I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so I’m going to be upfront and tell you right off the bat that getting along with my ex is something that takes a lot of work from me. Even after 10 years, I still make mistakes and have to tell myself to calm down and shut up at times. There is nothing about being a non-custodial mom that is easy, but this is one of the most difficult things that comes along with not having my children in my care.
Maybe your children are not with your ex, but with a family member or someone else. Even so, there are always emotions, assumptions, and accusations flying around. Everyone believes that they know more than the other one and no one wants to back off or (GASP!) admit that they could be wrong. All of these things need to be reined into control and dealt with, because as long as they are able to run wild our children will be living on the frontline of a battlefield where they are unfairly placed.
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As I said above, the first problem that comes with learning to get along with the custodial parent is that of emotions. We miss our children, we usually have a history with the person caring for our children, the people raising our children might be doing so in a way different from we would, and the list goes on and on…
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When I finally had a light bulb go off in my head causing me to realize that how I interact with my children’s father has an impact on my children, whether they know about our interactions or not, I was able to bring myself into grasp of reality more than I ever had. Oh sure, I had been saying for years that we were a team, co-parenting, and we’ll always have to deal with each other, but I never actually realized that even what my kids do not know about has an effect on them. They can sense tension and know more than we give them credit for. Once again, I admit that a few months ago I got rather emotional and did not handle a situation the way that I should have, but usually I try to shut off emotions and only deal with facts when discussing matters about my children with their father.
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Assumptions can be so damaging, and we all know the phrase about assumptions… even if it is gross… It was during a phone conversation with my ex-husband (rare, as we agreed many years ago that talking on the phone is not a good thing for us to do… instead most of our contact if via text or email.) that as I was repeating over and over that I am not the person I was when I was married to him and to stop assuming so that it dawned on me that he is not that same person either. Why had I always thought that I could change and he could not? If we sit and just jump to conclusions as to what the other person’s intentions or thoughts are, things will never change. It is not the fault of our children that things are the way they are now, so why must we constantly treat the situation as though it is about the parents and not the kids? Any interaction you have with the custodial parent is about your child and no one else. Not even you. Treat it that way, and trust me, everyone will be a lot happier. Even if you are the only one acting appropriately.
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There are also times that we should just not even entertain the conversation. If talking to the custodial party that day is not going to have any benefit, then end it. A few months ago I was messaging with a friend who is new to being a non-custodial parent on Facebook. He said the best advice I gave him was, “you won’t come out on top of this unless you take it breath by breath… Warriors wouldn’t be respected were it not for the battle. Know when to stop and bandage your wounds and when to fight. When you second guess, pray. Being a non-custodial parent has been the worst thing to happen to me. I know it is for you too.” The only thing I would change about what I wrote to him is that I always try to remember to pray before any interaction with my ex. Sometimes it catches me off guard, and being that I am human I fly off the seat of my pants and things get messy really fast. Don’t do that, trust me. It never ends well.
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More important than anything I’ve written above is keeping in tune with Jesus. As long as I’m close to Him, I am able to keep a better reign on all of those emotions, assumptions, and everything else involved. When I spend time daily in prayer, and pray FOR my ex and his happiness, things go much smoother. Staying in the Word and repeating scripture when upset makes a world of difference. I remind myself that satan is the author of confusion and that he would love nothing more than to cause more anguish for the family that he was already allowed to rip apart, to see me fall, and to have my children’s wounds rubbed with salt. Some scriptures that help me in these situations are Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6, Isaiah 59:19, Philippians 4:8, and 2 Timothy 1:7 among many others. If it would help you, put these scriptures or others on index cards and place them in an area that can be of help in times of stress.