How can I parent with an abusive partner?
How can I parent with an abusive partner? You parted ways with your abuser. You’re on your path to freedom. But you have a child together.
Rebuilding your life after an abusive relationship and healing from emotional trauma is difficult enough. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to cut ties with the abuser for the sake of your child.
While co-parenting might give your ex-partner an opportunity to maltreat you and remind you of the abuse, parallel parenting increases safety by keeping the communication to a bare minimum. Parallel parenting is an agreement in which both of the parents have access to the child but they’re disengaged from each other. While major decisions can be agreed upon together, each parent adapts their parenting method when the child is in their care. It allows you to distance yourself from your ex without depriving your child of a parent and sets clear boundaries that prevent further abuse. The aim is to facilitate emotional healing from the relationship while prioritising your child’s needs and protecting them from conflict.
Below are some tips that will give you a general idea of how parallel parenting works.
Create a parenting plan
It’s best to plan ahead to avoid disagreements. The more prepared you are and the more detailed the plan is, the less you’re likely to argue with your ex and the more minimal the contact is.
The main thing to agree on is who is your child going to stay with and what the visitation schedule will be like. Consider all the details, including the time the start and end of the visit, and how to handle cancellations. How often will the child see the other parent? Who will drop them off and pick them up?
Try to choose a neutral location or even ask a family member or a trusted friend to pick your child for you so you don’t have to see your ex when it’s not necessary. It will minimise the stress for your child and ensure your safety.
Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to financial responsibilities and do’s and don’ts. You can also discuss where your child will spend their holidays, birthdays and vacations. You can figure out logistics using email or another mean of communication that doesn’t involve meeting face to face.
Let yourself heal
If your ex-partner was abusive, ideally you’d cut contact and never see them again but it’s not always possible. Focus on fulfilling your needs before supporting your child. Incorporate self-care into your routine to reduce stress and reconnect with your old self.
When you’re ready, try to forgive yourself and concentrate on your long-term goals. The best way to deal with the situation is by moving forward. Focus on building resilience and reintroduce happiness to your life.
Accept the current situation
Being in an abusive relationship is hard but keeping an ex-partner around for your child’s sake might be even harder. Now that you and your ex are separated, you might blame yourself and wish you had broken up sooner.
It’s natural to struggle with negative emotions such as guilt, shame and anger. You might find it hard to accept that your ex is still a parent to your child or that they aren’t a bad parent even though they hurt you.
Try to practise radical acceptance. Acknowledge that you’re in a situation you can’t change and the past can’t be reversed. Things are the way they are and all you can do is make the best out of the situation. Focus all your energy on parenting your child and providing them all the support they need.
Try to avoid saying “It shouldn’t be this way” and thinking life is unfair. Don’t fight reality and don’t let the pain turn into suffering.
Keep communication to the minimum
To heal faster from the trauma, make sure you don’t communicate with your ex unless it’s absolutely necessary. You can contact them via emails or use a parenting app. Document every interaction in case they’re acting abusive but leave your child out of it. Don’t let your ex provoke you.
Don’t attend your child’s functions or doctor visits together. It will be difficult not to ruminate on the relationship whenever a message pops up or whenever your child is spending time with them.
Try to distance yourself and treat interaction with your ex as a business that’s necessary to keep your child happy.
Appoint a mediator
If there’s a lot of resentment between you and your ex or your safety might be compromised, it’s a good idea to appoint a mediator. They can be present when there are problems you have to talk through and help you resolve conflicts.
Parallel parenting can be confusing and the details of an arrangement will depend on the individual situation. Consider getting advice from a professional. Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat.