“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Maya Angelou is the voice behind these wise words, and they certainly ring true for me as a coParent. I feel like we’ve all been there at some point. We find ourselves in a less-than-ideal situation, so you’re faced with a challenge to change it. We do change, as difficult as it may be, and then we find ourselves in another situation that we have far less control over. You feel frustrated and tired, right? I get it. I’ve been there.
This is the life of a coParent. Despite your situation or how you got there, you’re there. And whether you figure it out right away or it takes you a few months (or years), you understand your situation isn’t going to be different for a while.
This is where I found myself a couple of years ago. So in the the words of the great poet Maya Angelou (who was also a coParent), I decided to change my attitude and vowed to never say negative things about my ex.
How do you find the motivation?
For me, the inspiration actually came from my him. He said, “I promise to never say something bad about you because you are the mother of my children.”
I was shocked at first. I couldn’t believe that someone could be so selfless and thoughtful while going through a split. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. What’s the point of holding a grudge? This study by the Mayo Clinic highlights all the great benefits of forgiveness, including less anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even a stronger immune system. Still, it’s easier said than done, right? Well…maybe not.
At first it seems like it’s this impossible task, but controlling our words to family, friends, and our kids is one of the easiest, most actionable things we can do. I found it quite therapeutic to agree to a “no negative comments” truce with my ex. It was really freeing, knowing that we were on an equal playing field.
What about when they do something annoying?
People who know us well tend to know the good, bad, and ugly. So I guarantee you’ll find yourself in moments where your coParent does something that absolutely gets under your skin. Or you know that your actions are annoying them. Confession: I’m notoriously running late, which I know my organized, punctual ex is not a fan of.
However, does he gain any benefit by expressing my tardiness to my kids? Not a chance. They’re in the pre-teen age, so they’re perfectly capable of figuring out my weakness on their own. If he were to be outwardly annoyed by me, it would just frustrate me and add stress to the kids.
I know of coParents who deal with far more serious and annoying things than a little tardiness, but I still believe saying negative things, especially around your kids, doesn’t help the situation. If it really does need to be addressed, then talk to them directly instead of handling it in a passive-aggressive or public way.
What about when you just need to vent?
This is a valid, valuable point. Sometimes the stress of what you’re dealing with is so great that you need someone to talk to.
For me, this turned into a lot of journaling, and I’ll admit it, the occasional venting session with a close and personal friend. But I never complained to our mutual friends, family members who might be caught in the middle, or worst of all…on social media.
Even if you’re dealing with the most narcissistic, difficult person in the world, it won’t do any good to try to explain their impossibleness. If you truly need to vent and work through some frustrations, look into therapy. Those are trained, wonderful people who are there to give a neutral point of view and help you work through to a place of forgiveness.
Maya Angelou had the right idea when she said “change it or change your attitude.” The person you’re struggling with is still your child’s mom or dad, and that’s a pretty important and incredible role.