Hey! Let’s Break Up But Continue Fighting to Make Our Children Miserable! (Said, No One Ever!)
When I think of a breakup, I think of moving away from something that isn’t working anymore. Which is how my breakup with my daughter’s dad went. We were young, things changed, we argued, it just wasn’t working anymore, so we broke up.
So What Happened After the Breakup?
We continued to argue for a few months, until one day, I thought, “Why are we still fighting? We’re not even together anymore!” This thought annoyed me, how could we be behaving so stupidly when it wasn’t even about us anymore?
So I made a call to my ex and proposed that we stop the fighting and get along for the sake of our daughter, Mailey (M). He agreed. And trust me it wasn’t as if he never made me angry after that point, or vice versa, it wasn’t perfect, we didn’t automatically settle differences. It was more like an agreement to leave the past in the past and an acceptance to disagree on certain things.
What Was that Phone Call Like?
I’ve been asked this by so many people and I felt I should include it here. It went something like this.
“Hi. I wanted to talk to you about what’s been going on with us… I don’t want to fight anymore. If we broke up we broke up for a reason, so what’s there left to fight about?” He agreed, he didn’t want to fight anymore. When the conversation would start to shift into a blaming game, I redirected. “It’s not about what you did or what I did anymore, we’re both responsible for the way things ended. I think we did the right thing breaking up, do you?” He agreed. “So then, if we’re both on the same page, we should wish each other happiness and focus on being friends for our daughter’s sake.” He agreed.
I might have rolled my eyes over a few things he said when I hung up the phone (he might have also) but the point, my mission from that day forward was not to point out all his mistakes or to let him get to me in such a way that I couldn’t be respectful and civil. My mission was to get along and move forward with my life all along while making M the priority.
Did it work?
Yes, It worked!
If he wanted to trade weekends because he had an upcoming trip with his friends, I was flexible. If he wanted M to attend a party that landed on my weekend, I allowed it. And he did the same for me. Whenever we said no, we’d explain, “sorry but we already have plans” or whatever else was the case. And the other would understand because we both trusted that we were both looking out for our little girl. The focus was our daughter, so if M was happy, we were happy.
Problems Will Still Arise
Did all the problems disappear? No, there were issues, financial and also in terms of needing more help time wise. Did it snowball into fights? No, we were able to talk about it each time and come to an agreement. There must have been hundreds of these talks. (It was worth it, my daughter was so worth it).
In our favor, was the fact that both his new girlfriend and my new boyfriend at that time (now his wife and my husband) were aware of the situation and didn’t complicate anything. They let our relationship as friends/co-parents blossom (corny but true). And that was very important. Aside from the type of people his wife and my husband are, I think it helped that both my daughter’s dad and I set the tone. We were clear about our daughter and that we got along for her sake. If they had different personalities, maybe it wouldn’t have worked out, who knows.
I do think it’s extremely important to be upfront in a new relationship (when you are co-parenting with an ex) and set standards in regards to your kids and the relationship between you and the other parent. This way the new person entering your life can decide whether they can be a part of that or not. Although I’ve witnessed it in other relationships, I can’t imagine how hard it must be having a partner that complicates or intervenes in an unjust way, or let’s jealousy get the best of them and puts crazy restrictions on their partner which in turn just jeopardizes the co-parenting relationship that’s so important for the kids well-being. Kids are just happier and feel cared for when both parents can get along.
Kids Aren’t Happy When The Parents Can’t Get Along
Think about an argument/fight you’ve ever had. Where you were really heated and probably yelling. Can you remember anything else that was going on around you at that time, aside from the fight you were having? Most likely you don’t and that’s because you were ignoring the world around you and all of your energy and attention was being directed to the fight you were having.
Now picture your kids sitting in the living room, while you are in the kitchen fighting over the phone with your ex. While you’re busy fighting and ignoring the world around you, your children are in the living room feeling ignored. They are also feeling hurt because they know that their other parent is on the other end of that phone. They feel stuck between two rocks with nowhere to turn (both their parents are busy arguing).
Isn’t it funny that while you’re busy fighting with your ex for what you consider to be, for the benefit of your children, you are actually HURTING your children? You are giving way to feelings of isolation, feeling ignored, not cared about, guilt, sadness, and anger.
Focus on What Matters
And that’s your children. Go above and beyond to try to give the kids some normalcy after a breakup. Keep things calm and peaceful. Provide an inviting situation to make your kids feel safe, comfortable, and loved. When parents break up, it creates a world of uncertainty for children and a world of mixed emotions. So what you do next, how you choose to handle the breakup, is important for the emotional well-being of your children.
I Lived it!
I not only saw how a breakup between parents affects a child, watching my M go through it. I also experienced my parents split when I was about 9 or 10. Let me tell you, it hurts! I felt anger towards my mom as my daughter did with me (I now understand the position my mother was in and admire her strength), I also felt I wasn’t good enough. And that emotion can cause some real anger issues in a school-aged child. Umm the reason, for all my physical fights in elementary school… I felt hurt.
Each child will handle the pain differently and that’s another story in itself but rest assured that it hurts really bad to see your parents separate.
I thank God that I understood the pain that my daughter was going through because it gave me the patience I needed to navigate the situation in the best way possible. It gave me the desire to alleviate her pain more so (knowing how awful it feels), it gave me a sense of urgency to provide a healthy environment, and it gave me the knowledge to know what she needed which is why I made that call to my ex.
Harder Said Than Done
I know. I’ve seen parents attempt to get along and there’s always the one person who won’t budge, won’t bend, isn’t willing to focus on the bigger more important picture, the children. But most of the time what I see is just two angry people using the children to get to one another. Two people who are hurt by what was and just can’t seem to get a grip and focus on the children. I see the new boyfriend or girlfriend overstepping their place, and in turn complicating a co-parenting relationship.
Bottom Line, It’s Our Kids That Matter
As adults, because of our age and experiences, we have better coping mechanisms to deal with a breakup. But our children, they are just learning all of this, about life, it’s hardships, it’s curve balls, and how to handle it all without falling apart emotionally. So, it’s obvious who should be the focus after a separation between parents and that is our children. It’s up to the parents, to make the aftermath of the separation as peaceful as possible and provide our children with a loving stable home so they can get some stability back into the world they feel has just been jolted.
Life is short, so… you can hang out here and fight,
I’m going to go right over there and be happy.
Thank You For Reading!
(Listening to: Imposter- Lilly Hiatt)