Submitted by M.B.
Happy New Year #WWHHW Family! I want to thank you all for CHOOSING to join this safe space as always and for allowing us to be an outlet/resource to your mental health journey.
Despite beginning in October 2022, we've helped connect numerous people with therapists/mental health professionals in their local areas, gain sponsorship from two different agencies, reach over 35 states in United States, and over 10 countries. We are a small platform but we are mighty. I am so excited to see what is in store for us for 2023!
I like to kick this year off with a topic that I've been getting in our chat box for over two months now: "Co-Parenting With The Person You Are Trying to Heal FROM."
Those who are close to me, know how hard of a journey this truly is. And those professionally know how hard it can be to walk someone through this journey unbias and with care.
So here's my own personal story with healing and co-parenting, along with some handy dandy facts as always.
WELL WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS:
"While I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I wasn't really the happiest. I found out, towards the end of my pregnancy, that my partner was cheating on me with multiple women. And me being young, in-love (or as we like to say "ride or die"), and somewhat scared to leave the relationship, I stayed. I genuinely wanted to make it work because I felt in my heart, this was my person. We've known each other for years, he was a great dad to our oldest daughter, we were getting married, and wanting to move into a place after I graduated with my bachelors that upcoming year. But the longer the I stayed, the more I mentally and physically strayed away from the relationship.
Not only did being physically pregnant turn me off, but the more it marinated that no matter what my partner was going to cheat, I longer wanted him. And the times he wanted to be physically intimate, it felt like a chore.. I did it just to do it, but there was no connection. Shortly after having my daughter, my partner wanted me to be "normal" again, and fast. He wanted me to be start working back out immediately and become toned as before and dress how I did pre-baby. In my heart, I knew he wanted that so he could be attracted to me again, physically. And I rebelled. I didn't rush healing or shrinking down to pre-baby weight size because I felt if he didn't cherish me through the process, then nothing is going to change after. And I was right. After designated healing time frame, he instantly wanted to be physical, and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want it to be a chore anymore, I wanted to genuinely feel his love and like he wanted me. So anytime I told him no, he would throw a fit and say "well the more you tell me no, the more I'll get it from somewhere else." And hearing that, would break my heart even more and further lower my confidence. I just wish that he could see that threatening me with infidelity wouldn't change my answer or my actions. I loved him deeply but what he couldn't also see was I was drowning. He left me to raise both our girls while in school full time and chair person for several campus organizations. I was silently going through post-partum depression and I wasn't eating. I was so tired of being strong and keeping face for my children and those around me, when I just wanted him to lean on during this process. But all he wanted was to run around town with his friends and women, party, and do whatever made HIM happy at that time.
I knew it was genuinely over when I invited him to campus for one of the biggest event I was hosting, and I told him I just needed him to support me this once because he never showed to anything. So when he said yes, I was thoroughly excited. I told everyone that he was coming and I needed to reserve him and his friend a ticket to the show and after party; and they we're ecstatic for me. Day of show, we sent our girls to his parents for the weekend so it could just be us. We pre-gamed together and I left for campus early to prep and change. I told him what time to be there and where to go; he confirmed he knew. As the show was beginning, I couldn't see him anywhere in the crowd. I began to slowly grow anxious and disappointed, and it was all over my face. My best friend, Sierra, was there and I would text her if she saw him as I was back stage. Before I walked on stage, she said he was there, and I could breathe again. I walked on stage with my mic and co host, and got the show rolling. As I stepped back out after two performances, I looked and the crowd and noticed that he was gone... I held my composure, introduced the next set after the DJ turned us up one time, and went backstage straight to my phone. He didn't text or call that he was leaving at all! I called and called and no response. My co host asked if I was okay, and of course I lied and said yes. I took a shot and kept the ball rolling. I was furious and hurt, but I knew I still had a job to do. HALF WAY THROUGH THE SHOW, he called during intermission. He said he had left to get his other friend from the airport and is on the way back. I started crying and chewed his ass out! "The ONE I begged you to be here for me and you leave with no notice?! Get your shit out of my apartment and leave, don't come back to the show and I don't want to see you this whole weekend." My response clearly caught him off guard because he began to stutter and ask if I was serious. I said "Dead ass. How dare you think it's okay to do what you did and didn't even warn me. I asked you to support me because you never come to anything I do but expect me to show up for you. You miss everything and the one you're here you intentionally leave and think I'll be okay with it. Well I'm not. So since you left stay gone." And I hung up the phone. And he did just that. When the show was over and I made my way home before the after party, his overnight bag and things were gone. I looked on Snapchat, he was out drinking downtown with his friends like nothing phased him. I realized him hurting me, would never hurt him. Him manipulating me and me always "riding" for him was dying slowly and he knew he no longer had control. But I knew he didn't care about me, and I sat and cried..
Eventually our unhealthy relationship grew worst and more distance to where it lead to my suicidal attempt April 2017. He publicly stepped out on me on Facebook and it unraveled in a campus group chat, and eventually called me saying it's over and hung up. No true resolution or explanation for where we go from here as parents, just that he wasn't happy and no longer cared for me. I felt like my world was spinning out of control daily and he put the last nail in the coffin. I tried making the relationship work prior to this but once I took the biggest thing he wanted away (his love language), I realized he wasn't even going to try to meet my needs or wants. Hell, he was barely around enough for our kids, so I knew I was in this thing alone. It's been our little family for so long that this "single motherhood" thing terrified me because he was all I knew. (Little did I know until I got older, I was always a single mother, carrying the weight and doing the work).
