Attempting to coparent with spouses ex

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renogal

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Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« on: June 26, 2019, 08:12:43 PM »
I need advice!  Attempting to coparent with spouse's ex, who we strongly suspect has BPD (Queen).  I would love to hear others coparenting stories/situations.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2019, 10:40:27 AM »
Hi Renogal,

It sounds as though you are doing the co-parenting with the ex?  Or are you asking in regards to your spouse doing the co-parenting?

If you are doing the co-parenting, I would suggest you consider having your spouse handle all communications with the ex.  If she is a Queen BPD,  I'm sure it's already apparent how difficult it will be.  In my experience, it is best for my marriage/mental health to be completely removed from anything BM is trying to do.  I still hear bits and pieces,  it's unavoidable, but I never ever communicate with her.

What are the specific issues you are having?  That may help everyone give you specific advice?  In general, I would say- don't get sucked into the drama, stick to the custody order....100%.  She won't stick to the CO, but it gives you some level of control and guidelines for the inevitable requests she will have to stray from it.  Keep the kids out of the middle, don't talk negatively about their other parent. 

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Penny Lane

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2019, 01:56:39 PM »
Hi and welcome!

I would second all of Stepping Lightly's excellent advice.

You might check out the toolbox here as well for some more general tips.

Being a stepparent is hard anyway! Take care of yourself. Your job in coparenting is to support your spouse and help them make good decisions. And to be a steady positive presence in the kids' lives. Like SL said, you shouldn't have to deal with the other parent.

Is there a specific situation you are looking for help with or more general commiseration?

Sorry you're dealing with this too but I'm glad you found us! When you're ready to share more I'd love to hear it.

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athene1399

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2019, 10:23:25 AM »
BPDBM has sent me multiple social media friend requests that I ignore. I've seen how she rages and blows up SO's phone (even when she's in a good mood) and I honestly do not want to deal with that so delete the requests. SO does show me what BM sends him via text and we discuss how to respond. You don't have to do that. I know some here do not want to be a part of it as it causes a lot of stress (I generally do get angry over how ridiculous she is being).

Figuring out how to word stuff has been key for us, but everyone is different so some of the phrasing that works for us may no work for you. But feel free to ask. We all share ideas on how to word things to the other parent. What works best in my situation is to empathize with BM first, kind of say what you want, but put it in a "we need to work together" way (BM like feeling a part of things to do with SD). This is loosely based on the LEARN communication model: Listen/empathize, Explain  (Skip this part of the model as this is part of JADE), Acknowledge how the other parent feels, Recommend what you need done, Negotiate (where I try to create a situation where I give two possibilities and am happy wit both outcomes. So try to come up with a win/win for you and the kids. This is the hardest part sometimes as negotiating is near impossible with a PD parent). For example, "I'm sorry x is going on. That must be difficult. We do need to figure out y though. I was hoping I could do z to make y happen." Our BM loves attention and sympathy, so leading with empathy usually works for us. However, this tactic does not work for many of the others here. So communication can be trial and error. And if our BM is in a TERRIBLE mood, nothing will work. We just have to stop responding and wait for another day.

We also try to keep all communication written, via either email or text (some prefer to have a separate email account that is just for parent communications).

Look up the stuff about JADE on this site, too. It's how not to respond. Don't Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain.

Penny and SL are spot on with trying your best to not get the kids stuck in the middle. Some of what you can say/talk about with the kids depends on their age. You can't really ever come out and say "BM's being difficult..." A lot of us here do have practice/ideas about wording, so please feel free to ask how to say something to the kids. We will brainstorm together. :)

As SL said, stick to the custody agreement 100%. If you start giving BM more time she will expect more later and will give you nothing in return.

