Children need their parents. This is particularly true during times of transition, such as divorce. The most challenging thing about going through divorce is to manage your own pain so that you can be the support your child needs. Divorce is a critical time for a family. Emotions are high. Sometimes parent conflict is extremely high to the point of insanity. If you are feeling so much stress and upset, just imagine what your children are feeling. They need their parents to reassure them that everything will be alright, but if you are not sure of that, it is hard to make them believe the words you tell them.
Many parents seek out help from lawyers or mediators to get through the divorce process. Some will even turn to a therapist. Those are good professionals to turn to, but the problem is that you may hear different things from each different player. A therapist is going to validate your feelings while a lawyer is going to tell you your feelings don’t matter. Everything will feel like it is tied to money when it is supposed to be about your children’s best interests.
Have you ever thought about seeking help from a coach-mentor? High Conflict Central has been involved with parents in conflict, especially parents going through divorce or post decree issues. We not only have a collective 21 years of experience in the process divorced parents have to go through, but also have experienced the pain. A requirement for our coach-mentors is that they have been through similar things to what you are going through. We can understand what you are talking about and help you understand the upside down and backwards experience of what it is like to go through family court in a way that your lawyer or therapist will never be able to do. We also understand the reason behind Family Court and what seems like insanity in their thinking and we want to help you understand, too. There is nothing that feels more like eternal darkness than trying to navigate a system that you are not prepared to navigate and do not understand.
High Conflict Central tries to be the link to connect all the pieces for you. While you may not want to spend money on coaching when you have high legal bills and concerns about your future, our clients will tell you that coaching helped decrease their lawyer bills and the number of interactions with court professionals like judges or parenting consultants. It will also help you feel supported and in the strongest possible position to help your child. Contact us to learn more about coaching services at High Conflict Central, a trademark of Susan Carpenter Coaching and Consulting.
How do you fight the loneliness when going through divorce, especially those first days when your kids are gone? It’s hard to sleep. The mind races. You just want to escape, but no matter where you would try to escape to, that racing mind goes with you. It can be crazy making time. Even if your ex is an ass and you feel somewhat relieved that they are gone, you will go through a mourning period. It’s OK to do that. It is normal to tell everyone how horrible your soon to be ex is, but then go home and miss them and wonder why you miss them when you make them sound so horrible.
Allow yourself the grieving time, as much as you need. Try to figure out in your head if it is your ex you miss or if you just miss having someone there for you when you come home. Maybe you just miss the security of another adult in the house for when something goes wrong. Maybe it’s just that there used to be someone you could leave the kids with if you had to run to the store quickly and now you aren’t able to make quick runs to the store unexpectedly without taking the kids along for the ride. These are normal feelings. It’s OK to feel glad that this person you hate is gone, but 10 minutes later find yourself sobbing because they have left.
During divorce, people go through the exact same mourning process that they do when a loved one dies. It makes sense, in a way, it is the death of a relationship. So go through those feelings of loss. Be with people if you need to or stay away from people if you just don’t feel like socializing. Most likely, you will either sleep a lot or hardly at all, maybe you will alternate between the two. Many people lose a lot of weight during this time. Of course there is a feeling of profound sadness. Your life is changing. Maybe you weren’t prepared for that to happen. It is hard to deal with the shock, especially if you feel blind sided by the situation.
Once you feel a little more accepting of the situation and have made peace with everything, you may start feeling a little excited about the opportunity to reinvent your life, you will still find that loneliness still creeps in now and again. Where can you go on those lonely days?
It’s a very good idea to stay busy and take your mind off of your problems. Distractions can be a good thing. If you are having serious legal battles, keeping busy will help save your sanity. On weekends when the kids are with the other parent, carve that time out for yourself. Make sure to plan something fun to do. If you have some good friends, make some definite plans and don’t back out, even if you’re not feeling that great when the day comes. Try your best to go and have fun. Don’t spend the entire weekend on court matters. If your lawyer needs you to write a document with all the nitty, gritty details of your case for him/her, get it out of the way as soon as you can so you can still allow time for weekend fun. If the deadline for getting it completed is not approaching that quickly, save the task for a weeknight instead.
