According to the book, "Joint-Custody with a Jerk," there are many ways in which you can empower yourself to make the most of your custody situation and, in the process, possibly even elicit positive change in your ex-spouse rather than participating in destructive patterns of interaction.
Everyone behaves poorly at one time or another, but when the poor behavior comes from your ex-spouse, it affects both you and your child. Plus, when an ex-spouse is behaving badly, every offense can be magnified to outrageous proportions!
Rather than becoming embroiled in cycles of negative interaction, you can choose to take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions. No matter what your spouse chooses to do, you will maintain an edge when you choose to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Start by recognizing that you cannot control your ex-spouse or his or her behavior, and resist the urge to blame everything that goes wrong in your life on your ex or your divorce. Realize that there will be negative issues which will arise from time to time, and pick which battles you will fight and which issues you will choose to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that your ex wasn't behaving poorly, but it does mean that you recognize that you do not have to carry the problems that your ex-spouse creates as if they are your own. When you employ these tips and accept that there will be challenging times, you eliminate spinning your wheels, endlessly trying to right all of the injustices that someone else has perpetrated.
There is a well known saying in psychology which states that it is not what happens to us that determines our feelings, but it is our interpretation of what happens to us that determines them. Therefore, it may be helpful for you to examine exactly what is bothering you about a given situation, to change what you can and must, to forgive or have a sense of humor about what you can't change, or to simply release that of which you need not take ownership. When you explore your true feelings and the thoughts and reasons which have led you to these feelings, you can choose to consciously select how you will respond.
These techniques can help you to evaluate the words and actions you might take which can bring you closer to the positive results that you desire. For instance, instead of screaming at your ex for always being late to pick up the kids for the weekend, you might recognize that your ex-spouse was always terrible at keeping track of time, and instead of yelling harshly, you might invite your ex to a neutral location for a time of discussing the kids. By choosing to prepare and to think maturely before you speak, you can explain to your spouse that the kids so look forward to their time with him or her, that they get hurt when it doesn't begin as soon as it was anticipated. In this way, you might possibly disarm your spouse rather than encourage an all out brawl at the curb. Then, while you are waiting at the neutral meeting place, accept the fact that your ex will be late for that, too, and use your sense of humor to let it go.
When you take responsibility for your own actions and determine that you will not allow your spouse to manipulate you into poor behavior, you are giving both you and your child(ren) a positive way in which to negotiate your needs and a better chance of having them met.
Ross, J.A., & Corcoran, J. (1996). "Joint Custody with a Jerk." New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.
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