Balanced Duties and Healthy Boundaries may be something you, personally, feel ready for, but your ex may not. Whether they don’t want any duties at all, or they want complete control, there are still steps YOU can take and ways YOU can positively encourage them to follow suit.
When you have limited time and your parental rights have essentially been taken away due to your ex or the “family” court, you can show through your consistent behavior that you have no desire to fight and that you just want better for your child. Conversely, when an ex seems to be backing away from parental responsibilities, rather than forcing them into a relationship, you can encourage them, and let them know how important they are to their child. Some parents may lack feelings of self-worth after a separation.
It can be frustrating if you feel as though you are the only one trying to work on a co-parenting relationship. But the truth of the matter is – more often than not, both parents feel as though they are trying. The problem is likely that we just don’t see it, appreciate it, or the effort is not what we NEED – rather, it is what the other person BELIEVES we WANT. Either way, the benefits your child will receive from having two actively involved parents, will be worth it!
If you feel as though you are the only one trying, try to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine being in their situation – their life, their job, their home, their role. Imagine how they perceive your words and your actions. Could they believe that they are making a valiant effort to co-parent? Though this exercise can be extremely difficult to do, if you practice it genuinely and sincerely, wholeheartedly, it can help you to better adapt to your challenges and improve your communication significantly.
Remember, you can’t change your ex, you can only change yourself. But, your child will fair best with two happy, healthy and active parents. So, you can choose to be a positive influence in your ex’s life or you can choose to be their biggest nightmare. Either way, your behavior impacts your child’s perception and their reality – so always keep THAT in the front of your mind.
It takes a village to raise a child, right? We all have experiences that we can share to help others. Following, five parents from our community share their personal experiences around Balanced Duties and Healthy Boundaries:
Talk to Each Other
“We have been co-parenting for 16 years, so I guess you’d say we’ve learned a lot! I felt that Healthy Boundaries was a hard one for my ex to get. In HIS defense, Communication was probably my most challenging area! Since I kept the house after our divorce, my ex seemed to feel a little too ‘at home’ for the longest time. He would let himself in without even knocking, helped himself to food in the fridge, and would even go down to the freezer in the basement to re-stock the fridge. It drove me insane! I slowly started to change the house to make it more ‘mine’. Over time, I bought new furniture, I painted, and I even re-carpeted! He just could NOT take a hint! So, finally one day, I blew up at him. I hadn’t even been to HIS house, yet he acted like he was at home in mine! Well, to my surprise, he said he was trying to act comfortable for my sake and the kids’! He said I was making it difficult because I kept changing things, and it made him less and less comfortable in ‘my’ home. Hmm, if only we had that whole ‘Communication-thing’ figured out. So, my lesson here isn’t so much about what the “healthy boundaries” are, but an important suggestion to TALK TO EACH OTHER about what those healthy boundaries are! This little gap caused the both of us two years of angst! Luckily we laugh about it now!”
“Because my ex only has the kids every other weekend (and he has limited funds), I always supply him with diapers, toys and clothes for the kids. I regularly receive hand-me-downs, so it’s an easy, affordable way to help him a little. The kids grow so fast, it doesn’t make sense to always have 2 of everything. Also, I coupon shop, and I like to bake too, so I sometimes even send food and drink with him. For that, I always ask him in advance though. I feel that is one of the “healthy boundaries” in our relationship. It allows him more time to focus on the kids while they’re together too. I’m not doing it to make him feel bad or to control what the kids wear and what they eat. I’m doing it because we are raising our children together. He pays child support. If I can easily do something that makes things a little bit easier for him, while benefiting the kids, why wouldn’t I?”
It’s Not Easy
“I am trying to co-parent with a narcissist. They say it can’t be done, and though it’s certainly not easy, I would argue that it can be done. I will say that it takes a lot of patience, forgiveness and biting of the proverbial tongue. But, for six years and going, it has completely turned my life around for the better. It has awarded me more time with my girls, and I (secretly) feel that I’ve helped their mother be a better mother to them. In turn, the living hell I experienced, made me a better father. I started by offering to help her whenever I could – grabbing some groceries for her, fixing her van, getting her tickets to a concert and offering to “babysit”. I’m no dummy. Slowly but surely, I had more time with the girls, I had less threats to deal with, and we started opening up to each other. Though I’m almost always walking on eggshells, I don’t excessively praise, necessarily pander, or let her walk all over me. But, I have definitely learned to pick my battles, and I accept a lot of things I once thought impossible, to the extent that I do not respond to her insults and accusations and to the extent that I sometimes worry about our daughter’s emotional and psychological well-being. But, the fact that I have increasingly more time with our girls, and my ex often confides in me and trusts me, has made it all worth the while.”
“Best advice I can give is DON’T ASSUME! Whether together for one year or twenty, you are two people with distinct feelings, expectations and perspectives. Don’t simply assume you already know each other’s duties or what boundaries need to be set. Your relationship has changed! Calm, mature discussions and respect will go a long way! And, keep in mind that feelings, expectations and perspectives can and will change!”
Learn As You Go
“I may be old fashioned, but to me, I always expected my ex to stick up for me. It may sound silly. But, he was always the disciplinary, and I used to appreciate it particularly when he would stop the boys if they were being disrespectful to me. It’s not that I can’t do it myself obviously, but there was something I really liked about him telling them to respect their mother. When I finally confronted him about it, asking why he didn’t do that anymore, he said he felt like he was crossing boundaries. He didn’t want to make it seem like I wasn’t a disciplinary, since I had them alone half of the time. He said he still teaches them to respect their mother and women in general, but he also didn’t want to confuse the kids about our relationship or take away from my authority. There’s a lot to learn and a lot of ways you’ll need to adapt. Be patient with each other. In some cases, you may need to learn as you go….”