Relationships are all about supporting our partners. But how do we support them when they're in constant conflict with their coparent? This is especially difficult when we don't have kids or don't have much conflict with our own coparent(s). It's also difficult because this is SUCH an emotionally charged area. It can be challenging to figure out how best to show your partner support, especially if your relationship with the coparent is strained or non-existent. But the good news is: we've all already supported someone we love through a difficult time.
I'm betting you already have the answers you need. But in case you feel like you don't, here are some ways to support the one you love.
#1 - Ask them how they need or want support
Your partner is the expert here. They know themselves better than anyone else, so it's likely that they can verbally tell you (or at least give some hints) about how they need or want to be supported by you. Rather than just asking, "How can I best support you when it comes to your coparent", it might be beneficial to ask how you can support them both during and outside of conflict. You might also ask when things are tense and you aren't sure what's going to be helpful. That might sound something like, "I know this is really hard. What do you need from me right now?" I'm not saying we shouldn't be intuitive or do what we think will be helpful without asking. We should try. But it's also going to be helpful for you during the learning process to ASK, so that you can support more intuitively in the future.
#2 - Distractions
Offer up a distraction. We all know how helpful those can be when our minds and bodies need a break. Knowing your partner here will be helpful: does your partner tend to need alone time or time with someone else? You could offer up things like: your partner going to work out or get coffee while you watch the kids or you and your partner going for a walk or on a date. The most important aspect here is that you should make sure you and your partner aren't talking about the conflict or coparent during your "distraction time".
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#3 - Silence
It's quite possible that your partner night need silence. Sometimes support looks like sitting in silence, offering your physical presence and spirit for your partner to find calm and peace in. Words don't always equal more or better support. Hold your partner's hand. Give them a hug. Cuddle with them. Bring them their favorite drink on the couch. Wrap them up in a blanket. *If you really aren't sure whether silence or verbal support is what they need, ask them. They'll tell you, whether verbally or through behavior.
#4 - Ask how much involvement they need you to have
Let me preface this by saying that this is not always a good idea, and sometimes your partner's coparent will need to consent to some of these things. Ask your partner how much involvement with THEIR coparent will be helpful for them. This might look like you and your partner sitting down and discussing whether conflict will be increased or decreased if you're more involved with things like: picking up kids instead of your partner doing it, being involved in a group chat so the coparent is held more accountable, or having you correspond directly with the coparent, instead of your partner doing it. Yes, these will keep your partner out of the line of fire... but will it put you in the line of fire instead? You'll need to really talk with your partner about these options, but if these types of things work for all of you (you, your partner, and the coparent) then you should do them if you're willing and able.
#5 - Don't set yourself on fire
You have limits. Know them. You can’t be everything to your partner all of the time, especially when there’s constant coparenting conflict. Your needs matter, too. Set boundaries surrounding your partner’s coparenting relationship. Decide how much daily conflict you can reasonably support your partner through, and talk to your partner about that. Your mental health matters, too. DM me on Instagram for more info about this.
#6 - Be okay not being the first in line to support
Because you have limits, know that your partner might rely on someone else for support. Some of us don't rely on our partner's for support surrounding our coparent because we choose to insulate our relationship from the chaos. Some of us only let our partner's know when something truly painful or stressful is happening, especially if it might impact our partner's time or finances, OR our relationship with them. This is why setting boundaries surrounding our coparenting relationships can be so, so helpful. You'll know what to expect from your partner and you'll get a better idea about how to support them.
# - Pick up my script + boundary ebook
You NEED this resource to add to your toolbox. There are 200+ scripts to help you navigate almost any issue you have with a coparent. 24 topic areas are covered, and scripts vary in levels of firmness. They're adaptable and can also be plug and play. There's also an awesome boundary bonus for you. Pick it up here. Here are some important topics that have scripts to help you navigate them:
forgetful/low effort coparents
following your court order
asking for flexiblity
refuting or explaining claims
AND SO MANY MORE!
You already know what you're doing. So do it.
There you have it. Six steps to supporting your partner through conflict with their coparent. Let me know if you try any of these things, and let me know how things goes below! Don't forget to pick up your copy of my Boundaries and Scripts ebook here.