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Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex

Oct. 27, 2021

Divorce is extremely tough, but that isn’t to say that co-parenting after divorce is easy, especially if you’re co-parenting with a toxic ex.

And how do I even know that my ex is toxic? What constitutes a toxic ex?

Well, there are a plethora of reasons why your ex could be considered toxic: anger because of the split, abuse, narcissism, selfishness, addiction issues, etc.

Now, there certainly are times you may wish to obtain professional help with more serious issues such as abuse or addiction, etc. However, for other cases, we wanted to share a series of tactics that you can apply to ensure successful co-parenting with your child’s best interests in mind, even if at times it seems like the other co-parent isn’t playing for the same team.

While it’s clear that the easiest way to deal with a toxic co-parent in these situations would be to minimize any communication, and sometimes to cut them off completely, you may wish to find that balance of just enough communication to provide your child with a stable environment for their development.

So, how often should co-parents communicate?

Co-parenting requires ongoing, continuous communication

Communication is crucial to successful co-parenting.

You can definitely minimize communication, but you should never completely eliminate it. As co-parents, you’ll need ongoing communication to be able to coordinate your child’s life.

The concrete number of times you should be in contact with your co-parent will depend on numerous things such as the age of the child, their current state of mind, etc, but you will rarely ever have to communicate more than once a day - emergencies aside, of course. If your child is older or if your schedule is weekly on/off co-parenting, then once per week may be enough.

If you’re wondering whether your co-parent might be overstepping boundaries in communication with you, here are some general guidelines that you can use to assess your situation:

- Communication should be about your children only

Co-parents don’t need to talk about anything else except for their children or something that will affect their children unless, of course, both of you consent to it.

If you feel like your ex is needlessly talking to you, you might be right. Keep in mind that there is a possibility that your ex is talking about artificial things “concerning your children” just so they get to stay in touch with the other co-parent. If you feel like this is what’s happening, it’s okay to say no or try to cut down on the communication.

- No need for multiple texts per day

Emergencies aside, there will rarely ever be any need for multiple texts per day.

If your communication usually happens once per day, then both you and your co-parent should try and sum up all that there is to say in one clear and concise message to reduce any conflict opportunity.

- It should only concern the present or near future

All communication between two parents should pertain to the present or the very near future. All else is unnecessary at the present stage.

This is a good rule of thumb to follow when debating whether the communication between you and your co-parent is appropriate. If your ex starts digging around the past, it will most likely lead to drama that is best avoided.

With a toxic ex, the boundaries in your relationship can easily get blurred, so we wanted to share some tips on effective co-parenting with a toxic ex.

Tips for co-parenting with a toxic ex

Setting up a co-parenting relationship after divorce is always challenging, but a toxic ex can elevate this challenge to a whole other level. You’re trying to focus on your child and enabling a stable environment for them while processing your emotions, and as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll have to manage another front with the co-parent.

If you know your ex could inflict problems on your co-parenting relationship for whatever reason, try to apply these rules to your relationship.

The clearer the terms, the clearer the mind

Make your agreement as clear as possible to make for a smooth relationship. When there are many emotions involved, it will help to make the agreement as black-and-white as you can.

The terms of communication, the system of rewards and punishments for the child, forbidden activities, medical care, financials, school events, extra-curricular activities, calendar and scheduling of activities are just some of the things that you should be clear on.

Limit communication to business-only

One of the most necessary things to do with a toxic ex is set boundaries!

What will you use to communicate? When will you communicate? What will you communicate about?

The more you limit the communication, the less chance there will be for any toxicity or damaging of the co-parenting relationship.

If your ex starts going over boundaries, don’t let yourself get baited. Instead, remind them of the terms of your agreement and if that doesn’t work, take it to the next level.

Never make the child the messenger

Whatever happens, never-ever make the child your messenger.

They don’t need to feel the burden of any of the negative emotions between their parents. Don’t make them feel like they have to choose or try to diminish the love and respect they have for their parents.

Keep each other in the loop

While you should try to minimize any communication with your toxic ex, make sure to keep each other in the loop regarding your child. Anything about the child that you would want them to tell you, you tell them yourself.

This is crucial to avoid misunderstandings, from the simplest things like double-booking the child, to the more serious issues like double-immunization.

Finally, if your child is doing something special while at your place like walking for the first time or riding a bike for the first time, record a video of them to share with your co-parent later. It would mean the world!

Always stay calm and collected

At times, this will seem like the hardest thing to do. But try to stay cool, and a short while later you’ll be happy you did so. If something they say sets you off, don’t respond immediately. Give it a little time to collect yourself and then respond clear-minded. Don’t give your toxic ex the reaction they want!

Over time, you’ll learn what triggers them and that’ll give your more control over their reactions.