I know that many people have to also find new friends after they divorce. I have often joked that my ex got all the friends and I got all the bills. Well, in all honesty, those people were not my friends anyway. I have awesome, awesome, God sent friends now and I wouldn’t trade them for the world! If you need to get out and meet people, there are many ways to do that. You could volunteer. Is there someplace you have always wanted to volunteer, but never had time? Make the time now. You could volunteer at a school or a homeless shelter or food shelf. You could check in with some senior apartments or assisted living or nursing homes and go visit an elderly person who has no family to visit or read to a blind person or maybe play cards or do a puzzle with a shut in. They would love it! You could volunteer at church. If you don’t have a church, join one. You could sing in the choir or try something else. Churches often have groups that you can join, too. My church did not have a singles group when I inquired and so I started one!!!! I never got too many takers, but yet, I tried and it was a great experience for me. There are police and fire reserve units that always need volunteers. If you are musically inclined, you could check around with different cities nearby and see if there is a community band you could join. If you are looking to meet people there are literally thousands of groups of all different persuasions that you could join at meetup.com. They have groups for card playing, biking, hiking, singles, political groups, parent groups and many other things. Check it out, it’s pretty cool. I remember that I showed a friend of mine that had a Dachshund that they even had a Dachshund owners meetup! Do you want or need to increase your income? Go back to school. Trust me, you are never too old (just ask this woman) and you will be able to afford it. Whatever you do, just get out there and get involved. You will be amazed at the people you will meet!
As someone who has been working for almost 20 years to help parents navigate the very choppy waters of family court, I get a fair amount of calls and emails from parents who feel overwhelmed with how off track their case has become. High conflict cases snowball into unimagineable craziness and parents desperately want to find ways to make it stop. Much of the craziness doesn’t really come from court. It really comes from the behavior of one or both parents. When you get sucked into the vortex of the land of upside down and backwards, AKA family court, there is little that the legal system can offer to fix it. Everything depends on the level of the cooperation between parents and their willingness to accept the reality of the situation and follow the prescripts that court professionals have to offer. Unfortunately, there is no magic fairy dust. There are no gold plated court orders that will make someone “follow the rules” or court orders. Parenting is not an exact science, whether a couple is happily married or whether they are angrily, hostiley, vindictively or hatefully divorced. The problem for divorced people is that you cannot put parenting on hold. Married couples sometimes alternate parenting between each parent because they do not fear the other has plans to take the children away, but divorced parents battle over who gets to do what, often because fear or hurt feelings are driving the parenting. Court orders cannot magically take fear or hurt feelings away.
In many cases, parents work through their fears and hurt feelings, and divorce drama can settle down to a level that will make the situation workable for children and parents, but in the case of high conflict, the battle continues to rage without end. It is possible for the craziness to not only stay the same, but to increase. It happens because one or both parents are very rigid and demanding and they are unable or unwilling to look at how they contribute to the conflict. Until both parents can examine how they got to this point, there really is no way to move them forward. So, even though the real burden is always on the parents, desperate parents beg the court for help.
Family court doesn’t have much to offer that will be of much help to you. They operate with no-fault ideas for divorce. You can blame all day long, but they don’t want to hear about it. Court operates under “the best interests of the child” doctrine, which means that the court has been elevated to the keeper of your child’s best interests, regardless of what a parent might think their child’s best interests are, and the most they can offer you is usually some type of mental health services. Even then, their options for mental health services in high conflict situations are a blend of law and psychology and sometimes, neither specialty does what it is supposed to do. If those areas don’t work together, but are in conflict with each other they add more drama to the mix. You end up being at the mercy of the biases and ideals that the professionals hold, often outside of court and outside of the application of law, but that is what they have to offer you if you cannot make it workable yourself.
About the only thing they can offer, once the Judgement and Decree has been signed, sealed and delivered, is the services of a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator. The term Parenting Consultant is exclusive to Minnesota. The rest of the world calls them Parenting or Parent Coordinators. What these professionals do is to act as a neutral party, who will case manage the parents’ communication and conflict, try to help the parents cooperate and make agreements about the children, but they will also make a decision when the parents are unable to agree. It can be helpful, but it can also be a prison sentence.
Because of my personal and professional background in family court, parents seek out my wisdom on who they should choose as their parenting consultant. Since I am in Minnesota, I know specifics about some of the PCs here. Because I work one on one with parents as a divorce and conflict coach or parent educator, I have seen samplings from many of our local PCs and I know how they think or react. That can be helpful when someone asks me who they should choose as a PC, but truthfully, you just cannot know how a PC will act in your case.
