How to peacefully co-exist and co-parent with your ex? Gina Abuyuan gives three ways
I received word of my annulment on July 7 of last year. I sat at my desk at home, crying and saying “oh my God” over and over again. I was sobbing and laughing and thanking God at the same time. My kids looked at me with worry and fear in their eyes and asked if I was ok.
“Are you sad, Mommy?” my daughter asked.
“No anak, I’m actually very, very happy.”
Like little suns, their eyes brightened, and they skipped out of the room, leaving me to revel in my new, legal, technical, single-blessedness.
After that, I told people it surpassed the happiness I felt when my ex-husband asked me to marry him.
Funny then, that he—my ex-husband—was the one who broke to me the news that we were no longer married. “Hoy, hindi ka na Llanes!” he texted.
How’s that for coming full circle?
Take the high road
Many people find it strange that Mardy and I are still friends. Some are amazed. Some don’t just believe it. I don’t blame them. Finding something salvageable in a person after he or she had given you unimaginable (well, until you actually go through it) trauma isn’t easy. In fact, it can be the hardest thing in the world to do. In some cases, murder would probably be easier to commit.
As many of you may have read in HIPP’s September issue, Mardy and I separated on and off for three years. It wasn’t until a particularly huge fight in 2005 did we really split up, not want to have anything to do with the other (save for the kids), and not speak to each other for almost a year.
So how did we do it? How did we get to this level of being able to speak again, even joke with each other again, help each other out again—without stabbing each other?
As Brooke Burke of ModernMom.com says of her relationship with her ex, “We decided to take the high road for the kids.” To his credit, Mardy did come to me and try to explain and apologize—it was I who approached our initial contact after the fight with a businesslike coldness. After all, it was his responsibility and obligation to take care of the kids’ needs—what could be more obvious than that? But I also didn’t want my children growing up not knowing their father, and it took another year before we finally got talking comfortably again.
How do you start?
Get outside help. This does not include nightly carousings with San Miguel and friends just as embittered as you. Sure, that was part of the process, but at some point you have to take a different mindset. See a shrink, a therapist, a counselor, or join a self-development workshop or seminar. The Landmark Forum’s basic course worked for me (www.landmarkeducation.com). See what comes your way to best fit your personality and path to healing, too.
The RCW Foundation also has short courses on re-grouping and getting clear on where you want to take your life to the next level. Call (2) 436-0710 or 426-6832 or visit www.rcwfi.org for more details.
Annulment lawyer Sheila Bazar recommends that her clients see counselors even before the annulment process. This is to gird them with a healthy psychological and emotional attitude for the grueling course of interviews and hearings. Things can get extremely tough, trust me. I even skipped a couple of hearings, much to the consternation of my lawyer, because I felt I could not face the judge and take yet another public cross examination.
An outside perspective and an educated approach to psychological and emotional counseling will also help you interact with your ex-spouse in an appropriate manner. No drama, no blaming, no accusations. And most important: no more romantic illusions of you ever getting together again!
Be accountable for the transformation. Outside help can work just as much as you’ll allow it. The transformation has to come from within you. I know you’re probably rolling your eyes, but it’s true. What you are now—your thoughts, your feelings, your expectations of a relationship and the way you view rearing your children—have changed. Again, take the higher road and—if you should be so lucky—develop with your ex-spouse a new relationship that works for your kids. Not for either of you, but for the kids.
I admit, Mardy and I had several blow-ups before we got to this relatively peaceful co-parenting co-existence. We had to repeatedly reassure the other one that we were still on one side with regard to the kids. We had to back off, or firmly tell the other one, if either of us were over-stepping communication boundaries. Be pro-active with setting ground rules, and sharing important issues about your children. List down the things you have to both tackle as co-parents: expenses, schooling, time / holidays spent with the kids. Learn to negotiate nicely. Learn to be flexible too.
Find a common commitment. Time may heal all wounds, but it may not help in making us forget. I’m not going to go all fuzzy and esoteric and tell you to release all hurt into the ethers and let the good vibes settle, because that may not work for you. Maybe focusing on your job or your kids or your hobbies will work you; maybe a sabbatical in Sagada. The ways of healing, of getting to know ourselves and expanding our hearts to accommodate new relationships and people in our lives are infinite. It all stems from one thing, though: commitment.
If you’re committed to making something work, and getting off and over those things that didn’t make it work in the first place, then you’re making progress. I say “getting over” but not forgetting; no one really totally forgets, and sometimes, we do need those little reminders to make us avoid the same mistakes. A zap in the head to pull us back and pivot us on the road to our commitment.
Mardy and I are committed to giving our kids the best education they can receive; that includes school and experiences that will help them grow into strong, intelligent, kind, healthy, well-rounded individuals. That means putting them in the best schools, tailoring their extra-curricular activities to help hone their talents, exposing them to places and experiences with which they can store in their love banks, and showing them that though Mommy and Tatay are not married, they are still magka-kampi when it comes to the three of them.
No one hurts them. No one harms them. No one f**cks them over.
It’s a commitment that’s worked for Mardy and I, given our personalities as individuals and the qualities that brought us together as a couple in the first place.
How about you?
HIPP Magazine was the first Filipino parenting magazine that tackled the issue of harmonious co-parenting between ex-es. If you'd like more stories or tips on how to successfully co-parent with an ex, please write directly to me, email@example.com, since HIPP doesn't exist anymore. What a bummer.