It seems like your parenting plan went from auto-pilot to crash and burn. You read all the parenting blogs and took your pre-natal classes but What to Expect When You’re Expecting never mentioned what happens when your co-parent becomes your worst enemy. In fact, no one does. No one prepares you for that first time you recognize your ex in your child, doing the very same things that made your skin crawl. It’s enough to send anyone into a spiral of anger. It doesn’t matter if your split happened at 18 months or 18 years, you have a lifetime of graduations, weddings, holidays, and birthday parties ahead of you. You hold the power to ruin every event with stories about how terribly selfish and manipulative your ex behaves or you can gather up the pieces of the past, set them aside and focus on your most incredible accomplishment: your kids.
There is one phrase to remember when your ex is fanning the flame to help you get the best outcome with the least amount of agony.
STOP, DROP and ROLL.
This isn’t about arson. This is about your initial reaction to a nasty text, email, or phone conversation. Guess what? Your ex thrives on your agony. This sort of co-parenting schadenfreude is what fuels your relationship. Being so connected with someone for so long creates an intimacy that’s initially replaced by animosity. When you are healthy enough to do the work and become free from your divorce, that toxic animosity is replaced by a much more sustainable ambivalence.
STOP. Don’t react immediately. Don’t give your ex the power of being emotionally responsive at their beck and call.
DROP. Go a little deeper and figure out “Where, inside of me, is my reaction coming from?” Am I stressed about work? Am I jealous that he makes more money than me? Am I mad that she seems so happy in her new relationship? Take a second to feel your feelings. Wait until you have settled down so that you can see the words on the page as exactly that: just words.
ROLL. Simply roll with it. You’ve protected yourself. You are BCC-ing your LegalLogs. You’ve documented the exchange and everyone can see that you are the more balanced and level-headed of the two of you.
Guess what? You win this round. It will take effort at first but it’ll get easier over time.
Life after divorce isn’t about making your ex pay and suffer. It challenges you to answer the question of the phoenix: “How will I rise from the ashes?”