Think about someone with whom you have to work but don’t necessarily like. You might make small talk occasionally, but ultimately, you’d rather not hear too much about his or her personal life. Your encounters are typically brief, but there are times when you need to work together to tackle a complicated problem so you have to maintain some amount of civility.
Are you thinking about a co-worker or an ex with whom you are co-parenting? These two relationships can look very similar, and if you are struggling to adapt to a co-parenting arrangement, it might help to treat the other person like a colleague.
Just as you would not pry into the private life of an acquaintance at work, you don’t need to get overly involved in the personal life of your ex. For example, you don’t have to follow them on social media, and you might avoid going inside each other’s homes during custody exchanges. You can define any other boundaries or prohibited behaviors in your parenting plan.
Think about how you communicate with a co-worker when talking to your ex, particularly in times of conflict. Be clear about your expectations and requests. Put any changes or agreements in writing. Avoid overly emotional exchanges. Should a dispute arise, refer to official documents (i.e. your parenting plan) that provide clarity and guidance on resolution methods.
Yes, there are times when you will need to interact with your ex, like at a school function or when you need to discuss your child’s care. However, if you don’t have to interact with each other, then don’t. It can also be helpful to leave any drama with these relationships “at the office.” In other words, once a difficult exchange or discussion is over, move past it and focus on the other elements of your life.
Treating your ex like a co-worker can be a good approach to co-parenting if you are struggling to find a balance between working together effectively and maintaining separate lives.
The same approach applies to parenting conflicts. While you can try to work them out yourselves, it may be best to work with an attorney to resolve them through legal channels if informal efforts fail.