Following up from the last installment of my blog, becoming a business colleague with your former partner is important, but it takes practice. You will both make mistakes on occasion and fall back into old patterns, but keep trying! When you had your first job, you were not perfect and you are not perfect now – but in trying to set the tone for your new relationship you should consider how workplace behavior is implemented.
Places of employment require a sense of decorum between individuals, and we are seeing more laws being enacted to protect employees from creating “hostile work environments”. The principles behind these practices and laws should become your guiding principles in developing this new persona for your brand new relationship. Think before you speak and email. Would you want your boss to see an email like this? Would you be embarrassed at work if you spoke to a colleague the way you speak to your ex? Would you react to a colleague who criticized you in a meeting for an idea you proposed the same way you would react to your ex when they criticize you? Would you yell, use foul language, use inappropriate hand gestures, stomp out of the room at work? Sure, many of us have had the occasional meltdown at work where we behaved in a way that we regret, but do we keep doing it over and over? If so, you probably have had a lot of jobs or haven’t gotten a raise in quite some time!
Here is my list of guidelines for working together with your former partner as colleagues:
- Greet one another with an appropriate hello (even a smile). Do the same for the person they are with—even if it is their romantic partner
- Be considerate of one another—let them know important information about their “work”—your children. Do not decide for them what information is a priority for them to receive.
- Send emails that are informative and stick to “just the facts” without commentary about their parenting or what you view as “their” mistakes.
- Do not disparage each other or note the other person’s need to get therapy (this is no longer your business and you are not a professional there to diagnose the state of their mental health).
- Text, email or contact each other by phone at appropriate times of the day unless it is truly an emergency. Limit your contact to the appropriate amount of contact you would have with a colleague you are working with that you need to keep informed on a project.
- Share positive information about your “work” together. Send a picture of the children enjoying a special moment, share an anecdote you know they would enjoy, and reinforce your colleague positively about something wonderful your child shared that they did when they were with the other parent. This will go a long way in developing a more positive communication pattern together focused not only on the “to do” list, but also the joy of sharing the children you both love.
- Make sure to include the other parent in moments they may miss during your Parenting Time—dance recitals, games, homecoming pictures, etc.
- Ignore insults and instigating comments from the other parent.
- Compromise—your way is not always going to be the right path to resolving the issue. This is not about who “wins”. When your focus becomes more about “winning” than making compromises—the person who loses is the child.
- Do not share negative information about your “colleague” with others who you know will share that with others and never share it publicly on Social Media. You would not speak negatively about colleagues in a public forum or to those you know who gossip for fear of looking bad in the workplace and losing your job. Don’t do this with the other Co-Parent.
- Money is one driving factor in business, but should not be the only one. Make decisions together that respect one another’s budgetary constraints, but do not use money as a way to hurt your former partner—only your child will suffer.
I guarantee if you follow these guidelines, even the most difficult Co-Parent will start to improve their behavior toward you, even just based on the fact that they can no longer “push your buttons”. It will get boring for them to insult you. They cannot portray you as a villain when you are doing everything to include them in your child’s life. Even if they continue to behave poorly, you will know you did everything you could to behave in an adult-like manner—and that is what your children need from you the most right now.