Jessica: Does the term harmonious co-parenting make you smile or cringe? Would you want to know the best ways to create harmony and peace with your co-parent? We know what a challenge it can be, especially when you think it’s impossible. But on today’s episode of the Divorce etc… podcast, we’re doing a deep dive so you can learn the methods that will help keep things functional with your co-parent. We’re the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We help you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Make sure to follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS, and go to www.exexperts.com for more free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: Hey guys, it’s T.H. here. Luke Entrup is a leadership and men’s coach, but that really doesn’t do him justice. I mean, you’re going to learn so much during this episode, so we’re just going to get right to it. I’m going to welcome Luke to the show.
Luke: Hey, thank you for having me. Thanks for having me. I’m so happy to be here, Jessica and T.H.
Jessica: Thanks for joining us. I’ve heard so much about you, like I said, from the things that T.H. has been saying. But honestly, I’m very fascinated by this whole concept of harmonious co-parenting.
T.H.: Right, and Jessica, the thing is—
Jessica: Although I do harmoniously co-parent for the most part.
T.H.: I harmoniously co-parent too, but in a different way. But don’t think that harmonious co-parenting—did I say that right? It sounded weird—only applies to amicable divorces.
T.H.: Because mine was anything but. It continues to be a business transaction, and we do harmoniously co-parent. Let’s get right into this. What does that really even mean?
Luke: Yeah, well, I can only speak for myself and my own experience around this. For me, this has meant really investing a lot of time and attention on putting the children at the center of the relationship. That’s the big thing that shifted through divorce is the relationship became less about our relationship with each other and more about a focus on the children. Putting the children at the center, it becomes this lens through which we can choose how we’re relating to our co-parent a bit differently. We know that we’re no longer there to meet each other’s emotional needs, needs around intimacy and partnership. When that relationship shifts, it frees up the possibility of putting the kids at the center, and maybe that unlocks a bit more harmony.
Jessica: I feel even just to have you stop right there, because I think that what you just said is so poignant, I don’t know that people think about it the way that you just said it. When you get divorced, your ex partner is no longer responsible for your needs. They are not responsible for your emotional needs, for your intimacy needs, everything that you just said. I actually feel that was like a holy shit. I feel everyone’s like, “Why won’t they do this?” and “I can’t believe they do it like this.” That’s back to Kate Anthony, that’s not their fucking problem.
T.H.: Right, right.
Jessica: I kind of love that.
Luke: Yeah, the tension often is based in unmet needs. There’s a reason why divorce happens, right? There’s a reason why my marriage ended. There were unmet needs there. When we’ve liberated each other from the role of partner and create a new family structure that is purely based on co-parenting, it frees up the unmet needs and the resentment in me so that I can truly focus on being a good father, being a good co-parent.
Jessica: Even the words that you’re using, when you’re liberated from having to meet people’s needs—
T.H.: I told you, this guy. I told you.
Jessica: I feel like it’s so freeing just listening to you talk.
Jessica: People need to think about it that way. Talk a little bit about that for a second, like liberating yourself from where you were to where you need to be.
Luke: Yeah. Well, when we fall in love with someone, there’s a deep imprint that happens, right? There’s ways of relating to them that get concretized. As a relationship shifts, for me, in my case, it became clear we could no longer meet each other’s needs in the way that we needed to. It led to a lot of resentment. It led to a lot of challenge. Some part of my heart and the way that I give and receive love was very much wrapped up in that with her. Once that relationship was no longer the primary place where I was giving and receiving deep, intimate love in partnership, it frees up the possibility to focus on the kids. For me, I think, and in lot of the folks that I coach, the idea here is lead with a lot of generosity. One of the things I did early in the divorce process was I just said I am going to take care of her. I’m not going to fight her for every dollar. I’m going to end up giving her probably a little bit more than I would give her if lawyers were involved. I’m going to actually pay her for longer. Just come with a spirit of generosity, whether that’s financially or around schedule flexibility. Just really, really open with generosity, with the hope that that would in turn come back to me, that generosity would be returned. There’s this generative quality in our relationship that I really worked hard on, in spite of still feeling all the resentment and all of the challenges of being in a marriage that was wholly unsatisfying. I think at the core of this idea of harmonious co-parenting is to bring a spirit of generosity. My goodness, what that can open up, right?
