Ask Dr. Zoe – How to Co-Parent With a Toxic Ex

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‘Paulette’ Asked:

How do you coparent with a toxic ex? Someone who is manipulative, a compulsive liar even to the courts and doesn’t put the kids’ best interests first.

Dr. Zoe Answered:

You can’t! It’s that simple, but let me explain.

The concept of co-parenting is a wonderful one and parents who have picked up this torch have served their children well through their separation.

But, I think it has also been damaging to others who see it as attainable in their situation. Co-parenting isn’t for everyone and it certainly won’t work in every scenario. And it won’t work in yours if your ex is truly all those things you just described.

You can’t co-parent with someone who is toxic, unreasonable and doesn’t have his children’s best interests at heart. Co-parenting is a relationship where you are both actively working together because you share a common interest for the greater good of participating in your children’s lives and jointly raising them, even if you aren’t together as a couple. Co-parenting is for parents who take this role seriously and value what intentional parenting can do for their children. This only works if both parents are committed to a healthy, civil, agreeable co-parenting relationship.

What is happening in your situation is not that. You are parallel parenting. You are both parenting the same child, but not jointly and not in a compromising, united manner.

Stop expecting him to be anything other than who he is. Get rid of the dream. Grieve it if you must, but he is not the one. When you stop trying to fix the situation, get him to understand, see your side or even be reasonable, your life will be that much easier and so will your children’s.

Desperate to know the reason for your pain? Click here.

The biggest issue we have in relationships is that we expect someone to be who they AREN’T instead of expecting them to be who they are.

Once you have released that need, you can focus on what is real and how to make it the healthiest situation for your children.

When parallel parenting, you need to:

1. Recognize this is a “Business Only” relationship. Your business is in the same industry but you are more like competitors that need to work together. It may sound horrible, but these relationships can work out quite well.

1. Devise a schedule and plan that minimizes your need to interact with the other parent. The less contact with toxicity, the better.

2. Figure out what you can agree on and commit to that. You can still have agreements like, no one speaks badly about the other party to the children, but don’t hold your breath that he will adhere to the rule. Remember, you’re expecting him to do what he always does.

3. Get everything in writing. That’s what any good business relationship does.

4. Leave all your personal issues with him on the doorstep. This isn’t about your history or your past pain. Get your own help for dealing with that and make sure your responses to him are always based in the present.

5. It’s okay that you will feel lonely and sometimes angry in this process. This is to be expected because it’s not the optimal situation. But you can certainly make the best of it and your children can thrive!

6. Help your children understand that different rules at different houses is okay. Because it is! Children do quite well with different rules in different environments when the parents aren’t all tied up in a bow because of it. It’s helpful as well to explain why you chose the rules you have for when they are with you.

You can still be a phenomenal parent in a parallel parenting situation. Children adjust well when their parents adjust well. You have no control over your ex, so your main job is to make sure you are taking care of yourself in this dynamic and showing up as the healthiest you for your kids.

Walk in faith that God’s got the rest. He is not confused about your situation. He’s got a plan for your children and they’re going to need this experience to fulfill it.

You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!

Get more about this question from Dr. Zoe in this video:

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