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May 17, 2019

Finding Enlightenment in Co-Parenting.

I’ve spent most of my dating years abiding by strict breakup rules. Once the chord is cut, I enact a full-on, no-contact order.  No more hang- outs, phone calls or text messages.  All social media platforms need to be disconnected. Common places must be avoided.  Mutual friends should be divided.

Please don’t mistake this approach as coldhearted.   In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  From a young age, I’ve valued my relationships with loved ones above all else.  As a child, I craved the warm company of other children and adults over toys and games.  Instead of living in the imaginative world of princesses and fairytales, I preferred chatting and dreaming about life’s possibilities alongside a trusted companion.  When I close my eyes and try to remember the best moments of my life, I can’t seem to recall specific places or times. I can only remember the warm touch of a hand, the stable strength of a shoulder against mine, and the way my heart beamed during a true, soul connection.

Some of the darkest feelings in my life have surfaced after a breakup. I learned to create intricate rules and miles of distance between a former lover to avoid reconciliation.  I know there are happy stories where people come back together in union, but in my experience, returning to a relationship has simply torn open old wounds for the worse. As someone who has spent much of their life running away from pain, abstaining from all contact after a breakup seemed to be my only option.

Karma sweeps in to teach us that we have to change. My karma came in the form of a divorce. Instead of enacting series of rules, I’ve been forced to endure a personal, emotional and spiritual process that will continue to tie me to my ex-husband.  On a small level, dividing our assets has warranted a bit of partnership, and a momentous level, raising our children has forced a new, ascended relationship to emerge.

Co-parenting is the product of my divorce with children, and enlightenment has been the product of that co-parenting. Please allow me to share some advice from my experience. 

Enjoy the ‘bird’s eye view’

For many of us who have left a partner, there were possibly days, years, and even decades where we harbored some seriously dark thoughts about them. Over time, we start to question our own judgment in love.  What made us choose this person in the first place?

Just as you begin to question your own sanity, something funny can happen while you co-parent: You begin to like your former partner a bit again. It could be their warm laugh, their physical strength or their comical cynicism.  For me, it was the way he protected by daughter from a bratty bully in the apartment complex and then easily fixed a gaping hole in my wall. At first, coming face-to-face with my ex’s positive qualities threw me off balance.  How do I reconcile that I’m no longer with this person?

There, in those moments, I have become intimately aware of my problem. Love is not black and white and there are infinite containers for love.  I don’t have to get sucked back into a relationship simply because I witness positive attributes.  Instead, I can forgive myself by remembering why we married in the first place.  I am grateful that my children will be the recipients of these good qualities.

Take the help and encourage the relationship

They say it takes a village to raise children. When you separate from your partner, you lose a huge part of that village.  If you are lucky enough to have a former partner who wants to play a significant, safe role in your children’s lives, please let that happen.  Don’t let an insecure, rigid ego get in the way.

For nuclear families, letting go of children can feel like it happens a bit more gradually. Their autonomy can become more obvious as they spend time with their friends alone, learn to drive a car or attend a college halfway across the country.  In a divorced situation, oftentimes children are living in two different homes and parents are forced to philosophically ‘let go,’ a lot sooner than they expected.  This can be a gift.  To love without attachment or conditions is a something I practice daily.

In the midst of divorce, it’s easy to act in a way that will make you the ‘chosen,’ parent. When it comes to our children, our goal is to raise whole, functional adults who have the tools to live meaningful, happy lives. This should not be a competition between parents.

Be grateful that it’s over

Just when you think you have become a co-parenting expert, something could derail you. Most likely it will be an obstacle that magnifies just how incompatible you and your former partner are.

As I appreciate the father of my children from afar, I know the romantic relationship was meant to end. There’s closure in this.  He’s in my life for the sake of the children, and through this process I can fully embrace and experience the reality that we were never meant to be.  He shows me.  I show him.

I never needed such a stringent ‘no-contact,’ order to survive a breakup. Rather, I needed full awareness and honesty about who I am, what I want, and what I deserve.  Co-parenting teaches me that each day.  I’ve torn down some of my strict walls, but at the same time, created some of the healthiest boundaries I’ve ever had.


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