T.H.: That is just everybody really needs to listen to this episode maybe a few times, even from this part, and rewind before we’ve even gotten through it. When you let go of resentment and anger in general, and that’s what happened, this is where we are now, you will breathe so much better. You’ll sleep at night. Trust me. You have to really try it. When you stop playing the blame game, as soon as one of you—and you can be the one who says, “You know what? I’m not engaging like this anymore”—you’re going to set a new standard for the way that you do interact with the kids being the focus, right? Is that kind of what you’re saying?
Luke: Yeah. I mean, the cycle of aggression needs to end at some point. For me, in my journey around this, I just decided, I took this to a rather extreme place where I said, “I am responsible for this marriage failing. I take 100% responsibility for my part in that. Had I shown up differently in the marriage, it would have probably gone differently.” That invited her to do the same thing, essentially. We had this mutual understanding that we both let each other down, but we also needed to move on. Then in doing so, she’s the mother of my children, I told her, “I’m going to take care of you. You are the mother of my children. I’m going to take care of you.” That just frees up the possibility of not being stuck in the resentment. Now, it was super important for me that I had a place where I could take my resentments—this is the thing. I have my own psychotherapist. I have a men’s group that I work with. I worked with a coach through this whole process from the year before I was divorced, all the way through the divorce, and then a couple of years after. I had somebody that was a relationship coach that was guiding me through, and that’s part of what I do now. I help men through this process where I was bringing all of my resentments that I had and felt justified in having, so I didn’t have to necessarily bring all that to her and get into those old, sticky, messy dynamics, having places where you can metabolize some of those feelings.
Jessica: Just so that people know, how long were you married for and how old were your kids when you got divorced?
Luke: Let’s see. We were married for eight years, but we had known each other for about a decade before that—dated for about a decade before that. Our kids were three and six.
Jessica: Okay. I’m curious, for people watching who are going through the process with a 13 year old and a 16 year old. I have often said I feel in many ways that my divorce was easier because my kids were younger. Don’t misunderstand me, the divorce sucked. But my kids were so young that that’s what they grew up with. I don’t think the adjustment for them was so jarring because they were two and four. It’s like they went where we told them to go, and that’s what they were used to, going back and forth. That’s just how it was. How do you think that things, not necessarily how would they be different, but how would you apply things differently for people listening who have older kids?
Luke: Well, just to your point, my son who’s older, he had a much more difficult time because he was more used to the old way of being. But at the end of the day, I think what children want, this is just my guess and how I’ve kind of oriented my own parenting is, first of all, they want the loving presence of their parents. They want that dropped in time away from screens where their parents are really present with them, reading to them, or giving them attention, or being curious about their life, whether they’re 16 or 6 or 3. That’s what our children want from us. I can tell you I am a heck of a better parent as a divorced parent than in an unhappy marriage. Part of it is because I’m much more happy in my life and I have more life energy and just more vibrancy in my life because I’m no longer in an unhappy marriage. But there’s this other thing that happens, maybe especially with men, I don’t know, but where I’m a full time parent half the time.
Luke: To be a full time parent half the time means I cannot outsource my children’s emotional needs, their needs around navigating tough social situations. I make food for them, I make all their meals, and I am much deeper in their world and understand their world in a deeper way because they’re with me full time half the time. What a beautiful gift. I mean, it’s a gift for me, obviously, but I think it’s actually a gift for the children as well to have parents that are actually present and want to know what’s happening in their world.
Jessica: I totally agree with that.
T.H.: I totally agree with that. Because in most or in many marriages, one person has certain responsibilities, another has other responsibilities, and then on the weekends, games and carpooling and whatever. To just be able to sit with your kids and spend time is really a gift. We were talking about it earlier. If you didn’t appreciate it then, since COVID, you definitely appreciate it now. I mean, my kids were all home from college. I don’t even cook. I cooked, I baked, we walked, we did all of the things that really matter. You cannot get time back. If you’re not going to be present in your children’s lives and you’re going to be occupied with the anger you have towards your ex, you’re the one missing out.
