These days it seems like everyone knows someone who's "best friends with their ex." In movies about divorced parents, they almost always end up working together, as a united team, or even getting back together. Most divorced celebrity couples amicably raise their kids in the public eye, too, some even living together or taking vacations as a family. These fairy tale-like scenarios fail to acknowledge the complexity of co-parenting relationships, though. So, honestly, people need to stop romanticizing co-parenting, because it's usually nothing like the movies.
Co-parenting with someone I hate, in all honestly, sucks. Co-parenting with someone I hate, while everyone tells me that I should be kinder to and more forgiving of that person, sucks even more. People say things like, "Why can't you be friends?" and, "You need to forgive and forget, for the kids' sake," like these things are easy. The truth of the matter is, of course, they're not easy at all. These expectations make me seriously feel like sh*t, and at a time when I'm trying really hard to figure things out. The last thing I need is a constant reminder that the inability to work effectively together with my ex, is one of the reasons why we split up in the first place.
There's nothing easy about divorce or separation, especially when you have kids together. Romanticizing these relationships is unrealistic and unfair to parents who have to navigate really difficult situations and be the best parents they can be. It's also unfair to their kids, who don't always understand why the divorce or break up happened in the first place, and want desperately for there to be a fairy tale ending. We've got to stop romanticizing co-parenting, because it's so not magical and so not easy most of the time.
Because You Can't Always Be Friends With Your Ex
I don't hate many people, but I seriously hate my ex. He was abusive and controlling and, well, he hurt me. I can't be his friend, and I don't have to be. I can be polite, straightforward, and fair, but that's about as much as I can give, and I'm only doing that much for our kids' sake. When my kids can't get along with a friend at school, I tell them they don't have to be friends with everyone, they just have to treat everyone with kindness. In my opinion, the same should go for the expectations of any relationship you have with your ex, following divorce or a break-up.
Because It's Totally Unrealistic
I have a theory that the ideal of the divorced couple who are "best friends" comes from the fact that our culture is still really uncomfortable with divorce. People are still expected to "stay together for the kids," which is bullsh*t, and if they divorce they are expected to stay friends and work together as a team (which is often impossible). Co-parenting is hard enough without the added pressure of trying to live up to an impossible ideal.
Because It's Seriously Hard
If I thought being married to my abusive ex was hard, having to co-parent with him is so much harder. He's manipulative, lazy, selfish, and narcissistic, and that's on his better days. Having to figure things out with him so that my kids have consistency and stability is so important to me that I do it, but it's not easy at all.
Because It Can Give Your Kids Unrealistic Expectations
I remember loving movies like The Parent Trap when I was young. I didn't realize how unrealistic they were. The last thing my kids need is to hope for my ex and I to reconcile. I try to be honest with my kids about our divorce, in a way that is age-appropriate, and about the fact that no matter how much they think they'd like it to happen, we are never, ever getting back together.
Because You Can't Control What Your Ex Does
My ex constantly makes really bad choices, and as a result, loses his job or can't pay his bills. While I am happy to not be married to him anymore, I still have to worry about what he does because it impacts our kids. It honestly makes it hard for us to have a good co-parenting relationship.
Because It Can Make You Feel Like You Are A Bad Parent
I am not a bad parent because I can't get along with my ex, and it's unfair that I'm made to feel that way. Relationships are complex, especially once you have kids together. When you decide to split up, they don't automatically become easy to navigate. In fact, they become much harder. So when we create an "ideal co-parenting relationship," based on friendship and cooperative decision-making, we set the the bar too high for most people to reach.
Because There's A Good Reasons A Couple Split Up In The First Place
When you get a divorce or break up with your partner, you generally have some pretty good reasons why that life change was necessary. These reasons don't go away after separation, and you can't always put aside your differences for "the sake of the children."
Because It Ignores Domestic Violence
Expecting a domestic violence survivor to be friends with their ex is seriously messed up. When we romanticize co-parenting relationships, we tell survivors they should attempt an ideal that could result in continued abuse. That's not OK at all.
Because It Can Hurt Your Ability To Move On
It took me four years to leave my ex for good. It takes other people even longer. Trying to maintain a friendship with your ex might seem like a good idea, but it also leaves an opening for you to go right back where you started. In most situations, that's probably not the best solution for anyone involved.
Because Your Focus Should Be Your Kids, Not Your Ex
When you waste time and energy trying to make your ex happy or force a friendship that is so not happening, you can lose sight of what is really important: your kids. The trick is getting your co-parent to see that, too. After separation, it's time to move on to a new normal, where your kids' wellbeing is more important that what either of you want. It's probably the best you can hope for, honestly, and a way more reasonable goal to shoot for than being BFFs with your ex.