After this incident, he wasn't really present for our children, but his parents were. We never talked on the phone or discussed their needs or anything. When it was his time with the children, he never really had them for more than a few hours a day, he would shoot them back to his parents so he could go out and party. And this added onto the hurt because, my children didn't need a neglectful, inconsistent parent but I knew I needed a break from having them consistently. Getting money from him to help was like pulling teeth, and even down to diapers he would buy a box and give me HALF, knowing I had the girls more than him. For months it was a nightmare. The more I tried to heal and find me, for awhile he made it hard because I couldn't find ME without being mom and dad for awhile.
As I did finally begin to heal, I learned BOUNDARIES. The more I went to therapy, I can't lie, I questioned myself so much and what I stuck with. I would ask him some times after sessions "Why?.. why did you do this to me?" And eventually I looked inward and stopped asking. The more I grew to love myself, I knew I was no longer a reflection of him.. But towards the end of my journey, I learned to be more committed to becoming a better me and a loving me. It grew to where what he did as a parent or man, no longer phased me. And from the start, I never cared if he got into a relationship, I actually welcomed it so he could lose the idea of us being a "family" again. I wanted to have and maintain the idea of never being threatened by another woman coming along because I knew I deserved love, once ready, and my children deserve love from someone other than me. Hoping if he saw this, he would heal himself and welcome the idea of me introducing another to be that bonus parent to love on them. I wanted to walk in the spirit of knowing him or another person is not a threat to me or my value. Nothing he or anyone does is a reflection of me, but a mirror of themselves they refuse to acknowledge.
Now, honestly my daughters' father is my best friend. Once our youngest turned 2, it became easier to put them first and to be genuine friends. We can travel together, throw parties together, call and talk about our relationships and crack up about failed dates, and more. He literally stays upstairs with our girls when he visits because I know its cheaper on him but also they love him in THEIR SAFE SPACE. They love to wake up and see him next to them and run around like life is normal again. And I get to get a break in my own space, and then join together in the middle. It takes a lot to get to this place. And I don't want to say "keep the kids first and it'll fall into place." Honestly, HEAL first and communicate, and it'll be better for the children. He was a terrible partner but once healed, he became an even better father and friend. What made it easier was validating my concerns, feelings, and making sure not only my children are safe but I AM SAFE within our parenting. That SAFE SPACE he created for me to grow in thrive in was probably the true game changer. Co-Parenting is not easy but self love and reflection will make it better. Not everyone is this lucky granted, but the more grounded you are in yourself, there is no power the other parent can have OVER you to where you back track. And if they lack, instill more love unto your child/children. They deserve at least that consistent love from one parent over none. And as long as you have a village around. just know help is always on the way."
"God help me put a boundary on my own mind, so that I can see clearly where I am supposed to be positioned, rooted, and flourishing so I don't miss the revolution that you are trying to do inside of me." -Sarah Jakes Roberts
Healing while co-parenting with an ex is not and easy route. Especially if they were a narcissist (which we will touch on).
But the fall of a relationship is painful and sad. When there is a child or children in the mix, the situation can become even more emotional, even volatile.
Here are some helpful tips to walk you through the process:
TAKE TIME TO HEAL: If you’re hurting from a breakup, it might feel impossible to raise a child with the one person in the world who loves your child as much as you do. And all break ups require space; which you truly won't get as a parent. Outside of communicating for your child, you MUST be okay with having less contact and communication with your ex during this process. The awkwardness and negative feelings will pass with time; IF YOU LET IT.
CREATE BOUNDARIES: The things that USED to be your business ARE NOT anymore. You DO NOT have the right to ask personal questions, and you ARE NOT entitled to the answers to the personal questions you do ask. In the beginning it's best to limit any conversation outside of your child and their well-being or schedule conflicts. Eventually as time goes on, you'll feel comfortable with sharing more, especially when it pertains to your child because a new bond is being created.
BE FLEXIBLE ANS ACCESSIBLE: Consistency and Stability is KEY. When you request a change to the schedule, give your ex the benefit of the doubt when it comes to forgiveness and scheduling. This means you should switch days WHEN NECESSARY. Eventually, when ready, being welcoming your ex to family events, and invite them to your child’s important events—even if it hurts to do so.
WORK ON COMMUNICATION: If you are struggling to communicate with your ex-partner, step back and work out where it is going wrong and how you can BOTH improve. Emotions about the break up can easily creep into conversations making it unproductive and uncomfortable. If this is the case, keep the telephone conversations to a minimum and communicate via text or parenting app. When you remove emotions from the conversation, you can focus better at what's in front of you: your child.
GET A PARENTING PLAN: This is probably the most important thing whether you do it through the courts or between each other. A plan is a clear understanding for this new co parenting journey. Although it can be difficult finding common ground, it allows you both to have a say in the upbringing of your children. And, ultimately, it alleviates conflict in the future as decisions have been made and cannot be argued over.
Overall give yourself some time and some grace. Triggers and buttons are bound to be pressed. Acknowledge them but don't stay in that hurtful place. Move on and grow.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or Text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line
If you need assistance getting counseling services, please utilize the Mental Health tab of the website or email us what counseling services you require and your zip code. We are here to help!
If you can relate to this submitted story, comment and share your own #WWHHW moment.