Jessica: That’s right. That’s so true.
T.H.: Your kids are going to grow and they’re not even going to want to go to your house on the weekends because they’re with their friends all weekend. Then they want to go to college, and then they want to whatever. You’re going to be like, “That was bad. I’m so alone.”
Jessica: Right, you’re going to spend all of your time being pissed.
T.H.: Yeah, absolutely.
Jessica: Yeah, totally. On that note, let’s get back into the harmonious co-parenting part of it. How do you find that peace and harmony in a co-parenting relationship where you think your partner is an asshole, and you think there’s no way—I can’t even have a conversation with them?
Luke: Yeah, well, it’s definitely a process. I see some people agreeing here. It was a process for me, and I think for most people, it is a process. It’s not a thing where you can just snap your fingers in one day and the person that you’re divorcing is now somehow miraculously a source of harmony, right? Once that shift happens where you realize you’re not meeting each other’s needs, I think there’s some things we can do structurally in the relationship that really enable better flow of information. A few things that I do regularly with my co-parent, we schedule, once a month, an hour where we sit down together and we just focus on our relationship. It’s usually in the form of clearing up resentments and things that have happened over the month.
T.H.: Right, you called it the clearing process. Let’s talk about the clearing process.
Luke: The clearing process, it’s super important. We have a very tight structure that we use. It’s called intentional dialogue. Basically, it goes something like this, where I’ll ask her, “Do you have anything that you need to clear with me?” She’ll say, “Yes. When you said this, this, and this; the story that I made up about you was this; and how I felt was this, this, and this; and what I really want or need from you is this, this, and this.” Then I repeat back, we go really slow. Each of those steps, I repeat back to make sure that I’m understanding her. Then at the end, I can decide whether I can meet that need or not. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I just tell her, “Yeah, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way. I can’t really do that.” Or “Yes, I can do better in this area.” Then it’s my turn and I do the same thing and I clear. For us at this point, it takes like, 20, 30 minutes. I notice the months that we don’t do it, things get a little backed up, maybe at drop off or if we’re coordinating about something, things can be a little testy. There are things that happen under the surface that then manifest in how we’re communicating and coordinating around the children. If we don’t clear that up, it becomes a problem. Thankfully, I have a co-parent that’s really committed to—
Jessica: I was going to say, I mean, you really need someone who’s on board with that. Despite the fact that I have a very amicable relationship with my kids’ dad, the truth of the matter is I have been feeling like things have been getting a little backed up over the last couple of months. We had an aggressive text exchange today, and you’re making me think that I should call and say—
T.H.: That might not be a bad idea.
Jessica: —“You know what? I feel we should sit down and clear the air.”
Jessica: I’m inspired by you, Luke. Yeah. Yeah.
Luke: Yeah, and that’s all it takes is one person to say, “Look, I really care about this relationship. It’s super important that we keep this clear. I know we’ve let a few things build up. I know I’ve got a couple of things on my mind or my heart that I want to clear up with you. I’m guessing you probably have something as well. I’m totally available and can hear that. Let’s schedule a time where we both know that’s the conversation we’re having.” That’s a once a month conversation that I just view as relationship maintenance, right? If it doesn’t happen, things start to break. It’s like a regular maintenance.
Jessica: Yeah, right. I just need you to send me that in writing so I can copy and paste that into a—
T.H.: We have it recorded. We’re going to have a transcript of it.
Jessica: Right. I’ve got it transcribed.
T.H.: You know what? Just send him this episode.
Jessica: That’s right.
T.H.: And then you’ll be good to go.
Jessica: That’s right.
T.H.: But that is the difference between an amicable and a contentious divorce. Although I do know Nikki and Ben, Our Happy Divorce, they had a contentious divorce and now they have since been very amicable as co-parents. But I feel I need to be proactive in protecting myself and everything, and he doesn’t care about my feelings, so I would almost be setting myself up. How do you know that you can do a clearing process with someone? What are the criteria? I know for me, it’ll never happen—even if I put out the olive branch, he’ll just go on about all the things that I’m terrible at.
