Parallel Parenting With an Abusive Partner: A Survivor’s Guide

Divorce is devastating and leaves us feeling a palpable sense of loss. Part of my job is supporting families through strained co-parenting dynamics after separation and divorce. This can go on for years, even decades, especially if they are victims or survivors of domestic violence.  For survivors who co-parent with their abuser, healing and releasing the perception of control helps them move-on as best they can. Often times, parallel parenting is the only way to ensure children learn from the contrast of healthy versus toxic family dynamics.

Parallel Parenting With an Abusive Partner: A Survivor's GuideMany survivors are treading carefully during these times of chaos. Why?  Because when people are uncomfortable and scared they are triggered and the worst version of themselves can be exposed. This is exponentially true for those who are unhealed and unconsciously repeat toxic behaviors.

Find More Peace in Your Co-Parenting Attempts 

Negotiating reasonably with an abusive parent in these situations is often unsuccessful. With that understanding, the first thing that you must recognize is the other parent is the hero of their own story, just like you are the hero of your own. To them, you are the villain and they will not be convinced otherwise. When you release your attachment to their opinion of you, you get to spend more time growing and healing yourself.

If any of this resonates, harmful psychological cycles are likely being perpetuated in your circumstance.

In most cases I’ve served, these toxic cycles have occurred on both sides of the family in varying intensities and forms. That means understanding the person you are co-parenting with may be operating from the age and developmental stage when they were impacted by trauma. You also may be subconsciously repeating cycles of control, damaged self-esteem, and other forms of negative mindset. Remember, traumatic events can cause harm regardless of the observed severity.

Ask yourself if the co-parent is behaving like a hurt 10-year-old child. Then respond to them as such. With this understanding, you have a stepping-stone for finding more peace in your co-parenting attempts.

Tips to find empathy and release for someone who has hurt you:

1) Always practice maintaining boundaries with your time and energy.

2) Everyone is self-responsible; you are not to blame for the anger of others.

3) Find the gifts and lessons the co-parent provided you and honor how that helped you grow.

Take a Breath and a Break

Second, remember, it’s not actually about you. Your co-parent focuses their hate on others to soothe their self-loathing. So try to leave your emotions out of it. Getting nasty calls and emails are very triggering. Take a breath and a break and respond thoughtfully instead of reacting emotionally. Doing this removes the engagement and reactions that the co-parent seeks from you as their source. It also gives you the gift of seeing things with a broader perspective and filtering through the muck. When you remove the manipulations and insults from communications you’ll find what is left is the actual question that must be answered. It’s ok to answer a 3-page email with only, “Confirmed” or “yes/no.”

Tips when answering angry emails:

1) Remember, you are not responsible for anyone’s opinion of you.

2) Do not engage with insults; ignore them.

3) Find the actual question and respond, emotionless, to that. No question, no response.

Heal From Deep Within

Third, your greatest power and influence is your own mindset.  When you master your emotions you truly heal your past. Be it trauma from childhood, your marriage, or prior relationships, it’s never too late to give yourself unconditional love and grace as you return to the pain and mend your psyche. When you heal from deep within, you elevate your vibration and attract more positive experiences and people into your life.

When you take back your power and realize your ability to let go and trust the Universe, everything feels easier. Trust that all circumstances are provided to you under the lens of love.  If things feel unloving, ask yourself, what am I learning through this? What is the lesson and how do I apply it to my life moving forward?

Tips for healing your mindset:

1) Face your pain with support from therapists, friends, coaches, and healers.

2) Forgive yourself the role you played in past negative events. When you know better you do better.

3) Carve new neural pathways with positive messages, affirmations, and filtering the messages you receive from media and social media.

Most importantly, life is a journey. Remember, it’s about the whole life, not the destination. That means you get to choose from day to day, minute to minute what you will focus on and what thoughts will grow. Intend to think more good thoughts and watch how your joy and satisfaction are cultivated over time!

***If you are in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship and feel you are in danger or need help contact: https://www.thehotline.org/  Please use Google Incognito, closing your browsing window afterward.


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Leah has lived on both coasts, spent much of her childhood in Colorado, but found the true meaning of home in Iowa. As a single mom of two girls, she wanted to show her daughters the power in setting our minds to our dreams and creating our reality, and so she began the Abundant Parent. When she isn’t writing, vlogging, running workshops, or bringing writing to kids with her nonprofit, she is mostly likely elbows deep in art supplies, cooking ingredients or mud and camping dust with her kids. She has been quitting coffee for the last three years; it’s going really well. Stay tuned.