Over the years, I have had favorite PCs. There have also been some PCs that I tell people to steer clear of. Still, it is a hard call. PCs can burn out. PCs can come up with ideas that they think are really good and then see that they go bad. PCs charge you a lot of money for their services and so if that is their sole motivation, they may enjoy seeing the conflict increase. Every so often I see a PC do a phenomenal job and I recommend that individual very highly, but then something happens and they do a terrible job on the next case. Did they suffer from burn out? Are they too overloaded with cases? Word gets around if they seem to know what they are doing. Did they get ill? Are they just tired of the pettiness? What you may not understand is high conflict is not only stressful for you, but also stressful for the professionals. I can speak to how difficult it is to witness some of the things parents will do to their child on a daily basis and be unable to do enough to put a stop to it or make the parent see their role in the conflict. Performing the role of PC is not easy. Being a prisoner (parent) of the role is frustrating, to say the least.
What you must remember is this. The individuals who fill the role are human, just like you. They make mistakes. They get stressed. They have no magic formula to make people cooperate, treat each other decently, put their children first, or “follow the rules”. Your conflict may be different from the conflict they’ve managed in other families. While conflict is very similarly rooted, the underlying issues or triggers may be different. The interaction between parents may be very different. The histories between parents may be very different. The children’s personalities may be very different. Parent’s personalities may clash with the personality of the Parenting Coordinator/Consultant. A PC may be too passive to make a difference for you or they may be too aggressive to change an aggressive parent. You can never really know how things will go in your particular case.
If you are planning to appoint a Parenting Coordinator/Consultant to your case or are struggling with one that you currently have, I strongly recommend coaching services. Your approach to the process and with the professional will determine how well it can work. Coaching can help you understand what is happening, especially when it makes no sense to you. For more information on why your family cannot move forward, contact us. We are always happy to see if we can make a difference for you and your child.
Also, regardless of where you live, if you have any recommendations for a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator, leave a comment. Parents want to know about different professionals so that they don’t choose the wrong one. Your feedback may spare another parent from a lot of grief. Always keep in mind though, if a parent has approached the situation with ill intent, they probably will have a hard time with the PC on their case. Everything is about perception.
Follow High Conflict Central. Our goal is to help parents make a better life for themselves and their children. You can read more about that here and here. We are assembling a team of divorce mentors around the country. If this is something you are interested in, either finding a mentor or training to become a mentor, contact us today.
PC services are part of what is offered by Life’s Doors Mediation, a sponsor of High Conflict Central. Reach out to them if you are looking for PC services. To learn about the difference between a PC and a PTE, sign up for our free e-course on the topic.
She is so adorable. I know it can be hard, but will you try to smile? One day at a time. Smile. For the Kids. Keep it low, OK? I think we are going to try recruiting Tiana as a divorced parent mentor. She has this figured out!
Let’s face it. The world of Family Court today is nothing but crazy! If you get divorced and you have children, prepare yourself for upside down and backwards land. NOTHING is as it seems. The power is extreme. The players are extreme and there doesn’t seem to be much room for such things as liberty, the freedom to choose your own relationships and there really isn’t a whole lot of law going on in Family Court anymore, at least not post decree.
There has been a push to keep families out of court to try and make sure they don’t make anyone feel bad by having accountability. Unfortunately, rather than NOT make parents feel bad by being held accountable for their actions, they instead make everyone feel bad, including the children. Then, once everyone is feeling bad enough where they’ll do anything to make it stop, families are offered special help in the form of third party decision makers who can make decisions without you ever having to go to court. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, it can be a nightmare.
Your family may very well need the help of a parenting consultant or parent coordinator, but they can be a very complex role that parents just do not understand. We know that families do better when they are prepared.
Because parents are not always fully informed about the different roles of independent contractors who work with high conflict families, High Conflict Central has created a free e-course to explain the difference between two of these court authorities that you might end up with. Whether you are in Minnesota or not, there are things that you can learn in this free e-course about PCs, which are known as Parenting Consultants in Minnesota and Parent Coordinators in other states. These are important roles to know about in a high conflict case. Check it out:
I have an acquaintance who, like me, has dedicated her life to helping children. This is something that we both agree on, the importance of parents in the life of their children. In fact, we agree on many things when it comes to parents and children. Especially, when it comes to those families who have been impacted by divorce. We agree that children need to interact with both of their parents. We agree that children are given to parents from God. We agree that God chose both parents as being responsible for the particular child in question and that both parents have a right to that child and a responsibility to act in good faith to raise them. Where we disagree is on a 50-50 split. She believes that dividing a child 50-50 will resolve all conflict and remove all court battles for that child’s family experience. I disagree.