Luke: Yeah, that’s a very complex situation. I think, for us, I talked about the shift in the relationship where we could no longer meet each other’s needs. There was a period where we separated in that way from each other. Then a couple of years later, we went back and said, “Here are some resentments that I’m still hanging on to around our marriage and our intimate relationship,” it combined, clearing those old resentments. I had to hear some very painful things from her about how she experienced me as a partner, and same thing. But then it also included appreciation. It wasn’t just putting the other person on blast. It’s also like, “These are what I appreciate about you as a human and as a mother and co-parent.” It allowed a bit of a reset in the relationship, but that then opened up the possibility of this ongoing clearing. For some people, that’s not going to be possible. You don’t want to just open yourself up in a way that feels like you’re just going to be attacked, right? At the same time, this is classic conflict resolution—somebody has to give. If we can be the ones to say, “Look, I know you’ve got a lot of frustration and anger with me. I am here and I want to hear it. I just want you to know that I care about the relationship enough to let you get things off your chest that you need to get off your chest.” For some people, that will be enough and you can move past it. Others, they’re just not wired that way or they haven’t done enough deep examination in their own self to be able to process in that way, right?
T.H.: 100%. Look, you really have nothing to lose, right? You really don’t have much to lose in giving it a shot if you’re feeling like, maybe I’ll give it a shot. But we’re going to pause for a quick moment here. Did you guys know that in addition to the Divorce etc… podcast, we have an awesome newsletter? We don’t clutter your inbox. Instead, we connect through our personal stories, and give you a laugh and tons of valuable divorce tips. Wait, there’s more. You’ll also gain exclusive access to our exEXPERTS Divorce Rulebook, which you’ll use even when your divorce is over, as a gentle reminder that you have a voice, you have choices, and you are not alone. Sign up at www.exexperts.com. You don’t know what you don’t know, but we do.
Jessica: Luke, I want to ask you, because you literally just said there was a period of time initially after the divorce you guys weren’t really getting along, you went your own ways and then brought it back together, and since then have started this monthly relationship management. But what was the conversation to start it? Because I’m sure there are a lot of people listening who think, “It’s already been too long. I wouldn’t even know how to approach that and how to broach that conversation because we get along so badly.” What’s the advice?
Luke: Yeah, I think the question is sitting in your own heart. How much is the relationship still holding you back? Is the relationship functional enough to be able to hold and metabolize a conversation like that? Some just aren’t, and I think that’s the reality, right? But I noticed I was hanging on to some resentment and I had some things that were unfinished with her that I just needed to say, and I needed to honor her. I felt not only had I been holding back resentment, I’d been holding back appreciation for her as the mother of my children. I’d been essentially withholding love. I needed to free up the relationship, and so that’s when I went back. For her, she was on a similar path where she was looking at all of this. We kind of were talking about it together like, “We’ve got some things we’ve got to clear up still.”
Jessica: How long had that period been of not getting along before you broached that conversation?
Luke: Yeah, I mean, I think it was less about not getting along, and it was more like it just went a bit dormant. We didn’t really talk about the relationship much. We just talked about the children, right? It was like the resentments went under surface, as did the appreciation. It was probably a year when we started talking about it. Actually, she brought it to me first. She just said, “We were friends long before we were lovers and partners. I just feel like I’ve lost a friend. I have love for you that I want to share. I know we’re not meant to be married anymore, but we have children together, and I need more peace and appreciation in the relationship.” It was her that actually initiated it, and that caused me to realize I’m hanging on to some resentment here and I’m withholding love. It was a beautiful kind of call out or call in on her part initially, which was about a year in. Then it took months, it probably took a full year before we worked through all of that to the point where we are now.