And self-care! If you need a break from the drama, don't feel bad to tell your SO that you just don't know what is going on for like a day or whatever. Also, if SO and I are having a date-night, we will not look at her messages. Usually she knows when we have plans and tries to throw a wrench in them/ruin our night with her drama. We try to put her on the back burner for the night. You can even limit when you will read/respond. Like if you only want to deal with her from 5-9 pm, tell her any messages before/after will be ignored until the next communication window unless it's an emergency. And if she texts you out of that window and it's not an emergency, then ignore until your approved time (probably what she thinks is an emergency is not really one, or just doesn't care about your boundaries). I can't do this as I would worry about what she said, but a lot of people do set limits like this. Just find what works best for you. :)

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Associate of Daniel

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2019, 06:10:14 PM »
I'm the  BM in my situation.

My uNPD exH is married to an uNPD woman.

From my experience here are a few suggestions:

Have your H do all the communicafion. (Email only)  Do not have any communication with her at all yourself.

Do not attend any of the children's medical appointments. (Unless in an emergency and you are the only adult available.)

Do not fill out any forms regarding the child.  (Medical or school) Do not speak to authorities on behalf of the biological parents.

Do not be over the top with physical affection of your step children in front of BM.

Do not tell BM how to parent their children - especially in front of the children.

Do not have whispered conversations with the children in front of BM.

Do not bad mouth either parent to the child.

Do not attend every sports game and traing session of the children's chosen sport.

Do not become the coach and team manager of said sport (unless you were already involved before stepchildren, perhaps).

I'm sure it probably wouldn't occur to you to do any of these things, as you're a non.  I'm just listing what I'm having to deal with.

All of these Do Nots I suggest as things I, as the BM, wish the uSmum wouldn't do.

But if the BM in your situation is uNPD, it's also for your own sanity and peace in your home.

AOD

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Penny Lane

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2019, 06:59:44 PM »
I would agree with everything AOD says and generally reinforce: Even if you don't like or respect the ex as a person, you must respect them as a parent. Or at least their authority as a parent (you don't have to believe that they're a GOOD parent). This is for the sake of the kids. It's not good for them to have one set of parents undermining the other. Even if the other parent is undermining you guys, it's not good for the kids to have you do the same.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't help them deal with the other parent's bad behavior, in an age-appropriate way. But always keeping in mind that however difficult the other parent, they are still the kids' parent.

I will say, I do try very hard to not usurp parenting responsibilities that should be left for the kids' mom. But when you're dealing with a PD, they are likely to fall down on their parenting responsibility over and over to the point where other adults have to pick up the slack for the sake of the kids. It can feel weird and awkward like I'm trying to be their mom when I really am not. But I think that goes back to, you need to be coming from a place of respecting her as a parent. There is no perfect answer, you just have to try to find the right balance. It's very hard.

I also want to expand on this:

Do not bad mouth either parent to the child.

If one parent is a PD, the kids have likely been exposed to a lot of conflict between their parents. And kids, especially young kids, need to hear good things about both of their parents. What I found is that my stepkids know their parents don't get along so they try not to say ANYTHING about their mom to H, and I assume vice versa. I started out from a much more neutral place with her (at least as far as they know). So I try to be a haven for them at our house, where they can talk about good stuff they do at her house without having to worry about causing tension between the parents. And what I've found is that helps them open up about the bad stuff too - which gives us an opportunity to help them out. Since I met them they've seen her scream at me, stuff like that, but by that point we'd already established that openness and I think that dynamic survived the tension.

Conversely, I know their mom says a lot of bad stuff about DH. So I look for ways to say actively positive things about him, too. "Look at your dad, out there mowing in the hot weather so that none of us have to do it!" "I just love how thoughtful your dad is" "Look at this cool thing your dad made!" Etc. I do think that counteracts the negative messages they hear about him the other half the time.

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renogal

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2019, 01:52:42 AM »
Thank you everyone for your advice.  I am the bonus mom to the kiddos. I do not directly try to co parent with mom.., however recently a couple situations have put Me in the spotlight.  Mom is very very threatened by my relationship with the kids 10, 12 and 15.   We have custody 50/50 week on week off.  I have my own two kids (12 and 17) full time.   Birth mom has recently requested a solo meeting with me, however I won’t put myself in this situation unless an attorney present.  Birth mom likes to alter reality and make up lies, about situations that involve the kids trying to generate sympathy from others. 

