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5 Ways to Be Friends (& a Good Co-Parent) with Your Ex

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“We’re not together,” I explained to my child’s teacher.

“So we need double paperwork,” my ex continued, leaning back in the chair next to me.

“We try to make sure we both see what you send home,” I told her. “But we have two refrigerators and two calendars and it would be really helpful if we could get two copies of everything.”

The teacher looked from my ex to me, her eyebrows raised. We’d arrived at the parent-teacher conference together. He’d said something funny about the small chairs. I’d laughed. He’d handed me the forms to fill out. I’d borrowed his pen.

Our friends scratch their heads in confusion. Our family tries to take it in stride, issuing invites to dinners and family vacations to both of us on a regular basis. Our current romantic partners struggle to understand. It hasn’t been easy, but here are the strategies my ex and I have followed to stay friends, as well as co-parent well together:

1. Recognize that you’re still in a relationship. The end of our marriage wasn’t the end of our relationship with each other. We knew that we’d be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives, bound by our children. Understanding this has allowed us to formulate an end game — both of us sitting side by side at graduations, weddings, and in the hospital waiting for the births of our grandchildren.

2. Let things go sometimes. After years of nitpicking and bickering over every irritation, learning to let things go was one of the most difficult – and most important – skills for both of us to master. It has enabled us to have calm, productive conversations about subjects ranging from custody arrangements to medical treatments to the evils of fast food.

3. Respect each other’s differing parenting styles. He is no longer my husband. I am no longer his wife. But, for as long as we both shall live, I’ll be Mom and he’ll be Dad. I don’t approve of everything he does and he thinks I’m too uptight. We both try to remember that even married couples have different ways of parenting and there is no right or wrong way, as long as everyone has the kids’ best interests at heart.

4. Present a united front around the kids. Even with our different parenting methods, I respect his rules and he respects mine. We don’t allow the kids to play us off each other and we make sure we remain in near daily communication.

5. Build a new type of family. Divorce is filled with negativity and strife. From the beginning, I told him if we were going to divorce, I wanted the best divorce possible. His goal was that our children didn’t pay for our issues. With both of our goals clearly in mind, we set forth to build a new type of family. I tell friends we don’t have a broken home; we’ve merely remodeled.

These tips won’t work for every situation. I have friends who have gone through horrendous divorces from partners with mental health issues and have left abusive situations. Sometimes, however, I think putting a positive focus on the separation can have an amazing impact on how it will play out in our children’s lives – and our own. I’m grateful I feel no lingering anger or animosity. I’m grateful my ex still cares about my well-being. And I’m even more grateful we were able to end a toxic marriage, but create a long-lasting friendship.

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