T.H.: I have to say it’s really, really fantastic. It’s fantastic in that you have each done your own work for yourselves. Because we all have stuff that we come into relationships with, and then life, and then it builds and it builds. Then now here you are not happily married—I’m not pointing you out. All company here, not happily married. You have children. There was a plan, like, how did we get here? All of the stress of the process and business of divorce just makes you an angry, mean human being. No one’s going through that skipping along. They’re just not. It’s so much. For you to be able to put that away, “Okay, that was done,” for me to put it away and say, “Okay, that was done. That’s in the past. What kind of a relationship do I want to have going forward? Who do I want in my life?” I mean, it could be your ex. It could also be your family that you can have this clearing process with. I’m sure many of us feel that way about our mothers, or whoever, your siblings. I just think that this is such a healthy way to be checking in with people who you really want in your life, and certainly your ex because of the connection with the kids. But even the bigger picture, for you to be a happy person in your life, you need to have the right people around you. If someone is off, or things are going out in the wrong direction, then take care of it. Don’t just let it become something bigger and then you don’t have your friend anymore, or you don’t have this relationship with your co-parent anymore. I think that if it’s doable, you really have nothing to lose in putting out an olive branch.
Jessica: I also just want to add in yes, everyone’s relationships are different, and I understand that there are people who have specific issues that it’s never going to work. Like you and Kevin having that conversation, I get it’s not really going to be productive. But I just want to say, for people, where if you’re listening to this and you’re like, “God, that would be nice. It would be nice if we could do that,” it would also make a huge difference for your kids if you can do that. Because when you can get to that point and then you’re going to the pickup or you’re going to the games or you’re going to the kids school play or parent conferences, any situation where you have to be with them together, don’t think that they’re not picking up on the tension and the aggression that you’re each carrying around. If you and your co-parent are able to somehow work through that using this model, it will benefit your kids. There’s no question at all, 100%.
T.H.: And if you’re happier, your kids are going to be happier. I remember going to the games. I couldn’t sit further away from him. My stomach would hurt walking in the door. I would not acknowledge him. He would not acknowledge me. That’s not good for my kids. Mom’s all the way over there. Dad’s all the way there. Mom’s all the way over there. For me, it wasn’t going to happen. I wish it could have. But to be able to walk in and be like, “Hey, what’s going on? How was your day?” and sit together and be present for your children together, it’s a great gift if you can give it, honestly.
Luke: Yeah, it’s a massive gift. Had we not had children together, it’s a lot easier just to move on when a relationship falls apart, right? But the children force us to confront these tensions necessarily. I made this choice, which, in hindsight, I think was one of the more important choices I made, that I said to myself that I would not speak poorly about her in front of the children or anyone else, and I would not blame her for the marriage ending. I would always take responsibility myself and—
Jessica: You’re a special kind of guy, Luke. We can’t all live up to those statements.
T.H.: Wait, Luke, do you know how many phone calls and emails we’re going to get? Who’s this guy? Where does he live? Single? Is he out there? Like, what’s happening? Is he dating? Did he remarry? Everyone’s going to want you, just so you know.
Luke: That’s really funny. I’ll just say, though, it totally changed the energy for me when I made that decision, because I’m not spending so much time both being a victim around what happened in the marriage, but it also just set the tone around the kids where they knew that I was still on the same page with her, that we were still a unit, and that while we’re living in different houses and they’re having this back and forth experience, that there was some sort of solidarity with their parents. For me, that just felt super important to not trash her, to not talk poorly about her.
Jessica: Well, she’s a lucky girl too.
T.H.: But also when you put words out into the world, you’re the one who’s hearing it most often. The more you reinforce that negative language, whether I’m talking about him in front of the kids or not—you should definitely not talk in front of the kids—but the more you talk about it, the more consuming it is. That’s why we are all about being very careful when you join a Facebook group, because there are so many toxic ones out there that will just completely churn the hate and the anger and the resentment. Please stay away from them. They will not help you move forward. Talking about it with friends and trash talking your ex, you’re just making yourself believe it more and more, and you’re still sitting there. You can move on from it. Make a chart, almost like a swear jar or something, like penalize yourself. You’ll feel so much better. You just will. You don’t even want to talk about it. Why are you wasting your breath?
Luke: I couldn’t agree more. There’s something about where we place our attention that that’s what will grow. That being said, I had my men’s group, I had my therapist, I had my coach. That’s where I was bringing that in a place that people really had my back and they understood the context of my grievances and could help me work through it rather than just a constant state of complaint.
