Communicating with an ex as a co-parent

Our co-parenting relationship is currently on an even keel.  My ex is sticking to the schedule.  The constant requests to change plans have abated.  The barrage of angry emails and text messages has finished.  Our handovers are amicable and efficient.  We will never be best friends, but we are able to present a united and respectful front when Cygnet is around.  It has taken a long time to get here.  These are my tips for communicating with an ex when co-parenting.

communicating with an ex

The importance of text and email for communicating with an ex

My ex was angry that I left him.  His pride was hurt.  He was like a wounded dog; he would lap up sympathy from those around him, but would also lash out unpredictably.  He threw insults.  He yelled.  He slammed his fist on the table. 

We stayed living together for four months after separation whilst we sold our jointly owned house.  I will never forget wedging a chair under the door handle in the spare bedroom and leaning silently against the door as he stood outside.  He had another thing to say … and another thing … and another thing.  I felt like I was suffocating.

After what felt like an eternity we sold our house.  My ex still had a lot to say.  He would never call my telephone, thankfully, but the text messages came thick and fast, and the emails came faster.  The ping and vibration of my phone would haunt me.  I would get anxious before checking my emails.  He wasn’t always angry and abusive but his messages were always directive and demanding. 

I’ve never learned how to control my ex’s actions. I don’t think we can ever do that, but I did learn how to control my own reactions.  Gradually, I believe that my calm reaction and response have helped us to be co-parents.

I learned how to use text messages and emails to set the tone of our co-parenting relationship.

Human relationships can be messy, they can be confusing and they’re demanding.  Co-parenting is all of these things multiplied a million times and that can be mega stressful.  I found that by limiting our communications to text messages and email in the early days enabled me to control exactly what I was going to say and how I was going to say it.

The challenge of communicating via text and email is that tone of voice and body language often effects how people respond to messages. The absence of these cues in text and email means that messages can be misinterpreted. You have to pay really close attention to how you phrase things.

It would often take me five or six days to respond to some emails.  This wasn’t because I was ignoring them, quite the reverse, I was thinking about them the whole time, but I was sleeping on my response.  I was asking others for their opinion.  I was drafting, re-drafting, deleting and editing constantly. 

Through careful consideration of my text and email responses I was able to take the moral high ground.  I was able to reflect.  I was able to think through the implications of what I was saying and the impact that my response might have. 

I trained myself not to over-react and sometimes not to react at alI. 

Meet in a public place

It is inevitable that you will have to meet to discuss at some point.  Some things are just too complicated to discuss via text or email. 

Meeting in a public place is a good idea.  It can help both of you to behave in a civil manner.  In the early days I used to take my mum along to my meetings with my ex.  My ex has always respected my mother. She has also been integral to our childcare arrangements because we both work full time.

My ex hasn’t always respected me and has, at times, despised me.  I knew that in a public place and with my mother present my ex was less likely to raise his voice and he certainly wouldn’t thump his fist down on the table.  In private and without my mum fists thumps on the table and shouting were almost a guarantee.   There were a couple of occasions when my ex got up and stormed out of the pub, but I learned to deal with that. 

Be business-like when communicating with an ex – share an agenda and some minutes

These days our transactions are very business-like.  We are like work colleagues and our job is to work together to give the best and most rounded upbringing possible to our son.  It may feel odd, wrong even, to view raising a child as a business task, but I have found that when communicating with an ex this is by far the easiest way to cope.

When you meet, it is good to have a clear agenda, shared in advance, so that there are no surprises and that both parents can come prepared. 

It is also good to write up and share minutes to your meetings.  I have found these really useful.  Often six months later, I will refer to and re-send the minutes to my ex to remind him of what we agreed. Minutes, capturing agreements clearly and in writing is really useful for flushing out when one of you has interpreted a conversation totally differently.  Trust me, this will happen, a lot!

Ultimately though, every co-parenting relationship is different, every human relationship is different.  There are no set rules for communicating with an ex.  Have confidence that you will eventually find what works for you.  It may feel like it is taking an eternity.  It has taken us at least a couple of years, but we’ve got there, for the moment.  I am not naïve enough to believe that our future co-parenting relationship is obstacle free. 

What has worked for you in your co-parenting relationship? 

What are your tips for communicating with an ex?

P.S.  You might be interested in my other co-parenting blog posts:  how to cope without your child; what does co-parenting success look like?; how I’m surviving co-parenting with a narcissist.

