In challenging times one can often feel hopeless and stuck in a downward spiral of negativity.If anything doesn’t go according to plan or it takes your time away from doing what you need or want to do, you go on the attack. Everyone is a target. You start finding yourself labeled as psycho, angry, disturbed, etc. If you are involved in a court battle you could be labeled as a bad parent or with a mental diagnosis like bipolar, histrionic, schizoid or other, even if you have no such diagnosis in any medical record. The courts throw these terms around at the mildest suggestion by an ex or a court authority. It is extremely upsetting for the accused when people who are not doctors or psychiatrists or therapists to start writing labels into your court documents. These labels will then stick. You may even start to wonder if they are right! If you haven’t been diagnosed outside of the family court arena, in most cases those labels are NOT right!
So what can you do? The courts view you as something you are not, your ex bad mouths you all over town. Sometimes your kids act kind of distant. You get upset about everything and everyone. Work becomes a hostile environment also. How do you have a positive attitude and stay out of the negativity trap?
First of all, take time to nurture yourself. When things get really intense, have a great workout, take a walk, do some yoga, ride a bicycle, or a motorcycle, go hang out with a friend, watch a movie, use some kind of distraction to separate you from your problems. Have you colored in a coloring book lately? Do this with your kids and see how creativity uplifts you. For just an hour or two, do not allow yourself to dwell on the negativity at all.
Next, make sure you are taking care of your body by getting enough food and drink and get the amount of sleep you need. A strong body supports a strong mind. If you’re not able to sleep without dwelling on your problems, sit and meditate, or listen to soothing song that makes you feel good. Take some deep breaths. Think of anything positive in your life. Make a list of positive things or goals. Think of how it will feel to accomplish those goals. Read some scripture. Pray. God is always on your side, even when you think no one else is! Then go to sleep on a positive note. This takes a lot of practice, but you can get yourself to where you can always pull yourself out of negative and into the positive thoughts anytime the negative tries to creep in.
Use good body language. Walk tall. Hold your head up. Have you ever tried it? It is amazing. If you stand up straight and wear a smile on your face, people will see you as confident and happy. Say, “Hi”, to people as you walk by. See the reaction. Don’t slouch, it comes off as the appearance of defeated, you don’t want to look weak or defeated, especially when you are dealing with the court or court authorities.
Use positive words. When I decided to go for sole custody, I used words like “when” i am granted custody, rather than “if” I am granted custody. “If” was not in my list possibilities. I use that when going on a job interview as well. I act as if I already have the job! This is very important. Believe in your ability to do whatever it is you want to do. If you are going for sole custody, know you can and will do it. Believe in yourself. If any doubters try to bring you down, let them know that you WILL prevail in court. You WILL do everything humanly possible to achieve your goals. Know that whatever happens in life, you will get through it. Negative times are temporary. A Positive attitude is permanent.
It may feel strange at first, if you have been struggling for years, but you will get the hang of it. If you need something tangible to hold to remind yourself, get yourself a good luck charm, either a necklace, bracelet, key chain or something that you keep on your desk at work or in your car. Find something that will bring you back to your focus if you start reverting back to the old negative ways. Retrain your brain to stay on some kind of movement forward in your life so that you are not stuck and you are not going backward.
Life is a balancing act. When you allow yourself to obsess over one part of life, while not allowing time for the good parts, you will feel hopeless and want to give up. Sometimes you will have to focus on the court battle. That will be unavoidable. For times when you don’t have to focus on those spirit draining things, don’t. No matter what. Make sure that you schedule time with a friend or doing some activity you really enjoy at least a couple times per week. That gives you something to look forward to and helps you move forward.
You don’t have to stay stuck. You really don’t. You can always think of something positive in your life if you really try. Focus on the good things and put the negative in a closet where you only let it out if you must. Get unstuck in life by moving forward. You will notice a difference and you will feel a new strength that helps you achieve all of your goals.
After divorce, some people play the victim. It garners them attention and sympathy from others and helps them explain, in their own mind, that they are not at fault for the divorce.
Oddly enough, even though all US states are no fault divorce states, it doesn’t seem to matter. Fault or no fault, divorce can be deeply wounding to one’s ego. In order to show the world that they are not a bad person (and make themselves feel better), they have to portray a false reality that their ex is to blame. They will accuse their ex of having an affair, being mentally ill or turn it around in some other way. They may tell others that they initiated the divorce instead of telling the truth, that it was their ex who initiated the process.
