I’ve had plenty of friends navigate the difficult world of parenting after divorce. It seems that one of the trickiest parts is redefining a relationship with one’s ex so that it’s positive for everybody involved. I love this post from Maggie of In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen because she’s living proof that change comes from within. I love her attitude, and the tips she shares, about parenting after divorce!
I’m divorced, and we share custody of our 6-year-old son. It’s been over 4 years now. I must admit that in the beginning it was tough. There were many feelings of hurt and disappointment. These types of feelings were not good for me. They certainly weren’t doing my son any good. I knew that I needed to sort them out first in order to have a healthy, shared custody experience.
One of the things I realized is that my ex-husband is not in control of my emotions. He is NOT the reason for my happiness, my sadness, or my fears. Conversely, I’m not in control of him, but I can do something about the way I feel and think. I knew that the faster I changed my feelings about our divorce, sharing custody with him would be a whole lot easier. The question I had was HOW. How to change my feelings on him despite the hurt?
Focus on the Positive
I started to focus on him in a positive light. This was a challenge because I was used to having negative thoughts about him. Also, normal life experiences would happen. He would be late picking up our son, or we would argue about holiday schedules. I spent a day of praying and meditating, asking for guidance on ONE statement about my ex-husband that I knew concretely and without a doubt that was positive.
“My ex-husband is a good father.”
I said this everyday whenever it was easy. If negative emotions surfaced, I would drop the topic altogether.
When it became easier to say that 1st statement, I tried a 2nd statement:
“My ex-husband protects our son.”
I said both these statements everyday until they felt good to think about.
I soon went to a 3rd statement:
“My son father has a great sense of humor.”
“He is a smart man.”
“He puts his son first.”
Soon, I had a long list of positive statements that I was saying in my head everyday. My feelings about my ex-husband changed in the process. The bad, negative thoughts and feelings were gone and replaced with wonderful, positive ones. I learned that if I could get passed the initial, deep rooted, negative feelings, I could easily change my thoughts about the smaller, day-to-day, trivial stuff too.
Learn The Art of Ignoring
There are emails he has sent me that were written in anger. I have yet to read them, but why would I? That’s not who he is. He is that guy in my positive statements. He had a bad moment, and don’t we all? Besides, we make better more productive parenting decisions when we’re both happy. If I drop into negativity, I know to back away from the computer, the call was “lost” or I was in a “meeting.”
Know When to Leave
I try to only speak or see him when I’m feeling happy. A few minutes before seeing him, I visit funny Facebook pages. If I’m not feeling happy, I leave immediately and quickly. If I perceive an argument brewing, I leave and fast. The other thing I noticed is when I’m feeling tip top and he’s not, he leaves. Simply, you can’t argue with a happy person. This isn’t a matter of winning or getting the upper hand. To me, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is my happiness – because it affects everything including my son.
In the last 4 years, I have learned to truly appreciate my ex-husband. He elevated me to a state of life I never thought possible. Feeling joy, happiness, and love again after a divorce is AMAZING. It’s like filet mignon. How do you know that filet mignon is good if you’ve never had a bad, overcooked, over seasoned steak? The efforts I make to focus on the positive have done so much good for my son and my general well-being. It took our divorce, moving in the direction of dreaming, and feeling the positive as it unfolds. Putting my happiness first has been my secret to successfully sharing custody.
Maggie Unzueta is a food and wine writer, writing about San Diego restaurants, food events, and wine discoveries. She is also a recipe developer, having worked with some celebrity chefs. Her son and his Legos are constant companions in her kitchen. You can find some of her writings and recipes on her website: InMamaMaggiesKitchen.com