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28 Comments

  1. October 11, 2017 / 8:45 pm

    After our initial seperation my ex was fine. We actually got on quite well. But when I met someone suddenly it was hard for him to have the kids certain days or times, he made things as awkward as he could. He didn’t want me, but he liked that he could come round when he wanted and then it wasn’t always possible. Six years later it is better, but he does occasionally revel in being awkward.
    #TriumphantTales
    Ali Duke recently posted…Feeling Lost As A Parent BloggerMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Oh well, there are always obstacles ahead. thanks for your comment Ali. Pen x

  2. October 12, 2017 / 9:45 am

    I think me and my ex-co-parent well. Now, we haven’t always. He flies off in a fit about the smallest of things. But over the years I’ve learned to just ignore him! And, Micahel is at school now, so he picks up and drops off at school and we don’t actually have to see each other if we don’t want to. So when we do, it’s actually quite nice! #coolmumclub

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Hi Donna, you seem to have got things onto an even keel. It isn’t easy I know. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      You are absolutely right – there are many benefits to being a single mum by choice. There have been many times that I have envied you – trust me. Pen x

  3. October 12, 2017 / 6:33 pm

    As a child of a broken marriage, I read this imagining what my own parents went through back in the late eighties, in a time before e mail and texts. Thankfully I don’t know, as they always sheltered us from any animosity which must have been kicking around. Fair play to them. And in fact, thirty years later, four shared grandchildren, two weddings (mine and my bros) and even at each others milestone birthday celebrations (and my Nans funeral yesterday) they still have an ability to show a united front in the name of parenting. That can’t always be easy.
    Huge respect to them, to you, and to everyone who has to navigate these choppy waters.
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#CoolMumClub Linky Week 80My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Your parents have done brilliantly. They are setting a brilliant example. You are very lucky to have them. Pen x

  4. October 12, 2017 / 8:32 pm

    Some great tips. My ex sounds exactly like yours was in the beginning – unfortunately it’s been almost two years and he still can be that way. I will keep trying though for our boys

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Good luck Natalie. It is incredibly tough – I know. If you ever want to chat, feel free to email me at Pen@thesingleswan.com

  5. October 13, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    This sounds like a nightmare. It must have been very frustrating in the beginning when your ex was acting like a spoilt brat and not putting your son first. I’m glad you got it sorted and managed to find a way to communicate with each other.
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK 🙂
    Debbie
    Random Musings recently posted…Blogger Spotlight Interview: Indecisive MumMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 13, 2017 / 9:19 pm

      Thank you Debbie. I hope you are well. All the best, Pen x

  6. October 14, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    As previously mentioned to you I think this post is great and will be a big help to others in this situation. Thanks for linking up to #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again on Tuesday! X

    • thesingleswan
      October 14, 2017 / 8:50 pm

      Thank you Jaki. Pen x

  7. October 15, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    It sounds to me like you’ve done exactly all the right things. I won’t bore you with the details but there was a period that I was on my own with Amelia and thought I would be forever. I too spent a lot of time carefully drafting text messages to ensure that I set the moral high ground, and ultimately it helped us both calm down enough to be respectful. For us, it saved our relationship (even if it did take a year!) #RVHT
    Aleena Brown recently posted…The Weightloss Edit: Why I’m Slowing DownMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 15, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Well done Aleena, it sounds like you had a really tough time. You should be really proud that you have done the right thing for Amelia, even if, like me, you would have preferred that your ex emigrated to Australia and never made contact again. Pen x

  8. October 15, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    I hope I am never in this position but there is some amazing advice here! Great post. #RVHT

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Thanks Vicky. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Thank you Emma. If your friend ever wants to get in contact to speak to someone who has been through it then get her to email me at Pen@thesingleswan.com. Pen x

  9. October 16, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    I hope to never have to deal with this but I was speaking to a friend today who is in the very early stages of separation so I know for a lot of people that this will he very helpful. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      Thank you Lisa. I hope your friend does find this useful. If she ever wants to contact me, she can email me on Pen@thesingleswan.com

  10. The Mummy Bubble
    October 17, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    This must be such a relief to have reached this point. It sounds like you’ve worked very hard to do this, so well done. You’re doing the absolute best thing for your child and that’s amazing. Xx #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say. Pen x

  11. October 18, 2017 / 11:56 am

    what an awful time for you, I haven’t had to co-parent but I have experienced a nasty breakup where my ex was refusing to accept it was over and would turn up at my home, work and even my parents home. Breakups can be so difficult but you have handled it so well. I admire you for taking time to respond and staying with the high ground I am sure that cannot have been easy. You have so much to be proud of xx #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…the not so perfect mumMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you Mac for your lovely comment – as always. Pen x

  12. October 18, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    It’s great that you have found a way to communicate, it’ll be so important for your child to see you both getting along. I like that you took your time to reply to emails and texts, I am usually guilty of replying to messages to soon in a hotheaded Way.

    #KCACOLS
    Nicola | Mummy to Dex recently posted…Dear Dexter, I’m Sorry I Left You.My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 19, 2017 / 9:25 pm

      Thanks for your comment Nicola. Pen x

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