Typically, these individuals fear being alone and will enter into a new relationship quickly, long before they are ready. They have done nothing to come to terms with the divorce or take the time to heal. They grab hold of the first person who comes along and buys their story. It helps them show the world: Hey, I am OK. See? Someone loves me. That other person had something wrong with them. That’s all. I am not a bad person. See how quickly someone found me?
Their new relationship develops during their grieving process over the divorce. These quick rebound relationships can interfere with, and may even halt that grieving process all together. Because they met their new significant other during the grieving process, they probably shared an embellished story about how evil their ex spouse was, giving their new mate an exaggerated impression of the truth in order to explain their misery. The problem with embelleshed stories is that they will have to keep the story going for the duration of the new relationship so the new partner doesn’t learn the truth. This can make things very confusing to an ex spouse who has to try co-parenting with the person who is trying to keep a storyline going.
Some ex-spouses struggle to understand why their child’s other parent hates them so and cannot let go of it or move beyond divorce and into a co-parenting relationship. If you are the ex who is constantly lied about, you may become defensive. You may also be very hurt and feel guilty about the divorce when you see the way your children’s other parent carries on with so much anger and tells lies, while you try to take the high road. You may hope that your ex will come to terms with the divorce so that your co-parenting relationship will improve. Unfortunately, you cannot make things better because it really is not about you. This is all about your ex wanting to save face.
What does it mean to save face? To put it simply, to preserve one’s dignity. It has to do with how one sees him or herself and how he or she thinks the world sees them. If a person finds divorce to be a highly negative reflection of their self-worth, and is deeply wounded because their spouse, who promised to love, honor and cherish them no longer loves them, they often cannot see divorce as anything other than an acknowledgment that they are unlovable and a failure.
As the years go by, you may be shocked at how petty your co-parent is and stunned by their refusal to sit in the same room with you for the children’s extra curricular activities, doctor appointments and even mediation to settle a dispute about the children. Try not obsessing about changing the other parent, and do not make yourself a door mat and try to appease them in an effort to build a better relationship. If the other parent is saving face, nothing that you do will change the situation. It is all about keeping their secrets safe. Avoiding you, and making you out to be the bad guy, is the basis of their new relationship. They will move heaven and earth to keep the storyline going.
The avoiding parent lives in constant fear that if they start to repair the relationship with you, their new partner may start to see through all of the lies they’ve told over the years. They won’t risk being exposed as the liar they are. People who live a life based on lies will never risk a second breakup. The first one devastated them. Because they never took time to heal from that, another rejection would be unbearable. Eventually, the new partner may start to see that the story they have been told does not make sense, and your ex may possibly have to face their biggest fear, but again, you cannot change them, and it is not your responsibility to save them.
So what do you tell your kids when the other parent spreads lies and acts crazy? Tell your kids the truth. Tell them that you would like a better relationship with their mom/dad, and it is not possible right now. Tell your children that you do not understand why their other parent acts that way, but that you love them and will always be there for them no matter what. You may also want to tell them that you feel sorry for the other parent’s pain and hope that one day they will find a way to work through it. That is all you have to say. Then you must commit yourself to taking the high road and doing the best job of parenting that you can.
Hostile co-parenting relationships are not helped by seeking revenge or telling the other side what they need to do to make things better. You are the last person they will take advice from. Sometimes the best you can do is keep your own house in order and choose a healthier relationship for yourself, and leave your ex to battle their own demons.
When your ex is acting the fool, just get outta their way! Professionals will never see what is going on when you tell them. Let them see for themselves! In our latest video, Susan will explain more about getting out of the way and allowing your ex to act a fool. Remember, just because they may be acting the fool doesn’t mean that you have to do it, too. In fact, your chance for successfully navigating family court greatly increase when you do not let your ex rattle you. Check it out!
If you are not familiar with what parallel parenting is, our previous post explained more about what it is and why it can be helpful to high conflict parents. Here is a link to that post, “What is Parallel Parenting”, in case you’d like to read through that before continuing on with the rest of this post.
For high conflict parents, parallel parenting can be a way to move forward when they have difficulty with co-parenting after divorce. Regardless of their best laid plans or the detailed parenting plan they put in place, there are times when parents are not prepared for what is to come and did not realize how poorly they understood their situation enough to see the consequences of the decisions they made about child sharing after divorce. Parents desperately want closure and finality, but many do not get anything that resembles that, even though the legal process is over. For some, the battle keeps going and the conflict continues to escalate, often for years. When that happens, professionals label those parents as “high conflict”, but hold them to the same standard they would for low conflict cases. That is just not right.
