NATIONAL EX-SPOUSE DAY: THE POWER OF MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR PAST

April 13th

2023

family trip together

Breakups are always hard, especially when kids are involved. But hanging on to excess baggage from your past won’t serve you well in your current relationships, including with your co- parent. If you’ve been waiting for the right occasion to let go of lingering negative feelings, your time has come! In honor of National Ex- Spouse Day on April 14th, this week’s newsletter will inspire and motivate co-parents everywhere, whether you’re separated, divorced, or never married, to make peace with what was and lean in to what will be.

The Gist

National Ex-Spouse Day, on April 14th this year, was founded in the 1980s to encourage people to process their grief over separation or divorce and find peace and closure in their past relationships.

Studies show that holding on to negative feelings, such as resentment or anger toward your parenting partner, causes stress and decreases physical, mental, and emotional well- being. High-conflict co-parenting situations have a similar impact on co-parents and children alike.

Releasing negative thoughts towards or about your ex helps you to move forward in your co- parenting. To do this, you can acknowledge your feelings, seek and recognize the positives, set boundaries for your new relationship, and focus on your own future goals and dreams.


An Unusual Holiday with a Special Purpose

If you search long enough, you can find a “national day” for just about anything under the sun, and many of them are meant to be fun and fluffy. National Ex-Spouse Day, however, is an exception; it was founded in 1987 by a reverend whose intent was to encourage people to let go of negative feelings after a difficult breakup or divorce (Read more) And there's a good reason for this. Research supports that holding on to intense, unresolved, or ambivalent feelings can impact physical and mental health and lower your quality of life. High-conflict co-parenting situations can be particularly impactful not only for the adults involved but also for children. Studies have shown a strong correlation between parental conflict and negative outcomes for kids, with higher levels of hostility leading to more problems. Conversely, the scientific evidence also shows that lowering conflict can have the opposite effect, for both co-parents and kids (Read more).

To learn more about the impact of conflict on Co- parenting, check out our previous newsletter on the topic:
Conflict in Co-Parenting: From Chaos to Calm

Furthermore, in the same way that falling in love releases “feel good” hormones, ending a romantic relationship can cause causes actual chemical changes to the body that can leave us stuck and hold us back. As human beings, we are wired to seek connection with others and thus it follows that when those connections are severed it causes us great stress. Our bodies release cortisol and oftentimes our “flight or flight” responses are triggered. These reactions aren’t conducive to productivity or higher-order thinking or problem-solving; instead, they lead us to what we commonly refer to as “heartbreak.” However, once we break through to the other side of our heartbreak, major growth can take place.

So, in keeping with this holiday, let’s dive in and let the healing begin!


A Cautionary Word Before We Begin

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “If forgiving my ex was so easy, wouldn’t I have done it already?” We understand that it may feel unrealistic, or even unnatural, to shift your viewpoint. All humans have the tendency toward a negativity bias (read more) ; that is, our brains find negative experiences or concepts more salient than positive ones, they stick with us longer, and hold more power over us. Furthermore, there may be times when you need to be exceedingly careful about how you handle your thoughts and interactions with your parenting partner. If you have experienced intimate partner violence, any form of physical or emotional abuse, or otherwise have reason to fear your well-being with him/her, you must prioritize your safety above all else. Abusive behavior is NEVER excusable, under any circumstances.

Note: Exposure to any amount of violence- verbal, emotional, or physical- is traumatic and needs immediate intervention.

Even in the absence of any immediate safety concerns, there may still be circumstances in which the idea of “making peace” with your ex can be traumatic. However, “making peace” may be just what you need to overcome your triggers and take back your power.

Sometimes, anger precedes grief, and we hold on to being mad at our exes because it feels more “comfortable” to handle than sadness at the demise of our past relationship. This instinct doesn’t serve us in the long-term because it blocks us from moving forward. Instead, let’s talk about how we can process through our negativity and get to a place of acceptance so that we can truly take charge of our future.


Making Peace With Your Past

Your journey to healing may vary depending upon your personality and the specifics of your relationship with your co-parent. The steps below are intended as a general guideline, but please allow that your process will be unique to you and adapt as you need to!

  • Shift the balance by acknowledging the positives and expressing gratitude.
    NOW is when the process of letting go really begins. Whatever your mind gives attention to, you’ll get more of. Therefore, to shift out of your negative mindset, you’ll need to actively look for and acknowledge the positive. Journal, make a list, or discuss with a loved one or professional the gifts you have been given as a result of your relationship, and also the gifts you have been given as a result of your separation. Even if you feel like you’re reaching at first, you’ll eventually generate momentum and perhaps find that there’s more good happening than you noticed previously. You can take things to the next level by involving others in expressions of gratitude; for example, share with your co-parent what you appreciate about him/her, give a compliment, or say a genuine “thank you.”
  • Accept where you are in the present.
    It may seem contradictory, but trust us, it’s necessary. Allow yourself to recognize where you are at present in your thoughts and feelings about your co-parent. Skipping this step and attempting to suppress them will only make them pop up again in the future, perhaps stronger even than before. You need to truly allow yourself to experience all your emotions without judging yourself for it. While you’re at it, go ahead and try to allow your co-parent and your child their own feelings without passing judgment on those, either. In doing so, you’re giving them the gift of empathy that will strengthen your connection in the future.
  • Focusing on YOU:
    In the end, the only person whose behavior you can control is your own. Use this to your benefit! Perhaps your newfound positivity and acceptance will rub off on your co-parent and he/she will respond in kind. But even if it doesn’t, you can maintain your healthy attitude. You’ll now get back all the energy you used to spend being angry or resentful of your ex; what will you choose to do with it? Focus your mind on envisioning a future for yourself and your child.
  • Set boundaries:
    You share a child and are co-parenting, so your relationship doesn’t end just because you let go of past issues. Instead, it will need to morph into something new, something that can still be healthy and loving and focused on your family. Think about how you’d like your relationship with your parenting partner to look moving forward. How often will you interact? How often will you communicate on matters unrelated to your child? Will you maintain your social media connections? Share info about new romantic interests? It’s important to know yourself well and set boundaries that will support your wellbeing; This is not a reflection of selfishness or weakness but it is essential, being that your health will impact the wellness of your family unit and those around you.

One Chapter Ends; Another One Begins. Start yours on a healthy note.

No co-parenting journey is linear; you, your parenting partner, and your child will have ups and downs. Making peace with your past doesn’t guarantee that your relationship with your co-parent will be smooth sailing, but it does guarantee that you will be moving forward rather than standing still. Let go of the weight of anger and resentment and revel in the freedom it brings you to fulfill your co-parenting dreams.


 

Still Struggling? Koh-Parenting Can Help!

Check out our learning guides that can help you on your co-parenting journey.

Koh-Parenting Learning Guides
 

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC


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