The reason I disagree is because I work with parents in these horrible high conflict situations and I see the harm that high conflict can inflict on a child. I see this played out every single day. The worst of cases? Those who stipulated (agreed) to joint custody and/or 50-50 parenting time when they had no business doing so. In those families, they have some serious work to do before they will ever have even a remote chance of working well together. Neither parent will be able to fix the problem on their own and the other parent has no interest in working together on resolution. In those cases, a 50-50 split is not going to be a good thing for their child and will also not be a good thing for either parent. It will be a detrimental situation for both parents. Sole custody and limiting time for the parent who won’t get in the game may be the only resolution for that family, unless they want to constantly run to court or a court appointed decision maker to get decisions made for their child.
Why do my acquaintance and I see the situation so differently? Why do law professionals see it differently than feeling and emotion professionals do? Why do so many parents get it wrong when they talk about “parental rights”?
The acquaintance, whom I will now refer to as “Parenting Equality Bound” has studied Supreme Court decisions on Parental Rights. I have also studied the same decisions. She sees the law as a weapon. I see the law as a tool. Some of the work she has done over 30 years has severely weakened the law. I’d like to fix some of that and return the law to a strong place again. It is the weakness she helped create that is the source of many of her complaints about the law. It’s rather ironic. Because Family Law is an extremely weak and vague area of law, she’d like to do away with it all together while I’d like to see its hands untied so it can get back to a place where it works for people it is supposed to serve. Two different people. Two different ideas. Two different beliefs. Two different solutions. Two different perspectives and the only way that this difference will be resolved is if one of us decides to see things differently. That is unlikely to happen.
The reason for our different perspectives? I used the law as a tool to help my children and it worked. Someone very close to her in her life used it as a weapon regarding parental rights in a system that is there for the Best Interests of children, and it did not work that way. It rarely works if you only see it as a weapon and see it about you without regard to the children. Unfortunately, some parents only know weapons. Regardless of perspectives, law is law. It doesn’t care about feelings. We’ve tried to make it care about feelings and that has been a disaster for high conflict families whose feelings can be extreme and sometimes out of touch with reality. High Conflict families are the lens that both me and Parenting Equality Bound see it through because the cooperative families don’t need the help of law so much as the high conflict families do. The problem is that the laws have been molded into expectations of parental cooperation for the benefit of children and to date, we don’ have 100% compliance with cooperation.
The other day, Parenting Equality Bound and I were discussing new legislation she is pushing. Every year without fail, she pushes, and pushes. She has been described as a “bull in a China” shop. Just a few weeks ago she greatly insulted several colleagues that she has worked with for the last three years on a publication and I watched her lose all of what she gained in terms of respect. Any respect her colleagues developed over the three years disintegrated in one brief moment. She lost the respect of everyone on that work group, myself included. I stay open-minded with people and try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but what she wrote to the work group was simply outrageous and unfounded and just another example of how things have to be her way or the highway. It also showed the very narrow lens though which she sees the world. Many of the parents I’ve had to work with also see through a very narrow lens and because of it, they are not able to see the big picture in a variety of situations. During my conversation with Parenting Equality Bound, she asked me why I would not want parents to have equal rights. My answer is that parents do not have two separate rights to a child. There is only one shared right. She makes an argument that parent’s rights are 100% and 100%. That math makes 200%. I know the reality is simply 100%, which means both parents combined share 100%, which can be distributed between the two anywhere from zero to 100. 50-50 is only one possible outcome, but there are several other possible outcomes to choose from. I don’t understand why parents would want to be limited. From my perspective, they might be the one who should have close to 100%. If it was to benefit their child, why wouldn’t they take on more responsibility if the other parent is not capable of being responsible or child focused?
