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How to successfully co-parent with someone you can't stand

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Co-parenting is hard, especially during the holidays when you are doing it with someone you hare. Finding a way to make it work is better for everyone.

I hate my ex-husband. There, I said it. After an almost 10-year relationship where the best thing was the resulting children, a less-than-amicable divorce showed me his true colors. Three years later, we can't even talk on the phone about the children without it turning into an eye-rolling, snarky-remark-laden and unpleasant conversation. I consider it a milestone that we have moved on from texting smart remarks at each other as it is.

Regardless of my feelings about the man, he is my children's father and we have at least 12 more years of raising them as a pair. So at some point, we are going to have to learn what we never could during the marriage: how to compromise.

Co-parenting as a rule is hard. The constant scheduling and rescheduling, kids wanting to be with one parent and not another and so on makes it one of the most complicated things I have ever done. Even though the kids are mainly with me, I still have to manage the most difficult time of year. The holidays present a special kind of challenge for co-parenting couples. If you stick with the standard orders, one or another parent won't see their kids at all on Christmas. That just is not fair to either parent or to the children!

So I have come up with three ways to co-parent with someone you hate and still get what you want in the end.

Plan ahead

In the almost three years since the separation and divorce, I have learned that my ex and his girlfriend are not "spontaneous" people. When they make plans, they stick to them. So if I do not give them ample notice and they already have plans at that time, they will not change them. So I have a one-month rule. I look ahead, anticipate any changes and then ask for switches when I see an issue. In the three years we have been doing this, I have needed him to change something three times. With notice, I have been able to relieve some stress in making sure my kids were taken care of when I needed it.

Use technology

Today was the first phone conversation I have had with my ex since the late afternoon call years ago begging him to sign the divorce papers so I did not have to spend $3,000 going to court over 25 bucks. We have mainly used texts and emails to resolve any issues with the kids. Not only does this cut down on the children possibly overhearing things they don't need to hear between their parents, but it takes the personality of the person out of the communication. So if you cannot stand your ex, there is nothing wrong with utilizing modern conveniences to make it easier.

Expect changes

Other than the divorce decree that generally lists the schedule for who gets the kids when, there is no instruction book on what to do. So compromise and flexibility are necessary. You may have to give more up to get the one thing you want. For instance, my ex wanted to have my kids for an overnight around Thanksgiving so I traded that for eight hours with my kids on Christmas Day. He got more time but I got them when it mattered to me! In the end, that is the goal of negotiation. I expect there to be changes closer to the day, but, for now, I am getting my eight hours.

Divorce, no matter how commonplace it has become, is stressful, unhappy and individual to each couple. When kids are involved, it is up to the parents to figure out a way to communicate and to shield them from the very adult issues that come from the split. Find what works for you and stick with it. Don't miss out on your child's childhood by spending too much time worrying about the ex.

Image: educationdynamics/Flickr
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