The parenting continues even when the vows don't
They say divorce ruins the family tree and marriage is until death do you part; well to that I say some of us will live many lives in our lifetime. I offer my experience to those who have or will experience the process of navigating co-parenting.
Soulmate is a strong word so let me give you the definition I use: A best friend but more, this person helps you to become a better person because they inspire you. They believe in you when no one else does/did and as a result, you will always carry that love with you. Familial cultural myths have some of believing this relationship only dwells in the intimate romantic space, but in fact, as we grow we learn that intimacy is more than sex and therefore a soulmate can, in fact, be an intimate platonic relationship. I learned this lesson during my path to co-parenting.
That picture encapsulates a pleasant moment, but be clear there have been some rough ones. What's the principle... the pendulum swings just as far to right as it does to the left, so with the bad comes the good. Several decades ago, when I was eleven I met my soulmate and as the definition implies I stand where I am in part because he inspired me. In good times the inspiration came from his comfort and grace and in tough times I was just inspired to prove him wrong. We married young for many reasons all nestled in the idea that it was the right thing. He was not just the wind beneath my wings; he was the rhythm of my feet.. in good times. He had been the musical accompaniment for just about every dance class I took or taught. We had challenges and I began to feel like we were lovingly holding hands as our freehand clipped the other's wings. In October of 2014, I took a major step towards love and an alternative way to a healthy family.
This was a hard decision because I considered divorce as a vicious cycle that affects the family tree. 85% of incarcerated youth are from single-parent or sole custody homes, 70% of teenage pregnancies are to children from single-parent or sole custody situations, 63% of youth suicides are by children from single-parent or sole custody situations. The previous list of statistics was given to us during our court-mandated parenting course. We had several minor-aged children, so our state required us to take the course in order to get the divorce. The statistics bothered me, until I remembered statistics are based on a sample group which means there are always other possible outcomes. One of the presenters offered an enlightening formula C2F2(Child-Centered, and Future Focused). C2F2 gave me the courage and perspective switch I needed. I reminded myself that children see what they need to see and it is not my job to make them see, my job is to be a good example. If I wanted holistically healthy children, I needed to align my present with my future. If I had healthy reciprocal relationships, ideally my children would see that health and wealth are judged by the quality of life not the title of a relationship.
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
I found relief in Dr. Shoshanna Bennet's article Divorce and Kids where she states:
1. When Mommy and Daddy are happier as individuals, their kids will be. too. When there is ugliness, no one is happy.
2. With shared custody, kids have the opportunity to experience each parent as a full and competent parent.
3. There's potential for your kids to either witness you being happy on your own or finding a better partner, both of which are a good thing
This was glorious information but I still had to put it into practice. It began with small steps like focused succinct communication. To keep myself in an emotionally healthy state I decided on the text-only method. I created a little mind/language game, how could I target the child-centered points in the least amount of words. Our communication would only be child-centered while I encouraged myself to participate in activities that led to my personal happy healthy future. I participated in counseling: spiritual, financial and emotional. During (court required ) mediation we created a parenting plan. Mediation was an out of pocket cost that I would gladly pay again. During mediation, we voiced our personal concerns and created a plan that effectively dealt with them. The parenting plan was a logical working document that we referenced when emotions got in the way.
We held each other accountable to the plan we created. Over time our individual happiness increased and stress between us decreased. This process taught me to lead by example because actions speak louder than words. Our personal happiness is one of the few things we can control, and if we taught our children this, we did our job. I don't believe there is one specific method for co-parenting so please share your experiences, they might help someone else.