Most guys aren’t thinking about co-parenting success in the heat of divorce. Anger, resentment, guilt, self-righteousness, and self-pity tend to take over, whether you want them to or not. You’ve been screwed over mentally and financially, and your anger is justified. As a dad, you have more tough choices to make. She may have done you wrong, but for the kid’s sake, you will have to face the issue of forgiveness to move forward with your kids.
Even if you intend to take the high road with your ex, these emotions can show up, sometimes in a big way, and often unexpectedly. For some guys, it take years of hard life lessons and lasting consequences before they move through the process enough to get to forgiveness. Unfortunately, some never get there at all and end up losing any chance to be part of their kid’s lives.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Co-Parenting Success Comes With a Forgiving Attitude
Realizing that forgiveness is an attainable, and worthwhile, goal from the get-go will help you move out of the past and into a productive co-parenting relationship for the good of your kids.
Studies published in the professional counseling Journal of Divorce and Remarriage have found that forgiveness and quality co-parenting have a strong relationship.
Ultimately, high-quality co-parenting is the gold ring, the big goal. Divorce is hard enough on the kids without them having to deal with hateful parents and ongoing court battles over custody and child support.
Parenting Partners for Life
Whether you like it or not (and most of us don’t!), when you have kids, you and your ex are partners for life when it comes to raising your kids. They need both of you, imperfections and all, and they need you to be a team. That’s where forgiveness in co-parenting can make or break your success as a dad.
If it isn’t apparent when they’re small, it will be when they’re teens.
Don’t wait until your children are struggling before you try to become a team with your ex. Choosing to forgive and to work on peaceful co-parenting as soon as possible is an important step.
Forgiveness Does Not Mean You Have To Like or Trust Her
Choosing to forgive is not:
- Condoning or approving of unacceptable behavior
- Something your ex deserves (If we are being honest with ourselves, we have all made mistakes; none of us deserve it!)
- Forgetting what happened
- Something you will likely regret
The Mayo Clinic describes forgiveness as a “decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.”
Who needs that touchy-feely crap when you have been screwed over in a divorce? You do. It’s a choice. It’s taking back your power so she can’t jerk you around. You don’t have to like her, and you never have to trust her.
Forgiveness is a choice you make to release the past and move forward with your life. It’s almost impossible to move forward when you’re dragging the past with you.
How long are you willing to let your ex drag you down?
According to the Mayo staff, once you choose forgiveness, you will see some big improvements in your life, including “healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less anxiety, stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, stronger immune system, improved heart health, and higher self-esteem.”
Which Kind of Dad Will You Be For Your Kids?
Hanging onto resentment hurts you, and consequently, your kids. Letting the ex continue to drag you down can foul up new relationships and experiences, keep you from enjoying the moment, lead to anxiety and depression, and leave you bitter and alone. Not a great role model for your kids.
Your choice: Be the father that is forgiving and working towards a new, productive, and healthy life, or, the angry guy, stuck in the past and struggling to move forward. Maybe even the guy they aren’t allowed to see anymore.
Of course you want be the first, but it’s easier said than done. Chances are you’ll have your work cut out for you, and you’ll have many opportunities to practice forgiveness for co-parenting success.
Habits Are Tools You Can Use to Forgive
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shares two habits you can utilize to wrap your head around forgiveness, move out of the past and build a future that includes co-parenting success.
The two recommended habits, Be Proactive and Begin With the End In Mind, are effective strategies you can implement now to start the process and maintain an attitude of forgiveness.
Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Challenging situations will arise in even the best co-parenting scenario, but this habit will give you the edge if your ex-wife is on a mission to make you miserable, or she refuses to let go.
The “be proactive” habit reinforces being responsible for your own choices and actions. You can’t control her choices, but you can control yours. You can control how you choose to respond.
You can choose forgiveness for the good of your kids and yourself.
If you can master the habit of being proactive, then you will be able maintain an attitude of forgiveness over time, even if she’s determined to make it difficult.
Beginning With the End In Mind means you know the direction you are headed. You have a goal and a purpose, and it is up to you to create a plan for achieving the desired outcome. You goal is to be a great dad.
Your plan likely includes goals for your kids. A strategy to choose forgiveness for co-parenting success will help your kids feel loved and secure and grow into happy, productive members of society.
The last thing anyone wants after a divorce is to look back five, ten, or twenty years from now, and realize that an inability to forgive impacted their ability to co-parent well, inadvertently causing their kids to hurt or suffer consequences.
Make Your Plan then Make It Happen
Keep the end goals in mind for yourself and for your kids; it will help you to see the value in forgiveness. Holding onto anger will interfere with the outcomes you want.
“Begin with the end in mind” and decide that forgiveness is worth your effort. Choosing to forgive will become easier over time. Forgiveness is a muscle you have to work to strengthen it.
Parenting is an on-going challenge, especially as younger kids turn into adolescents and then into teenagers. As your kids get older and you deal with their mother over the years, it will become clear that your self-discipline and strategy to choose forgiveness for co-parenting success has paid off.
Your choices, your future, your kids. It’s up to you.
What has your co-parenting experience been like? Share your strategies in the comments below.
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