Blended Families: The ‘Ex’ Factor
So you had a child or children with your ex-spouse, things obviously didn’t work out, and now you’re trying to raise kids with someone you divorced. It’s certainly not an ideal situation. Some divorced couples manage to make a successful transition into being effective co-parents after divorce, but too often the same issues that culminated in a divorce continue to manifest after the divorce.
If you are living in a blended family, one of the biggest challenges you may encounter is the “Ex Factor.” The Ex Factor refers to anything related to dealing with your former spouse. The two most common challenges are different parenting styles and unresolved hurt or anger.
1. Different Parenting Styles: Any differences in parenting styles during a marriage tend to be further magnified after divorce. If you didn’t like how your former spouse managed nutrition, homework, bedtimes or screen time before, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t be any better now that you have zero oversight regarding how this is managed in the other household. This can be crazy making! If you are diligent about protecting your elementary age child from inappropriate adult content, and then discover they are watching R-rated movies and playing Mature-rated video games in the other home, it’s enough to make you want to scream. And it’s a common challenge so many blended families face.
2. Unresolved Hurt or Anger: If emotional triggers are set off when you see or communicate with your ex-spouse, there’s a good chance you have some unresolved emotional baggage related to your ex. This isn’t any fun, but it is very normal. Legal divorce is very different from the emotional divorce, and the emotional divorce tends to take longer than most of us want to admit. But we ultimately need to make a decision about how much emotional energy we want to direct toward the ex. After a difficult or frustrating exchange with the ex, we can choose to focus on this for 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days. Might I suggest the 5 minutes option? I know this is easier said than done, but we are empowered to make that choice, and I’m certain there are more productive things to think about than continuing to ruminate about your ex.
The key to moving forward with both of these issues is understanding and accepting what we do and what we don’t have control over. And what’s one obvious thing you don’t have control over? You guessed it….the ex! They are probably not going to change and you’re now the last person on earth who is going to change them. So take out a piece of paper and write out the top three things you would change about your ex if you could. Now take that piece of paper and tear it up or light it on fire! This may sound silly, but it just may be the path to freedom you’ve been looking for.
Co-Parenting is never easy, but our counselors have the experience and the tools to help you work with your ex. Counseling is a most helpful tool when dealing with an ex, especially when you want the best for your kids. Dr. Mike Kragt has over 20 years of experience working with families through all stages of divorce. To schedule an appointment with Mike or any of our counselors, contact us today.