I used to see it the same way she did. I had my rights and my children’s father had his rights and because it was so painful to work with him, I just wanted to take my rights and the child over here and have him take his rights and the child over there and leave each other the heck alone! He had always been abusive to me and the children and he had also had issues with alcoholism. Someone with those kinds of relationship issues doesn’t make for a very reliable or responsible co-parent. Still, I tried to make it work and all it did was prove how impossible it would be unless the abuse and alcoholism were going to be addressed. Professional after professional wanted me to pretend those issues did not exist so we could move on. Unfortunately, moving on was not in and of itself going to foster an environment of cooperation in our case. I did everything I could do on my end only to have the other parent highly resistant to change anything on his end to improve things for the children and I started to realize, we really had zero care and control of the children. Because we were unable to figure this out and do it together, the court professionals held the care and control of the children. That was unacceptable to me. I believed a parent should take charge over and above the court professionals and so I made my case and was awarded sole custody. That corrected 95% of the problems my children faced by being stuck in a long, drawn out legal affair and under the custody of court people. Because of this, I still believe and will continue to believe that there are cases where it is better to have one parent take over the heavy lifting instead of leaving the decisions of children in the hands of court professionals. When 50-50 does not work well for the family involved, it equates to a childhood lived inside the overshadowing of a system. The family has no escape route until the children turn 18 and are fully emancipated. What 50-50 means is two half parents and in most cases, it actually means 100% court professional parents.
When families have two parents who can work out the sharing of divorced parenting, great! They should. Those who can agree to do it, do it, and it works well for them. They don’t need a court order to tell them what to do and they understand that parenting is not an exact science. They are sometimes willing to let the other parent take a greater role from time to time and sometimes they have to take on a greater role, too. It may not be fair and equal, but it is balanced. Those parents don’t want their rights handed to them from a court. They know that they already have their shared right and understand that with that right comes the responsible to their children so that no one has to do it for them. They also understand the concept of sharing. They know that sometimes you have to give up something to get something else.
The parents who cannot get cooperation without (and sometimes even with) a court order are the ones who have to make hard decisions. Can the situation work for the child and how much can they do alone to support their child and make it work? Sometimes one parent can do a lot to improve a situation even when the other parent won’t life a finger to make things better. They may be able to make 50-50 work despite the other parent. However, in some families, when a parent is actively working against their every effort, it may be time to put a stop to the sabotage. Sometimes that is the kindest thing you can do for your children and the parent who doesn’t know how to share because in reality, they are harming the children and themselves. I do not want to see sole custody go away because it can sometimes be the only thing that rescues a child that is being harmed. I also always believe that it is better to have a parent entrusted with the children rather than a system. I’d prefer there be two parents, but when that is not possible, it makes sense to have one rather than none.
Parenting Equality Bound never sees a reason why 50-50 won’t work. As I said, she believes that each parent has a right to the children from the Supreme Court of the United States. I’ve listened to lawyers try explaining to her that there aren’t two rights, but only one shared right. She will not listen. Through my research, I have also learned about this shared right. There are not two rights, there is only one right to one child. Therefore, that one right can be distributed between parents and in Family Court, that is what is done. It may be 50-50. it may be 25-75 or it may be 35-65. How it gets distributed depends on how parents can make it work best for the child or children involved.
Parenting Equality Bound continues to tell me to read the Supreme Court decisions. I have. I ask her to show me where they say parents have more than a “right”, in other words, when do they say parents each have a right separate from the other? She can never show me that. She will show me various SCOTUS decisions, which she believes offer parent’s rights in the plural, but everything I have read lists parents in the plural and the words “right” or “interest” in the singular. Does it matter? Yes, it does.
There is only one right to one child. Yes, there are two parents. Splitting the baby in half is not the answer. The answer has to be about the child’s safety and well-being. In the King Solomon story in the Bible, the only custody battle shared from God’s word, one parent is lying and manipulating and acting in bad faith. The other parent is able to be focused on the child’s safety and well-being. The bad faith parent doesn’t care if the child is destroyed, so long as she wins. The good faith parent is unwilling to allow the child to be harmed no matter what the outcome is for her. Solomon, the wise judge, gives the care and control to the parent who can put the child’s needs above their own. That is what good parents do. That is why we do need wise judges to make tough decisions like that. Part of the problem is that for so long now, judges have tried to make parents share and make decisions together because the child does need both parents. Some of it has gone beyond all common sense and good judgment. There has been a big push for restorative and social justice (with ideals such as equality) that have weakened the law in the area of families. The truth about equality is that we are all created equal, but we are not promised an equal outcome, especially when we act in bad faith or use court as a weapon that harms our children.
I would urge parents who believe in parenting equality to review the Supreme Court documents on the right or the interest of parents. Is it singular or is it plural? Is it a right you share with the other parent or are there two rights, plural? If it is truly one right to be distributed in the best interest of your child, are you placing a limit on yourself and tying your hands when the other parent acts in bad faith? What if you are the only one who is focused on providing a good outcome for your child? Might it be that you are the one who should take control away, not only from the parent acting in bad faith, but from a court who would prefer not to act, but has to act because the two of you have shown that you cannot act in good faith together?