The best way for high conflict parents to move away from conflict is to try parallel parenting. As a divorced parent going through Family Court, you may find that many professionals are opposed to the idea of parallel parenting and will constantly harp on the term co-parenting. Some professionals, even judges, have never heard of parallel parenting and that is astonishing. Why? Because for the last few decades, professionals were trained to help you co-parent and they were told that when parents co-parent, it is good for children. Post decree, the court is there for only one reason. The court’s concern is for the best interests of children. They are not necessarily concerned with the best interests of the parents. Parents had their chance to make decisions for how they wanted the details to work and then either put those decisions into written agreements that the court signed off on, or the judge decided the case for you. Once everything has been signed by the judge, the expectation is that you will follow the orders.
Many parents were only given one option for how they would parent after divorce and signed either an agreement or a court motion stating they would do it. That style is called co-parenting. Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings in the world of family court about co-parenting. This post is to help parents and professionals alike understand that there are other options available to parents who cannot make co-parenting work for them. These options often are ignored, kept as a trade secret, or become a dirty word when the reality is, it should be okay for some families to do things a little differently when they do not fit the mold of the ideal that professionals envision for parents. What people need to understand is that many families are already parallel parenting, but the professionals continue to call it co-parenting or frown on those who fail to co-parent. Parents should have the freedom to utilize the parallel parenting style of parenting after divorce when it can be used as a tool to improve their situation and make things better for their children.
What is co-parenting and why are professionals so adamant that you have to do it? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some parents and professionals think of a co-parent in the same way you’d think of being a co-pilot. Just as co-pilots fly together, co-parents are parenting together. That is all it means to them, but if that is all it means, why are these parents co-parenting for the first time after they no longer live together? Weren’t they parenting together when they were together, in the same house? The analogy of co-parents and co-pilots seems terribly misplaced. When have you ever heard of co-pilots flying in two different planes? They don’t. So to say that co-parenting means to parent together would make more sense when talking about parents who live in the same house together. Still, most parents never hear the term co-parent until they are in the divorce process and have been living separately for a while. You never hear married parents refer to the way they are raising the children together as co-parenting, but they might be. Although it is possible that they may not be. As parents go through the legal processes of divorce, it is unlikely anyone ever explores what kind of shared parenting style the parents used there, but just because they lived together, it did not mean they were co-parenting. In some families, parenting styles are very different and each one does their own thing, even when they disapprove of the way the other parent manages their parenting. So really, what is the big deal about co-parenting? Some divorce professionals just see it as a word that means doing so together, but forget to tell you how difficult it is going to be to do it while living in two separate homes. Co-parenting is a really strange term when you think about it. How can two people co-anything when they are not there together, doing it at the same time? Maybe something like team-based parenting would make more sense? How about collaboratively parenting? I think we are doing a disservice to families by making all sizes fit in a one size fits all box. One of the best movie lines is from Forest Gump:
Momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Well, families are like a box of chocolates, too. Some may be full of nuts, some may look good on the outside while they contain some really icky stuff on the inside and some may be very different when looked at individually or may be best when taken in small doses. This is why we should think about what might be the ingredients of the family and what might fit the best before boxing them a box when their family prefers a plastic wrapper.
Even when working with professionals, parents never know what they are gonna get. Family court professionals can be quite different individually, too. Some professionals believe that the term co-parenting is meant to be a shortened version of two words, cooperative and parenting. Cooperative parenting is a style of parenting after divorce that is the most beneficial way for parents to ensure their children’s healthy development and help them adjust to their parents’ divorce. When parents can put their relationship behind them and transform that relationship into a cooperative model of communicating and resolving conflict, children will come through divorce without the psychological, relational, and behavioral harm children who are caught in the middle of high conflict experience. Cooperative parenting helps children cope and more power to the parents who can instantly do it! Cooperative parenting is the best way to function after a divorce and it will happen when it is the shared goal for both parents. However, cooperation is not a solo endeavor and so the key to success is having both parents on board with doing everything in their power to make it happen. If one parent is not prepared for it or has very different ideas about how to parent children from that of the other, it can be place an unfair burden on parents who want to do the best for their children, but are not getting the level of cooperation from the other parent that is required to make it work. It works when both parents approach the situation from a good place and are making a good faith effort to build a better, but different relationship than what they had before.
