In our previous article, we discussed CPR (Civil, Polite, Respectful) communication strategies for divorced parents.
Even in relationships that do not have a divorce or conflictual marital dynamic, what is said can often be misinterpreted. Certainly in today’s age, the tone of text and email communication can often be misconstrued—it’s easy to mistake something as critical or hurtful.
Add in the influence of the marital history and it will also impact how communication is interpreted. There are two interacting parts: what and how something is said and how it’s heard.
Communication patterns are often entrenched—even after a divorce is final. For example, if Jack has always been harsh and critical to Jill, Jack is unlikely to change because they’re now divorced. Below is a typical representation of the Jack/Jill dynamic:
Jill: Are you going to take our child to his doctor’s appointment or should I?
Jack: Why did you wait so long to tell me about the doctor’s appointment? You always wait a long time and then tell me at the last minute!
Now, Jill has a choice. She can:
- Engage in the old dynamic: “I don’t wait until the last minute. This is the only time the office had!”; or
- Circumvent the dynamic: “I understand, but do you want to take him or should I?”
In option 2, Jill is not taking the criticism in or making it personal. We liken this to good customer service techniques, i.e. if you call a good retailer because the zipper broke on an expensive jacket, the clerk will say, “I apologize about the zipper. We will take it back. No problem.” The clerk does not want to engage in conflict (for example, by arguing about who is responsible for the broken zipper) — getting to the endpoint, and hopefully a positive outcome is the goal.
This is a good motto for divorced parents to remember: Get to the endpoint (you don’t have anything to prove to your co-parent).
After many years of acting in the same way, dynamics can be difficult to alter. Drs. Behrman and Zimmerman provide co-parenting counseling to divorced parents to help them learn to communicate more effectively and make better parenting decisions.
Co-Parent Counseling is a process that is different from psychotherapy. It helps parents more effectively communicate about the children and make parenting decisions. It is not a type of couples counseling. It is important to find appropriately trained co-parent counselors (not every mental health professional is trained to provide this service).
Divorced parents must remember that they’re divorced from the people who remain as they were (unless they recover and grow from the experience). We do not see criticism and blame make divorced spouses respond in a positive manner; it usually just leads to more conflict.
So the question then becomes, “How do I cope with them, or how do I do the business of co-parenting with them, even if they are the way they are?” Focusing on your own choices for more effective communication can go a lot further than expecting your co-parent to change.
My Divorce Recovery can help! Contact us today!
My Divorce Recovery
Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D., ABPP
Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.