It is a rare event when a parent gets sole custody after divorce, as it should be, but real equality is when each parent has an option to rescue their children from having court professional be the parents when one parent makes it impossible to get decisions made for their child.
A common concern for divorced parents is what to do when their co-parent is deceitful and manipulative. You have to know when and how to respond to lies or accusation and when not to. Parent’s instincts can cause them to react defensively, rather than respond appropriately. Unfortunately, by getting defensive, you can make others believe that there is truth to what your evil ex is saying about you. The easiest thing to do is say, “That’s not true.” and move on. Most of the time, false accusations will not impact your parenting time, especially if you already have an agreed upon parenting time schedule or court ordered schedule in place. What can impact your parenting time is when you have extremely negative reactions to the lies and the games.
Professionals see these games all the time and for the most part, they do not simply take the word of one parent as gospel over the other. No matter what your ex says about you, do not let it change who you are or give them the reaction that they crave. Be confident in the truth and trust in professionals to see. It can sometimes take a while, but eventually they will see the truth. Remember, you were charmed or fooled by your ex when the two of you got together and over time, you found out who they really were. The professionals only get little glimpses into each of you so it may be hard for them to see. However, if you allow you ex enough rope, as they say, they will indeed hang themselves. You do not have to prepare the noose or grab the rope to show it to anyone. Leave your ex to falter with their own devices and do not take the low road that they do.
Truth stands the test of time; Lies are soon exposed ~ Proverbs 12:19
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.
Co-parenting, AKA cooperative parenting is an obsession with Family Court professionals. It may even meet the level of addiction with some of them. System-wide group think reigns over common sense and good judgment, especially when they don’t know there are other options available to parents.
Even the term co-parenting is not understood across the board. Some Family Court professionals consider co-parenting to mean a shortened version of cooperative parenting, while others use the term meaning, “jointly or “together”. Still, no matter how one looks at it, I wonder how anyone can do anything “together” or “jointly” if they are not doing so cooperatively. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
For example, if I want to paint the living room blue, but my spouse wants to paint the room red, we might have to find a compromise. We might say, “Fine. Let’s paint two walls blue and two walls red. If we could agree to do that and agree on which two walls each of us could paint as we desired, it might get done and we might both be able to live with it, but we’d have to be able to communicate rationally about that and see each other’s point of view and then come to an agreement about the particulars of how it is going to work. There would also have to be a basic level of trust that both people would follow through and not sabotage the other’s plan or destroy what the other person has been working on.
If two people could not decide between the colors red and blue or were unable to decide which two walls each person could paint (maybe there is some inequality to the open wall space available), they might decide to blend the colors. The problem with that is neither person would be achieving anything close to their original goal and they would both have to really like purple because that is what the result would be. It would take flexibility on the part of both people. It would also take respect for each other’s needs or wants and the same basic level of trust as in the first scenario. Even then, blending has different meanings to different people. Blending red and blue could mean making the room purple or it could mean one color with polka dots of the other, painting stripes of both colors equally (and again, what is equal to one may not be equal in the eyes of the other). No matter how the compromises happen, they still have to involve good communication, flexibility, trust, respect, understanding, balance, a sense of fairness, etc., etc. It is still going to involve some level of agreement to resolve the situation. Otherwise, you will end up in the same old room, with the same old paint and nothing will change.
That is the same problem with co-parenting. People can either do it or not do it. It may mean different things to different parents and it may even mean different things to different professionals. When parents cannot do it, they are accused of being “rigid” thinkers. It can be true that neither parent wants to change or wants to change their perspective, but it is often really a matter of differing perspectives. My perspective on it is this, we have alternatives to co-parenting. When professionals will not allow those different ideas to come into play, they are the ones with “rigid” thinking. What difference should it make to them as long as it decreases the conflict for the children? That is really why the professionals are in place anyway, to decrease the conflict.