Divorced people are looking to end their relationship, not to put a great deal of work into a new and improved relationship, but or those parents who understand from the get go that their relationship is going to continue in a different capacity because they have kids together, that change will come easier than for those who feel blindsided by the idea that the relationship is not over. It is frequently more difficult for one person than the other, especially if they were not the one who wanted the relationship to end. They need time to come to terms with the change and deal with their feelings. It won’t be possible to make someone do something that they do not have the skills for. Sometimes, neither parent is ready. If they haven’t healed enough, they just won’t be ready to be in the same room with the other parent or talk to the other parent, at least not yet. If that is where parents are at, it will take some work to ever move them into a cooperative style of parenting. This is why family court professionals are doing more harm than good when they offer cooperative parenting as the only way of sharing children after divorce and force the issue too soon.
It would be nice if all family court professionals could define co-parenting so everyone can be on the same page about what exactly it means. Look up the definition on different websites, including legal websites, and it is hard to understand what it means and how to do it. To say that it just means together sounds rather odd. Can parents parent “together” if they are not cooperative? Can anything be done jointly or together when it is done uncooperatively?
Most people can relate to trying to work with a co-worker who held difficult feelings about them. Try working on a project with the guy who doesn’t like you, is competitive with you or jealous of you. It is going to make the completion of the project all the more difficult and it may mean that the boss will need to intervene and remind you about the deadlines and all of the collateral people who will be impacted when things are not done in a timely fashion.
Whether or not you understand the reasons why you co-worker doesn’t like you doesn’t make any difference. Maybe the coworker prefers to work alone. Maybe they want all the credit for a job well done. Maybe they feel slighted because the boss (or the kids) seems to like you better than they like them. Regardless of what the issue is, the negative feelings belong to the other person. You cannot change the way they feel. All you can do is do your best to get the job done and not let the other guy affect your work.
Just like in the work place, the goal may have been put on you by other people. It may have been something you were told you had to do rather than something of your own choosing. When you “have to” instead of “want to” or “get to” work together, it changes things like motivation and the level of commitment you have to the idea. Those things are going to impact how great the level of cooperation there is going to be. It doesn’t have to, but it often does. Maybe negative feelings are getting in the way, but maybe each person simply has very different styles for getting things done.
Family court could take lessons from the workplace. Companies tend to do a great deal of training and team building exercises. Managers know that people are all different and need to be prepared for certain tasks well in advance of having to perform them. Good managers can recognize when two people will make a good team and when they won’t. In a case where the two people cannot work well together, it may be possible and even desirable to allow them to complete their parts of the project separately. The company may want to offer some training or coaching to help them work as part of a team, but in the mean time, it may be the best way to allow each to use the skills they have. Most successful managers realize that you have to meet people where they are and give them the tools to develop the skills that will get them where you want them to be. It would be nice if family court professionals did a better job of looking at the relationship dynamics before locking you into one that won’t work for you, and hopefully, they can consider all of the options available that might get your family going in the right direction. Currently, though, parents need to take responsibility for their own knowledge and if something doesn’t sound like it will work for you, look for other ideas yourself if you can. You are very much at the mercy of the professionals you come in contact with. Some are extremely knowledgeable and helpful while some dictate what you need to do and push it through because time is money!
Because of the way Family Court and Family law operates, it can be challenging to find the right kind of help. Neutrals can only do so much. In most cases, they cannot spend one-on-one time with you because it could make them looked biased. Still others cannot give you the kind of help or education you need because of the role they perform on your case and the ethical considerations of their area of practice. Others, do work for you and only for you, but their hourly rates make it unrealistic to spend a lot of time talking to them, and then of course, there are the different factions. The legal folks aren’t very concerned about your feelings on anything and the psychological folks aren’t in the business of knowing any more than they have to about the law. Each can only help you on their end of the spectrum of knowledge when the reality for you is that you are dealing with a blend of different fields. Professionals from different fields have teamed up to try to help, but really cannot mix and mingle enough to be all that helpful.
The truth is, what you need most is support. You need a friend or mentor to walk your journey with you, someone who understands the blender you are caught in. At High Conflict Central, we do know. We have walked in your shoes and can share our experience with you to help you avoid the pitfalls that come with high conflict and we will tell you about things like parallel parenting because we know that you may not hear about it from anyone else. We are dedicated to education and want to teach you all you need to know about co-parenting, child development issues, conflict, communication and much more. We provide coaching and consultation, offer resources, classes, webinars and a place to air your frustrations with all things high conflict or family dysfunction. We also know who some of the most knowledgeable professionals are and we can refer you to the right place. Not all professionals are well versed in high conflict. It can mean disaster for you and your children when they don’t.
If you need a friendly ear or want to hear about the many conflicts that arise when trying to co-parent or parallel parent, especially with a difficult or hostile co-parent, give us a call. We always offer a free phone consult so you can know what to expect from working with us. Call us at 1-800-516-2446 or email us via email@example.com. Connect with us today!