My ex wrote me on Facebook and called me babe and it made me mad. I asked him to stop, and he went off on me.
“You’re a bad mom and a worthless human being,” he typed, and the words cut me to the core.
“If you’re not gonna be nice, then I’m not going to talk to you right now,” I responded. And then I shut my phone.
Sometimes it’s tempting to shut him out completely, but the fact is that I do still have to interact with my ex. Why? Because we have a daughter together, and I want him to be in her life. I grew up always wishing that my dad was around, and I don’t want my daughter to deal with the same pain I did. It takes a mom and a dad to have the child, so I think that ideally a mom and a dad should both be there to raise a child.
I also want my son and my daughter to learn how to interact with their future spouse when they get older. I don’t want them to think that arguing all the time is how you are supposed to act.
And yet, I have struggled with being civil to my children’s fathers. I just get so frustrated when I feel like they don’t listen to what I have to say or have any regard for my feelings. I try to listen to what they say and how they feel but that’s not always easy. We usually argue a lot and cannot seem to see eye to eye, which makes us both miserable.
So to try to be civil with my children’s fathers I came up with a few things to help:
1.) Listen. Listen to what they have to say even if I don’t want to. Chances are that if I listen to them they will listen to me.
2.) Be respectful. Give them the respect that I want, in my tone of voice and in my actions. I can’t expect respect if I’m not giving it in return.
3.) Keep boundaries. Because we are not in a romantic relationship, we shouldn’t act like we are. That’s why I asked my ex to stop calling me pet names like babe.
4.) Talk through differences. My ex and I argue most about our different parenting styles and rules. I’ve learned that if I try to ignore differences the resentment builds and eventually erupts into an argument. I need to try talking about differences in a calm, non-accusing way and explain that I want to work together to create consistency for our child’s sake.
5.) Keep temper in check. Don’t go flying off the handle if they make me mad. Restrain myself and be positive that it will get worked out. If I can’t talk without getting angry, try writing an email or Facebook message that describes how I feel about the issue. Don’t send it immediately. Wait a night to think it over before sending to give myself a cool down period.
6.) Don’t believe lies. Recognize that most of the time people don’t mean what they say out of anger. For example, if my ex calls me a bad mother I need to recognize that he is speaking from a place of hurt. The truth is that I take very good care of my children. They are my world.
7.) Apologize. This is a big one. Always apologize for the mean things said or done out of anger. It’s good to be able to admit when I am wrong, and it helps to reestablish trust with the other person.
8.) Forgive. It can be tempting to feel like there is no use forgiving the other person because I think they are just going to mess up and hurt me again. But part of being human is making mistakes, and we have to forgive each other in order to move on and grow. Holding grudges makes us miserable.
A few days after my ex said those mean things on Facebook, I called him to make arrangements for him to see our daughter.
“Sorry about the other day,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied.
It wasn’t anything huge, but it was a start. A small start, but an important one. Because when it all comes down to it the child is what matters the most, not me or my ex, but our child.