Recently, I was talking with a client about learning to co-parent with his former wife against all the odds. Like many parenting coordination clients, the years since their divorce had only increased their antipathy for one another. Fights, accusations, unilateral decisions, and legal battles had transformed a moderately unpleasant divorce into a full blown contentious relationship, hinging precariously on the balance of their mutual love for their children.
One of the many gifts of my profession is that I am reminded almost daily that when two parents come together to decide something for their child, they generally make a better decision than either one could decide individually. One parent may be highly cautious and the other cavalier. One may nurture exceedingly well and the other appreciates independence. One will stop at nothing to provide for the child, while the other demonstrates frugality and restraint. In spite of both parent’s firm belief that they know best, this collaboration of two creates the better environment for their child.
As I described this to my client, he groaned and put his head in his hands. “Why does it have to be snakes?” (Later, I had to revisit this classic scene from Indiana Jones to refresh my memory, but I got the idea.) Yes, it’s always the person who makes us most crazy who also brings about the largest opportunity for transformation.
Perceiving Another's Point of View
I suggested to him that we get these opportunities to work with our nemesis so that we can expand our abilities to perceive another person’s point of view, experience compassion, and grow beyond our own sense of righteousness. In fact, nemesis means both “a formidable rival” and “an act of retribution” and was the name of the Greek goddess who punished those that demonstrated hubris.
Giving Up Conflict
On the other side of learning to listen, taking gigantic leaps of faith, letting go of what you believe is right, and succumbing to endless compromise, is the freedom to live without the toxic thorn of conflict in your life. Maybe that seems like too much work for too little reward. No doubt - it is a lot to give up. You have to let go of the belief that you are right and that you must save your child from the [insert accusation here] of the other parent.
But what is the cost of that toxic thorn? Setting aside the stress, fear and anxiety in your child’s life - plenty has been written about that elsewhere - consider how much energy you put into this drama in which you heroically save your child from 'evil'.
Finding A Point in the Middle
In the course of my work, I get to observe individuals stretching themselves beyond their comfortable and well-argued positions, reaching toward the other’s point of view to find a workable solution. This effort comes in fits and spurts, rigid and awkward but improving with practice. They’re compelled to do this because what’s at stake is the most important thing in their lives: their children. Once they have exhausted the illusion that they can win the fight and be right, they have no choice but to arc toward the other’s point of view. As with all acrobatics, these help us gain both flexibility and strength. And with that, we will grow.
If you have questions or concerns about your co-parenting situation, shoot me an email or call for a free consultation: (828) 279-8166