Ellen Bruno about her newest project Split, a film for kids of divorce. After seeing a sample clip, I was hooked. The work Ellen and her team have done to date literally blew me away.
I was so impressed by her vision and commitment that I immediately knew I wanted to be involved in supporting this project. As a result, I’ve been acting as a sounding board/contributor of sorts ever since.
To give you a snapshot…Split features a diverse group of children from divorced families telling their stories and sharing their experiences. Not only does it reassure kids that they’re not alone, it also offers lots of healing moments. As these very special kids open up about their heartaches and lessons learned, young viewers are offered the chance to better understand the different issues and feelings that come up when parent part.
But that’s not all.
The really cool part… Split isn’t just for children of divorce. Because the effects of divorce are so far reaching, Split also holds valuable insight for parents and professionals working with separating families. Authentic and deeply touching, this film will speak to many. I also believe it will serve as a resource for inspiring effective communication, conflict resolution, and active listening for years to come.
To see what I mean, take a look…
There’s only one problem.
After working on this film for a couple of years, Ellen and her team are now reaching the final stages of production. In order to make this amazing film a reality, the first immediate goal is to raise funds to finish the project.
To help us get from here to there, Ellen and the team have launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter.
If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s an online platform which engages the public in funding special projects. In short, they help spread the word though email, social media and word of mouth… to people we don’t even know… but who care about kids of divorce.
However, there is a catch…a Kickstarter campaign is an “all or nothing” deal. If we don’t reach our goal of $30k in 30 days, we get nothing.
Not a cent.
So, I’m very motivated to help Ellen and her team make this happen.
That’s where you come in… I could really use your help. Here’s several ways you could make a difference.
1. “Like” Split on Facebook or join our growing community through other social sharing sites.
To make it easy, here’s where you can find us on the web
2. Help us spread the word about Split’s KICKSTARTER campaign and the new video clip.
Whether you email your friends or send a note out to your own list, however, you feel comfortable sharing would be a tremendous help. If you need a quick blurb for posting, feel free to repurpose parts of this letter or visit the Split webpage for additional information.
You can use this link to direct folks to Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1074778576/split-a-film-for-and-by-kids-of-divorce
3. Visit our Kickstarter page and make a donation.
One dollar, twenty dollars or several hundred dollars, every contribution is greatly appreciated and put us one step closer to our goal.
4. Keep the conversations going.
The campaign officially launched Thursday, November 15th and will run through Monday December 17th. 30 days isn’t a lot of time. Help us keep the conversations going through blogging, tweets, shout outs on Google+, Facebook posts, or by pinning us on your Pinterest board.
Have other ideas about how to reach out? We’d love to hear them!
5. Hook us up!
Do you know someone who shares our passion for helping kids of divorce? Perhaps someone who would be a key connector and could help us get the word out in a really big way? Please feel free to get in touch with me by either email or phone to share your thoughts, even it it’s a friend of a friend.
Sorry this is is such a long post but I didn’t want to leave anything out.
Last but not least…Thanks very much for taking the time to read this and more importantly for being part of my circle.
P.S. If you feel moved to support this project in some way, leave me a quick note below or shoot me an email about how you helped out so I can personally thank you.