Co-Parenting Communication with a High Conflict Ex

Scream

One aspect of co-parenting with a high-conflict personality that’s challenging is that the advice you find online, and often in therapy, suggests the best way to deal with such a person is to leave and have no contact with them ever again.

It’s referred to as “no contact.” But with a co-parent, you can’t exactly do that.

You have kids to raise, together (in some shape or form, as is most often the case).

So you have to adapt the “no contact” rule to “low contact.”

You have to ignore everything that is not directly related to co-parenting your children.

It’s hard, I know. I live it.

I try to only respond to communications that are directly related to our child or aspects of parenting that are covered under our custody guidelines.

That’s usually stuff like health updates, any important behavioral problems, coordinating school forms, or basic questions about who has the rain boots, what time karate ends, etc. Any other messages, especially ones that attack my parenting style and are blatantly untrue, I completely ignore.

When I receive messages from my ex that are unpleasant, I try telling myself, “nothing I respond with will make a difference. My words will only be used against me in ways that rational people like myself couldn’t even begin to predict.”

That’s because I’m not crazy and I can’t think like a narcissist all the time (it’s a good thing, really).

And it’s true, it doesn’t matter what you say to defend yourself. You know the truth and even when you present legit evidence, it still won’t convince your ex that his truth is wrong. Keep the evidence and file it away for when you go back to court, but don’t engage in banter with him about it.

It can make you feel out of control to receive communications from your ex because you feel like you just want to set things straight, or you don’t want to have conflict, or you are so enraged by the lies. But the only control you have is in deciding how to respond, and more often than not, the power lies in not responding at all.

Narcissists hate to be ignored. Like really hate it.

Back in undergrad, we learned about behavior modification. I try to go back to the examples we observed while training lab rats. Basic reinforcement stuff, like the quickest way to get rid of an undesired behavior is to give absolutely no reaction (positive, or negative).

You’ve probably learned this from raising kids too. Apply the same theory to managing your reactions and responses to your ex’s behavior and/or communications. Don’t be baited.

I do still get messages from my ex that seem relevant, so I’ll answer, but then it later becomes clear that it’s just my ex being difficult, or lies. Once it hits me, I then switch the flip to “ignore,” and try not to beat myself up too badly about it.

I also read a lot about co-parenting with a high-conflict individual. And I keep reading about it as a reminder, because I find the busier I get and the more time that passes, I  can easily fall back into my old pattern of approaching communications with my ex, and you absolutely cannot do this. It’s low contact for good.

Check out author Shadida Arabi if you need a good place to start on reading material.

 

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Appetite

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The divorce stress diet typically consists of coffee, wine, bourbon {oh wait, is that last one just me?}, and some crackers every couple of days.

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The custody trial appetite? It’s like being pregnant and preparing for your 8th month, devouring every chip and brownie and doughnut and slice of pizza in sight.

Gearin’ up.

There Is No “All Clear” in Cancer

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I got the results of my 6-month scan today. Everything is stable.

Stable. Meaning that my tumor is still there, looking the same as it did 182 days ago, and the other lesions that are not (yet) tumors still show up as, well, just lesions to be scanned again in another 6 months.

It’s a waiting game. Full of stress and the discomfort of living with the unknown.

“That’s amazing news, your tumor is stable,” friends and family say when I give them the update. “Yes, it’s the best news possible, given the circumstances,” I quip.

It is good. It could be so much worse. The report could read “metastasis” or “additional tumor.” That’s what happens in my nightmares. That’s what gives me anxiety, because it could happen, and at a rate much higher than people who aren’t predisposed.

You can’t really understand how it feels when the report comes back as “stable.” No one can understand, unless they have been through it. There is no “all clear” when it comes to tumors. It’s more like “You’re cleared for another 6 months!”

It sucks to live life in increments based on when your next scan is, so I try not to do that anymore. It took practice though. Just like lying in the scanner took practice to manage without popping a magic pill.

It is good news, but it doesn’t eradicate the worry. It is good news. But better would be if there were no other enhancing lesions, malformations, or spots that lit up the MRI at all. Because those represent my unknown. And people can say, “oh don’t worry.” But they don’t read the research like I have, they don’t hear from other patients in the similar situations, but farther down the path of this disease.

And so they say “don’t worry” because they don’t know what else to say. And I nod and let them.

A Heart’s Divide

divide

Looking into his eyes

I see beyond the bounds of me

Trust was implicit from the start

in the comfort of his hand

upon the small of my back

 

Now I find myself vulnerable

in a place I yearn not to be

Insecurities for all to see

I gave my trust

Without question

No reservation

He held back the truth

For fear I would run?

Or perhaps he was afraid

I’d ask something of him

He wasn’t ready to do

 

No longer absolute

About what to believe

A single lie by omission

or intuition’s built-in protection?

 

Not wanting this to bring us to an end

Yet I can’t risk losing myself in another

Again

So I’m left navigating my heart’s divide

 

{Update} Learning to trust again was so hard, and so worth it. I think I will always be timid because of my life experiences, but I am determined not to make the same mistakes. I know that I have found the right person to entrust my heart to, and I have faith that no matter what happens, we are capable of loving each other the way we all deserve to be loved.

Our Little Bubble

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Sometimes when I daydream

My mind wanders to this place

Where we live in a bubble

Our own little world

Filled with our love, our lives, our kids

Everything we need to be happy

Missing from this bubble

Is the ominous presence of ex-spouses

Buzzing in the background of our lives

We wouldn’t be who we are today without them

It’s how our families began, how our children came to be

But we’re always tied by them

Even though our bond to each other transcends it

When the clash of it all starts to weigh on me

And I feel tugs at my heart

I dream up our little world and hang out there awhile

Our bubble

Our trouble

Messy Mantra

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Life once seemed so simple

It was never easy, never dull

But simple

Grappling with the drama that’s been infused into my life

Despite my best efforts to deflect

It feels like my energy is wasted

Accept it, take it on, I tell myself

Adjust to it

Messy is your new reality

Like it or not, it’s yours

Here to stay, it’s not going anywhere

Possibly it could go from messy to super messy

Best case scenario

But the simplicity of marriage, of raising a child in one home has slipped beyond anyone’s grasp

Messy was what was always to come

Embracing it is likely the only way through

When you can’t run