The Secret to Co-parenting After a Divorce

Co-parenting means embracing each other's inner JekyllCo-parenting means embracing each other's inner JekyllRecently, Magda (my ex-wife) and I started a policy of getting together once a week or so for coffee, so we can confirm scheduling, compare notes about the kids (and the DARLING THINGS THEY SAY OMIGOSH), and check in ever so slightly about each other. State of the DisUnion, as it were. I can't speak for her, but I find these talks invaluable because they've told me so many things.

Like, for example, never to speak for her.

I know I sound Pollyannish when I say this, because there are plenty of divorced and divorcing parents whose searing, white-hot mutual hate is an unlimited, exothermic burst of pure awfulhood. But the thing about that kind of hate is that not interacting only makes it grow bigger. Without any new input, your fevered mind further de-humanizes your ex until the person you once loved as a human Jekyll takes the irrevocable, irredeemable form of a monstrous Hyde.

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I look at these coffees as a way for us to Jekyll Up.

Look, it's really hard to get your Jekyll on when you're both in Hyde Mode. Break-ups suck, especially when they end such a high-stakes commitment. If it's just a girlfriend, you can cut her out of your life entirely (unfriend her, unfollow her, uncircle her, unpin her, unwhateverthehellelse her). In that raw, emotional state, however, it's a slippery slope before you make her the scapegoat for everything wrong in your life:

Jessica broke my heart.
My life sucks because Jessica's no longer in it.
Jessica's the reason my life sucks.
My car needs a new carburetor. Dammit, Jessica!

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When you're divorcing with kids, you don't have that luxury. You have to treat the break-up like a puncture wound and bleed out all the impurities before you bandage it. This is why I think every pair of divorcing parents needs to be locked in adjacent, well-appointed, Hannibal Lecter-esque cells for a no-holds-barred yelling match, so they can get everything out in the open.

In specific circumstances, if both parties feel safe enough about it, they can be in the same room filled with heavily padded objects. That's sort of how our life was, when we lived together in a small Manhattan apartment for 18 months after we were estranged, and I like to think that's part of the reason we can meet in a room full of hot beverages and sharp corners and be fine together.

We can remember that beneath the high (Hyde?) drama of the break-up, each of us is a Jekyll, who enjoys triumphs, suffers disasters, laughs at the same ridiculous crap, and loves our boys more than anything.

(Editor's Note: Since Avengers Assemble opens in a couple weeks, you can use a Banner/Hulk simile instead. No big whoop.)

- By Doug French

For 10 tips on keeping your sanity while going through a divorce, visit Babble!


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Doug FrenchDoug FrenchDoug French is a writer and single dad who has written his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad, since June 2003. He is also co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit, an annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood. He has been profiled in or written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Huffington Post, and Parents magazine, and his writing has appeared in several parentcentric websites and blogging anthologies.

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