This past weekend, bonus daughter 15 said over dinner “well things definitely would be much easier if you dad, and mom, didn’t try to make things as difficult as possible for each other’.”  While my husband was having a literal gasp of breath, I responded “well X, we will respectfully disagree on that statement”.  When he could speak again, dad said - I agree. I was wondering how you would respond and looked at me. 
Birth mom makes EVERYTHING difficult. Every single thing. 
Their 10 year old opened up so much this weekend that her dad and I scheduled an appointment with her therapist.  I listened, offered suggestions and when home with her dad - I cried for her, my heart broken.    Birth mom grills her about every single interaction with me.  To the point, she has to conceal simple things. 

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athene1399

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2019, 09:12:35 AM »
BM wanted a meeting with me too so she could tell me how terrible and abusive SO is. I respectfully declined. She's also threatened to call the cops on me a few times for complete bs reasons. I totally understand what a pain a PD parent can be. Anytime we do not agree with her it used to cause a fight until we discovered how not to JADE. BM tries to cheat the system at all times and scam us out of money while not paying us back for things she is court ordered to pay for. We also started just not responding to stuff if her request is ridiculous and we know saying no will cause a fight. That works well too.

I don't think there is a real way to co parent with a PD parent. Parallel parenting may be your best option. If you google it, a lot of sites will pop up. It's basically lowering the contact between parents because one is high conflict. The worst part is the kids usually get drawn into the middle. The hardest part is keeping them out of the middle. Often the PD parent will make the kids feel that they have to choose them and side with them. Giving unconditional love and support in a stable environment at your home will be helpful to the kids. Maybe ask their Ts what are age appropriate ways to discuss BM's mental health with them. They may feel guilty for how she acts. Like they may feel guilty for "causing" BM's rages.

It's a real tough situation to be in.  :bighug: I am sorry you are going through it.


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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2019, 05:06:12 PM »
Good call, Penny Lane.

My partner and I both do a lot of praising each other, as you suggested.  Just noticing out loud the good things.  We know that my ex is telling the kids whooping lies about how evil we are (my favorite is that I am allegedly in a cult of violence and that I am trying to raise the children to join.  This stems from the fact that I train a martial art, which oddly enough, is focused on discipline and wise choices surrounding the use of force).  So we just describe what is happening a lot both in passing and directly to each other.

The kids can take what they see and compare it to what their dad says. 

Sometimes they tell us things like, "Dad says StepDad is a horrible person."  And we say, "Well, does your dad spend time over here?"  ["No."] "Okay, well, you guys are here and see how things go here.  That makes you pretty good sources.  So what do you think?"  They are 7 and 9 and we get sweet, earnest answers.  Mileage might vary on teenagers, lol.
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Stepping lightly

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2019, 05:26:19 PM »
BM tried to force me to meet with her 1:1 for a long time too, I refused.  A judge actually forced us into a room, along together for like 30 minutes...it was horrifying!  All she did was try to convince me that DH was abusive, and I kept trying to discuss the children.  She tried to force the issue with me through therapists, I refused.  Because of it, she told the children, "SL never should have married a man with children if she doesn't want to be a parent", which was really amazing to me because at that very time I was undergoing fertility treatments to...become the parent I didn't want to be apparently.  The PC tried to force me into parent meetings, I again refused, and even had to tell her that I was undergoing the treatments and needed to stay as far away from BM as possible.  BM resorted to sending me letters against therapist and PC instructions.  Nothing like having evidence hand delivered to your front door!
This past weekend, bonus daughter 15 said over dinner “well things definitely would be much easier if you dad, and mom, didn’t try to make things as difficult as possible for each other’.”  While my husband was having a literal gasp of breath, I responded “well X, we will respectfully disagree on that statement”. 
I think your response was fine, you have to keep in mind that they are in the middle of such chaos, all they see is chaos.  I might suggest responding with something like, "I know it may seem that way, and that is not our intention.   We truly make decisions based on what we feel is best for you. What would make this situation a bit easier on you?" 