Luke: There’s this phrase, maybe you’ve heard it, but this idea around resentment, “Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Luke: Right? I think it’s like a twelve step statement. It’s just so relevant for this post divorce feeling of relationship where we just can hang on to the anger, the frustration, the righteousness, the resentment. At the end of the day, it’s really only causing a closure in our own hearts. For me, that was where a lot of this came from of needing to clear things up.
Jessica: We’ve talked before over the years about just the idea of the energy that you’re putting out. At the end of the day, that’s what it all comes back to. I might be aging myself, but remember back in the day, Oprah did that episode with the author from The Gift, I think it was called, and it was like groundbreaking. It really was like, what you’re putting out into the world is what you’re going to get back. And so, yes, again, I always have to preface, we know there are some people out there that are emotionally incapable, and your ex may be one of them, who is not able to harmoniously co-parent and be part of the process like this. But the truth is, if you have any capacity to be able to put out the positive energy and to be able to have appreciation for the things you can have appreciation for without being constantly disappointed by your needs that aren’t being met by the person who doesn’t have to meet your needs anymore, appreciate what’s in front of you and take that at face value, because that’s the energy that you’ll get back in the end.
T.H.: I want to say that even though I won’t do a clearing process with him, we do, for us, co-parent harmoniously. For us, within the limits and my boundaries for a relationship with him, and it’s all in an email, but it’s still communication. We take care of it so the kids are not involved. That I do do. There are ways to still have a harmonious co-parenting relationship—it may not be exactly the way that Luke and his ex do it, or the way Jess is going to do it with Daren soon. But even if you are coming from a bad marriage and just somebody who whatever, it’s just not going to be a relationship that I would put harmonious around it, but it’s workable. And so whatever efforts and steps you can take to have some communication, keep your kids out of it, whether it’s only an email, and you set up an agenda for a phone call, and you still have your boundaries up, the kids are still the focal point of all of that, and so you’re still achieving it in a different way. Don’t think it’s not possible. It just might look a little bit different.
Luke: Yeah. Hey, T.H., I have another idea for you too on top of that.
T.H.: Tell me.
Luke: Okay, so here’s one for you. What if you wrote a letter to him that was really just getting out all of the resentments that you still have about him and the marriage, and it allowed you to free your heart from any hanging threads of connection that don’t feel good, and he never sees this letter. It never sees the light of day.
Jessica: Oh, she’s done that.
Luke: You can burn in a fire. Okay, so you’ve done that. Then the next thing would be appreciating him, right? Like, appreciating him—
T.H.: I was going to say I can’t do the letter because I’m not sure I can say what I appreciate. It would be superficial what—look, I appreciate that my kids are financially supported and able to go to college and all of those things because he’s paying for it. There’s a lot behind that that I’m not going to get into on the show. That’ll be like behind the scenes with Luke. But I have put it all out there. Look, you have to have a great support team. I had a fantabulous therapist who helped me navigate all of this so that I could set up boundaries. I knew that I was responsible in my marriage because I allowed someone to treat me the way that he treated me. I permitted horrible behavior towards me in front of our kids, and I didn’t have a voice. And so that’s changed now. So you need support. I mean, Luke, where you are now with all the support that you have now, just so you guys know, he pays it forward with father and son groups to build that kind of a relationship between a father and their son—he’s working on other ones—but really starting at a young age when you’re so impressionable. You don’t have to be divorced to not have a great relationship with your parent.
T.H.: I mean there are plenty of bad marriages out there and plenty of bad parents. But yes, I think that definitely putting it all down to paper, put it in a voice memo, I boxed for two years, all of that helped, journaling. Having appreciation is a really big pill for me to swallow. I’m not sure I’ll get there, but I’ll get close. I feel like every time I have a compliment, there’s a little but associated to it, and it shouldn’t be that way.
Jessica: It’s a process.
Luke: Yeah, well, it’s a process. It’s a process, for sure. There is appreciation. I mean, financial support is not an insignificant thing. Especially for men, that is the way that as a culture, we’re taught that that is our value is through our ability to provide, right? Maybe some of that is a little weird, and that it shouldn’t be that way, but it is a sign. It’s a sign for a lot of men about what they care about is where their money goes. And so he’s taking care of your children. I hear appreciation from you in that regard.