High conflict Central accepts a simple fact and that is many people cannot co-parent. Even in happily married households, parents are doing things other than co-parenting. We don’t rule out the possibility that people have the ability to get there if they are both willing to accept the situation and are willing to change and make a better life for their children, but we don’t start at co-parenting unless it is already happening. We actually start at where you are. What has happened to you? How has it affected you? How has it impacted your children? What is the history between the parents? What is the level of trust? What is the level of respect? Where is each parent at in their healing process? Where are you at with your parenting skills as a single, divorced parent? How much do you know about what is happening to you in Family Court and why it is happening? That is where we start because all of those things need resolution before you can be ready, willing and able to co-parent. We also know that even if you get there, co-parenting only works when both parents are ready, willing and able, and can approach the situation with good faith. If one or both parents has a strong desire to keep hurting the other, co-parenting will not happen because trust can never be built under those conditions.
Parents who can co-parent, do co-parent. They do so without a court order or any of the watchdog professionals that get appointed to make parents play nice in the sandbox. High conflict parents should not be asked to start with co-parenting. There are other ways to help the children.
Because these are the types of relationships present in high conflict divorce situations, it is my opinion that family court needs to get out of the business of forced co-parenting. When you have parents who only know conflicted parenting, the bar is set too high to expect them to get to co-parenting. It is too high a leap for their skill set! High conflict parents could be allowed to use the parallel parenting style, unless and until they are healed enough to raise the bar to co-parenting.
We know that conflicted parenting is the worst situation for children in the middle. We also know that co-parenting is the best style for children of divorce, but there seems to be an unwarranted reluctance on the part of court authorities to consider the benefits that parallel parenting can offer in high conflict cases. I really don’t understand the reluctance at all. Court professionals expect parents to jump from worst to best all in one shot:
CONFLICTED PARENTING >>>>CO-PARENTING
That is quite a stretch for anyone, let alone, parents who may not have the communication and relationship skills necessary to make co-parenting work. If the professionals would give up some of their own rigid thinking, we could help parents go from here to here:
CONFLICTED PARENTING >>>> PARALLEL PARENTING
At least that would be a step in the right direction and give parents a chance to settle into their own lives with the children, learning to parent separately, and if they are so motivated, gain some important skills before they move into co-parenting. Some parents may have to stick with parallel parenting to keep the peace, but at least a parallel parenting style would move them away from conflicted parenting and offer something better for their children. If parents did well moving from conflicted parenting to parallel parenting, they may gain the confidence to take it another step:
PARALLEL PARENTING >>>>CO-PARENTING
(BETTER THAN CONFLICTED) (BEST)
That is my hope for change in the system. I’d like to see professionals have the ability to accept change for the better even when it is not the ideal. They should seek improvement in steps, rather than demand big changes that parents aren’t always able to understand. In my opinion, at least we would get parents out of the conflicted style of parenting and everyone benefits from doing that!
For now, we have a system of professionals who don’t realize that their rigid thinking about co-parenting is just as bad as parents who refuse to change. They continue to push co-parenting against all common sense and good judgement.
If you find family court, the professionals rigid thinking and co-parenting to be a mind numbing endeavor, give us a call. We love to talk to high conflict parents and help them put a stop to the nonsense. We feel so much joy when we see you and your children experience a little peace after trauma. It isn’t as hard as you think, and we don’t care if your ex participates or not, as a matter of fact, we prefer to work with parents one on one. It is always a free consult, and we offer some free e-courses, as well. Contact us to learn more!
High Conflict Central was created by Susan Carpenter. She is a relationship coach, Author and Instructor with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Her focus is on communication, relationships, family conflict and dynamics, and gender differences in communication, stress management, parenting and conflict. She is an expert on relationships involving high conflict divorce, domestic violence, adult children of alcoholics/dysfunction, adults who experienced trauma as a child. Susan is also the owner of Life’s Doors Mediation in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where she is a qualified rule 114 mediator, parenting consultant, parenting time expediter and parent coach. She wrote the book, “The Parenting Coordinator and Consultant Survival Guide” to help parents understand that process to utilize their PC more effectively. You can contact Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (800) 516-2446.
If you want the truth to be shown, do not interfere. When someone is digging themselves a deep hole, let them! This is a hard concept for many divorced parents, but it is a myth to believe that any of it is within your control. It isn’t. Do what you are supposed to be doing and stop worrying about your ex. They will do whatever it is they are going to do. Trying to make them do what they won’t is a never-ending source of misery. Protecting them from their own nonsense is no longer your role. Protect the children as much as you can, but when you ex is acting a fool, let them. If you think they are acting a fool, it is highly likely that other people will see it that way, too. Don’t get yourself in the mix!
You may also enjoy a video from Coach Susan called, “Just Get Outta the Way!” . You can view it here.