In a perfect world, you'd never have to see your ex after a breakup. But when you have kids with someone, they'll likely always be in your life in some way or another, especially if your children are young and still need both of you most of the time. Although navigating how to co-parent with an ex isn't exactly a simple feat, with a few helpful tips, you can learn how to stop arguing with your ex once and for all. At the end of the day, you have to try to put an end to negative forms of communication and the anxiety and stress that can come along with them. It's all about mastering the art of changing how you respond, rather than wishing your ex would change their behavior.
Follow these tips for how to co-parent with your ex—without arguing all the time.
Alter Your Method of Communication
Look back over the course of your co-parenting relationship. When do you seem to argue the most? Is there a particular mode of communication that makes it more likely for you to disintegrate into accusations and name-calling? If so, then you need to change the method of communication to one that helps you feel more calm.
If your ex calls your home late at night, turn off the ringer and follow up the next day through an email. If they constantly hound you with text messages, limit your response to a simple acknowledgment that you received the message and ask to discuss the matter further next time you see each other in person.
Defer the Conversation
Another useful tactic for dealing with an argumentative ex is to defer the conversation to another time. If your ex typically uses the children's drop-off or pick-up time to initiate troublesome conversations, you can suggest that you both wait to discuss the matter in private, over the phone, or through email. This way, you won't end up arguing in front of your children in or in a public place.
You might also find it helpful to schedule a weekly email or telephone co-parenting meeting to avoid unnecessary arguments, while still including each other in important decisions.
Refuse to Defend Yourself
Rather than spending time and energy defending yourself or your actions to an ex when they accuse you of doing something wrong, you can choose not to engage in this unhealthy form of communication. By resisting the urge to explain yourself, fight with them, or insult them, you'll work towards changing an existing pattern for your interactions that can lead to less arguing in the long run.
"Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent," says licensed psychologist Deborah Serani. "Remember to recognize the different traits you and your ex have, and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your ex children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your ex."
Acknowledge Your Ex's Perspective
A lot of arguments can be avoided by acknowledging what the other person is trying to say or how they're feeling at the moment. If your ex blames you for not making the kids do their homework before dinner, you can respond by saying something like, "I hear what you're saying. You'd like me to make sure the kids do their homework before dinner. You've made your point, but we don't need to discuss it further right now."
Then, later on, you can think about your ex's complaint and take their advice if you think it's in your kids' best interests. If not, you can simply acknowledge their request and try to understand their perspective. "The best approach when communicating is to make your child the focal point," Serani says.
Let It Go
In order to protect yourself from the unnecessary anxiety and mental drain that comes from constantly battling with an ex, there may be times when it's best to simply "let it go" and agree to disagree. As individuals, there will always be things to disagree about, especially when it comes to how you want to raise your kids.
Choosing to let go of areas where the two of you don't exactly agree can help you focus on the influence you do have over your kids and will give you the power to stop arguing with your ex.