T.H.: I appreciate that he’s taking care of the children financially. Yes.
Luke: Yeah. There’s one other area to this that I might add, which is around harmonious co-parenting. We have spent a lot of time making sure that our agreements around how we communicate are very clear, and that the schedule is very clear. We basically agree on the schedule a year ahead of time, and then we make trades, basically. We use Slack, basically, to communicate everything about the kids. Everything goes in there. We know that that’s where we communicate about things. We have spent a lot of time making sure the structure of our relationship is super clear, very, very, very clear. It’s taken years, five years, to get it to a point where there’s just very few opportunities for misunderstandings and confusion, and to really invest in making sure that everybody knows where we’re making decisions and how we’re making decisions and how we’re communicating about the kids, where all that’s happening, so that things don’t get fuzzy. Then that’s when there are often issues, right?
T.H.: Structure is critical.
Jessica: It is.
T.H.: Because then it eliminates other things. You’re avoiding so many other problems by having a plan that’s mutually agreed to.
Jessica: And also for relationships that are challenging, particularly in the beginning, that you don’t have to be on the defense, “This is the agreement. It’s my weekend. No.” And you don’t have to feel bad about it. I mean, this is in a completely different context, but I remember in the beginning, because T.H. and I were young when we got divorced, and our kids were really young, and so to be 36 and 38, we only had our kids half the time. It totally sucked. But I’m not going to lie, I had a crazy full time job with ridiculous hours that was all consuming. While the five days off—because we did 50/50, two nights every other weekend—five days is a long time without your kids. And so, yes, I was totally missing them, wanting them to come back. But the beginning part of those five days off was like sigh, because I could finally rest. I could finally breathe. I could have a little bit of my own life. I could go out with my friends. We used to say it’s the upside of divorce without having the guilt. I could not feel guilty about the fact that they had 50% time with their dad, and that that’s who they were with when they weren’t with me. I did not feel that I had to feel guilty about the fact that they weren’t with me during that time.
T.H.: Because you had a schedule that you would keep to. Yeah.
Jessica: Correct. I know people who are very inflexible about their schedules, and that’s okay, because you have that schedule to fall back on. The looser it is, the harder it is, and I think the more resentment can build when you’re not willing to give for this, give for that. I think that having that structure that you’re talking about is absolutely critical—
T.H.: That was critical was me.
Jessica: —almost like a helpful crutch to some extent when you had a challenging relationship.
T.H.: But it was critical for me because it manages expectations for my kids, for me, for my ex. I could plan, he could plan. Listen, it could change over the years as your kids grow up. I mean, now my kids are in their twenties and I’m still saying, “This is my Thanksgiving. This is your day.” I don’t want to let go of the schedule now.
Jessica: But the holidays are big. It’s not like you’re saying, “This weekend is mine and I can’t—” you know?
T.H.: But when they get older and they meet somebody else and they want to go to their family—
Jessica: That’s a whole other thing.
T.H.: All I’m saying is it will grow. Just have structure around it, manage expectations, and keep the peace as much as you can, don’t shit talk your ex, have great support, have a good team, and you will get there. If you really want to do anything, you can do it.
Jessica: Yeah, agreed.
T.H.: So, eye on the prize.
Jessica: Well, I have found this to be such an enlightening conversation and I feel like we have to continue it. But I mean, even for everyone listening, thinking back to the beginning of this conversation, and like T.H. said, rewind it, just even the words that Luke has been using through this conversation, the idea of liberation and letting it go and liberating yourself, it’s a way of rephrasing and resetting the way that you think about things, which I think can be very freeing. I particularly love the idea that you cannot forget that your ex partner is no longer responsible to meet your needs at all. It has to be all about the kids when you’re talking about that. If you can achieve that, then that is harmonious co-parenting.
T.H.: Hallelujah. I feel like we have to release this right away.
Jessica: Well, for everyone listening, if you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review. It really helps us by bumping us up on the podcast platforms, and then more people can find us and we can help them as they’re going through divorce and beyond. Check the show notes for more info on Luke and his coaching programs. And of course, share this episode with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.