Perspective is everything.
Over the past 15 years, my husband’s ex and I have experienced the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Ugly has happened at full volume and in public but even so, we keep coming back for more.
Too often, I hear stories of step and single parents refusing to communicate with the ex over conflicts they deem “irreconcilable.” In my own experience, friends have been quick to encourage me to wage war against my husband’s ex. But at the same time, these friends would urge me to “consider my relationship” in the midst of a blow out with any other family member. Why the double standard?
I’ve had several — shall we say — monumental conflicts with my husband’s ex. Over schedules, over money, over parenting styles and philosophical beliefs. But I can say the exact same thing about arguments I’ve had with my husband.
Think about the long list of implosions you’ve recovered from in various relationships. We’ve all had fights we thought, in the moment, would end our marriages or friendships, only to reconcile a few days (or hours) later. That’s not to say these events were easy to forgive and forget. We made the conscious decision to do so. Yet when it comes to exes, we often take the one and done approach – one big blow out, and it’s over.
But it’s never over if you share children. Aside from a genuine personality disorder, communication with the ex should not be viewed as optional. If cutting out the ex seems like it will make your life easier, consider how it will affect your children. Chances are it will make their life harder. It’s our job as parents to make the relationship work. It’s our job to encourage a culture where kids with two set of parents are seen as one family.
Don’t think of your co-parent as an ex. Think of them as a business partner in the most important job you’ll ever have — raising your children.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.