How to Deal With Rage Toward Your Ex as You Try to Co-Parent

Elle Silver

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How to deal with anger toward your ex-spouse after you divorce and set about trying to effectively co-parent the children you still have together? This is not an easy feat. As a divorced parent of ten and twelve-year-old boys, this is definitely something I struggle with.

I’ve had to learn to cool my jets in order to leave the doors to negotiation open with my ex even after he’s angered me. But how do I achieve this?

Here’s how:

After an argument, I first take action to calm myself down. Then I set about trying to negotiate with my ex-husband. The aim is to solve our problems, after all. We can’t co-parent if we can’t get along.

Lastly, I write about the experience. This is one of the main reasons I write so much about my failed marriage.

Combining these three techniques has been critical in helping me to continue to get along with my ex-husband for the sake of our children.

A case example of an argument with my ex.

I won’t say it isn’t a constant struggle to stay friends with my ex-husband. Take what happened a few weeks ago. I came home after two days of being away at my boyfriend’s place, only to find my ex-husband had left my apartment a mess.

What? Huh? What was my ex doing in my apartment while I wasn’t there? I let him stay at my place on his days with our children.

I do this because after we split up, he moved to a one-bedroom that only has one bed. That means there’s no place for our children to sleep.

At least in my apartment, our kids have beds to sleep in. So I allow my ex to stay in my apartment when he’s with our children.

I do this out of pure kindness and an interest in our kids’ happiness. However, my ex often leaves my place a mess when he’s here. He certainly did this a few weeks ago.

I walked into my home, and my sight immediately fell on the grease my ex had left on my kitchen countertops, and the dishes he’d left piled high in my sink, and the dried sauce he’d splattered on my kitchen floor. Oh yeah — let’s not forget the food bits all over my carpeting, thanks to my ex letting our kids eat where they shouldn’t.

You might understand why I went ballistic. I won’t bore you with the details of our altercation, but suffice to say, we argued pretty heatedly. At that moment, I really regretted ever marrying him. In fact, I really, really, REALLY wished I’d never met him.

I definitely wished I’d never made the mistake of having children with him. I never wanted to let him stay at my place again! I think it’s perfectly natural that I felt this way at that moment. The issue was, I couldn’t stay angry with my ex.

I’m stuck with him forever. We have kids together. I can feel whatever I want, but I can’t burn bridges. I wish I could kick him out of my life, but I can’t.

That would be unfair to our children.

So I had a choice. I could let myself be overcome by negativity, or I could manage those feelings — and figure out some solution with my ex-husband.

I chose the latter.

I took extra care of myself.

But how did I manage my emotions so I could figure out this solution? First, I had to calm myself down.

This is what I have to do any time my emotions get out of control during an encounter with my ex-husband. Oftentimes this means going on a walk to clear my head. Whatever I have to do to re-center myself.

In the case of this particular disagreement, to calm myself down I walked across the street to a café I love and ordered my favorite kind of coffee. Then I continued to walk around my neighborhood, feeling the warm sun on my face and the pleasant breeze on my skin.

This was effective in helping control my mood. I calmed the F down.

Sure, I could allow myself to feel regret and anger toward my ex-husband, but I had to ultimately get over those emotions. I had to keep the pathways of communication open. This is because negotiation is the cornerstone to any successful co-parenting relationship after a divorce.

Negotiation is key for divorced parents.

After I took action to regain my center that day, I went back to my apartment and sat down with my kids’ father to talk to him logically. We came up with some possible solutions. For one, he agreed to take better care of my place when he was there and to take a more active role in cleaning up. If I can’t kick him out of my place, at least I can require him to leave it the way he found it.

He agreed. But I only got him to agree to this because I dealt with him like a calm adult instead of a screaming child. That was the only way we were finally able to negotiate.

A life free from negativity.

Although I’m in favor of negotiation when it comes to divorced parents, obviously this is not a solution for everyone. For someone who’s suffering abuse at the hands of their ex, negotiation is never the answer. We should never be expected to negotiate with an abuser.

But in my case, it’s still better to process my negative feelings in a healthy way and then move on to negotiating. I don’t just do this for my kids’ benefit or even my ex’s. I do this for myself.

This way I get to enjoy a life focused on positivity rather than negativity.

I write about my feelings.

Lastly, later that evening, after my ex had gone back to his place, I wrote about everything I had experienced that day. I recommend journaling for everyone. Writing about what we’re going through is a great way to process our feelings.

I often have breakthroughs when I write. I see what my ex has done wrong. I also see what I’ve done wrong.

Let’s face it — I have a short temper. My ex might be a slob but I’m quick to anger.

I’ve needed to change that.

Writing about my failed marriage and my attempts to co-parent have helped me begin to change. I owe it to my kids to be the best parent I can to them. I can only achieve this when I also realize what I’m doing wrong.

The takeaway.

My ex-husband and I want the same thing. We both want to help our children avoid making some of the same mistakes we did during our marriage and divorce. Our kids will inevitably make their own mistakes though. At least my ex and I can try to model healthy behavior for our children now, so they can hopefully live more successful lives later on.

But we can’t do this if we’re arguing constantly. Arguments will inevitably erupt. We can’t escape that. But we can agree to work through these disagreements by calming ourselves down and trying our best to get along.

Still, I can’t forget about taking care of myself. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to calm myself down after an argument with my former spouse. Writing about the experience has also been helpful in helping me find new insights into myself.

Think about trying these techniques out for yourself the next time you argue with your former partner. If you have children together, it’s imperative you find ways to manage your emotions and get along. You have to — for the kids.

You owe it to them. You owe it to yourself.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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