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Associate of Daniel

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2019, 08:02:07 PM »
I have exactly the same 2 situations - uNPD wife of my uNPD exH (smum to ds12) wanting to meet with me to "sort out our differences", and ds occasionally saying he wishes his uNPD father and his mother (me) would stop arguing.

On the first, at her first request I said no. Her 2nd request, I said yes, then I changed it to no but would do seperate counselling with the same counselor. We both went to our individual meetings with said counselor then uNPD smum pulled out.

3rd request, I said yes to individual counselling with same counselor.  I had my initial meeting, uNPD smum had a few email and phone exchanges with the counselor then announced that both the counselor and I are liars and manipulators and she won't have anything to do with such people (why is she with my uNPD exH then?), and she pulled out.

4th request, a couple of months ago, I said no.

All of her requests have taken place over about 3 and a half years.

The reason I agreed on those 2 occasions was so that I could look ds in the eye and say that I'd tried. I knew that counselling wouldn't work but at least I could say that I'd tried.

Regarding ds saying that his uNPD father and I argue all the time - all of our communication is done by email.

Unfortunately, uNPD exH has recently decided that he will show ds all of our communications.

We don't argue. I might request something of uNPD exH. He'll say no, accompanied by a long rant.  I don't respond, or I write a short "ok. Thanks." and that's the end of that communication.

Or uNPD exH will make a request (demand/tell me what I'm going to do). Sometimes I'll say sorry but can't do.  Cue his raging accusatory email. I don't respond.

So there's no arguing. There's just him raging.

Unfortunately ds12 only understands that as us arguing.

I don't know how to explain it to ds. And I'm not going to show him the emails. (He's already seen them at his uNPD father's place anyway.) But I do like Stepping Lightly's suggestion on this situation.

So, all of the above to say you're not alone.

Do keep us up to date

AOD


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Arkhangelsk

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2019, 12:49:30 PM »
AOD,
Oh, the old let me show you the emails trick!  I love that one.

When I write communications to my ex I always write them as if both my kids and a judge will read them.  I know I have likely made a few errors, but I am also exhausted about putting so much energy in.  So, like you, I go for short as possible.

PDs like to take what IS and call it something else.  So, you and I know that we are not arguing.  Our kids, however, have a hard time discerning that we are not arguing when their other parent tells them we are.  I would not pull the emails out at your house.  I would work to increase discernment skills in unrelated areas and point out examples of people labeling things one way, when they do not really look the way they are being labeled.  We have plenty of that in our political area right now, so there is fodder for this.

But arrrrrgh.  it is so frustrating.  My kids have made very similar reports about what their dad says about our communications.  One thing I did say to them was that I think of them and how much I love them and want to care for them every time I communicate with their dad.  I also said, that I felt very sure that, when they were adults, if they ever were to go back and read what I wrote, I hope they would find it to be fair most of the time - because I think fair is important and that is what I work for. 

I hope that by putting the focus on me and what I am trying to do, instead of responding by characterizing their dad in any way gives them some space to come to their own conclusions. 

Sigh.  We have to play a very long game.

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Magnolia34

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Re: Attempting to coparent with spouses ex
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2019, 04:40:54 PM »
I do agree with Penny Lane here...

"I will say, I do try very hard to not usurp parenting responsibilities that should be left for the kids' mom. But when you're dealing with a PD, they are likely to fall down on their parenting responsibility over and over to the point where other adults have to pick up the slack for the sake of the kids. It can feel weird and awkward like I'm trying to be their mom when I really am not. But I think that goes back to, you need to be coming from a place of respecting her as a parent. There is no perfect answer, you just have to try to find the right balance. It's very hard."

Were our BM very involved and showed up for events and activities I would probably back off a little bit. But she doesn't even help the youngest with his homework on her weeks more or less show up to school meetings, plays, concerts, etc. I don't deal with medical things, DH does (unless, like someone said, I'm the only one available). But I think it's really important that if BM isn't going to show up to important events, that the kids have as many people there who support and care about them as possible. The times that BM has bothered to attend we do our best to slip in and out, not making a show about anything. But I STRONGLY believe that if she isn't going to show up for them the way they deserve then I'm absolutely going to be there.