Relationship Problems: 5 Must-Have’s For Successful Co-Parenting With Your Ex

Co-parenting with your former partner needs to be all about the children, and not about your relationship.

Your children should NOT be pawns, messengers, or, casualties of divorce wars! In a perfect world, your children would only know that life is more peaceful with two homes, and that they miss the parent they are not with. That’s it.

Children need to know–and feel–that they are more important than the conflict that is–or, hopefully, was–between their parents. Maintaining that is what effective, conscious co-parenting is all about.

When you co-parent well, you eliminate exposing the children to adult relationship issues. They know mom and dad are not together and choose to live apart. They don’t need further details beyond that. Really!

They may have questions. Answer them in the most age-appropriate–that’s their ages, not yours–way for them to understand the most general issues. No specifics. And, particularly, no blaming, shaming, or defaming your partner in the hearing of your children!

Children have enough to contend with when parents separate. It’s enough to be moving, losing time with their friends, missing the non-custodial parent, feeling uncertain about what’s going on, and not having the right things at the right house. These are kid concerns.

Children NEED NOT and SHOULD NOT be hearing about adult issues. They should NEVER hear one parent say anything negative about the other, directly or within their hearing. In California where I am, every divorce settlement states that clearly.

Whether or not you both chose to live apart, or only one of you made the decision, it’s what you’re doing now. Not engaging your child or children in the ongoing details of the conflict, the disappointments, or the anger is important. It’s not easy, but you’re an adult and that’s what a wise adult would do.

I want to give you some clear guidelines to help you through this. These will help you stay focused on what is important:

  1. I am the model I want my children to follow. Therefore, everything I do and say demonstrates who I want my children to become. Think of the last week. Were you who you want your children to become?
  2. I communicate with my ex in the way I want to be communicated with. I choose collaboration and conversation over conflict and acrimony. Were you open-minded and collaborative?
  3. I focus on my children and what keeps them healthy, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That includes doing what is in their best interests first. Were you child-focused?
  4. I turn my attention from what I don’t like about my ex to what s/he does well for the children. It’s about the kids, not what my personal issues are with my ex. What were you dwelling on?
  5. My children have the right to be children, concerned only with age-appropriate thoughts, feelings, and actions. I protect them from beings pawns, messengers, or,  casualties of my divorce. Did you?

It can be difficult to rise up and be your best self when everything in you wants to blame, shame, and complain. I know. I’ve been divorced, too. You may have deep resentments after years of a rocky marriage, or, fresh scars that the divorce brought on. And, it feels like that ex should pay dearly for it, and for a long time. Leave that to the court. You have to get your head on straight and do what is best for your kids.

It has to be–or quickly become–the case that your love for your children is stronger than your hatred or loathing of your partner and the divorce. Then, you will be able to master successful co-parenting, and give your children the best emotional environment in which to thrive. They deserve that. They didn’t ask for a divorce!

Need help to shift your co-parenting from war to peace? You can schedule an appointment online with Dr. Rhoberta Shaler at   Choose your time. Meet on Skype from anywhere.

Relationship Problems: How To Give Up The Blame Game

Have you noticed that, when anything negative, unpleasant, or embarrassing happens, people look for someone or something to blame?

As I mentioned in today’s podcast, even when someone trips while walking on a sidewalk, they don’t think about needing to pay more attention to where they are walking. They look to see what tripped them, and make it the city’s fault, bad workmanship, or the Universe out to get them!

To feel and be empowered, it’s wise to look at ourselves first. If something isn’t going well with a partner, at work, or in the family, it demonstrates emotional maturity to look within yourself first…even though, it’s easier to look for someone to blame.

Couples get very skilled at blaming each other. That’s because they practice so much! 

Couples come in to see me–or arrive for our session on Skype–and they are pointing fingers at each other for why they are experiencing difficulties. You know that old thing: when you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. Instead of noticing that, many folks just point harder at their partners. That’s a combination of project and denial.

The American author, John  Burroughs, wrote:

” A man may fail many times,
but he isn’t a failure
until he begins to blame somebody else.”

That’s powerful stuff! Clear and powerful.

In a powerful essay on The Dissection of Blame, Kendall F. Person wrote:

When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend. We blame our parents for something they did, ignoring the reality, it has been 40 years since then. We blame immigrants for taking our job, dismissing the notion, that we were caught sleeping, while guarding the store.  Obsessed by blaming others, becoming a victim in our own mind, leads to a confusion so complete, we live in a belief, based on our own lies.

Stumbles, free-falls and mistakes happen, but most scars are not permanent, if we accept,  we can learn from and avoid the same mistakes. Blame is not always malicious or done with intent, it protects our psyches, when they are frail, offering self-esteem when needed,rejecting the reality of its false existence. The importance of accepting responsibility for our choices that turned bad, cannot be understated. It is how we start to heal.

Why not start the journey to healing now? It begins with replacing blame with self-reflection, and moves on to active, loving problem-solving together.

That’s what emotional grown-ups learn to do. When G. Charles Andersen, MA, and I wrote Soul Solitude: Taking Time For Our Souls To Catch Upwe talked about how insidious blame is: the subtle–or not so subtle–cumulative harmfulness to others AND to ourselves. Our conclusion: stop blaming, start communicating, and become emotional grown-ups. Your relationship is not the sandbox on a playground of your youth!

One thing that makes blame so attractive to our immature selves: our egos are not fans of self-reflection. The ego behaves as though anyone out there, at any time in our past, present, and future, is a much more likely cause for our conditions, relationships, and situations than we could possibly be ourselves.

We use blame as an ego-defense. We project our fears, concerns, and issues about ourselves onto others. That is projection. Then, we behave as though their could not possibly be any flies on us, which is denial. Denial and projection, dastardly bedfellows that create crazy-making in relationships!

Responding to a recent post on blame by a colleague, I wrote this:

“Blame is not a waterfall, constantly running downstream away from you.
  Blame has a backlash, constantly eroding its source.”  

Being a blamer hurts you. It damages your relationships, the primary one with yourself, and all others where you blame. Through crooked thinking, people who blame send out the arrow they know is destined for themselves in the direction of someone else. They forget that the arrow is really a boomerang. It will come back, and you’ll like it even less!

It’s so easy to just say that the fastest way to give up the blame game is to simply stop. That would be miraculous. Most folks will need to get some help from someone like me to make that leap. They need another set of eyes–not a friend or family member’s eyes–to uncover old decisions that continue to create present patterns. Grow together by having new insights and learning new skills.

Oh, and that blaming our parents for things? Yes, we are very affected by our upbringing, but that was quite a while ago, right? We are affected by it, but any good therapist will tell you that it’s best use is as a learning tool. Whether or not we choose to see it that way is indicative of our maturity. When we re-visit it with the help of a knowledgeable consultant, we can see the decisions we made–or were made for us–at the time, or the sense we made of it later, and then, we understand how those choices now affect the life we have. Most important learning: what would you like to change now, how to do it, and getting on with it.

Construct your life and relationships consciously, kindly, and compassionately. Live your values. And, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that one of your values is not “Blame!”


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Relationship Problems: Wanting Your Partner Back When They Don’t Want You

A little relationship advice today because I get so many questions that say: “How do I get him/her back?” Then, they tell me the story.

Honestly, my first reaction to that question is “Really? You
want him/her back. Why?” 

Sure, I understand that, if a long-term partner or spouse simply decides to walk out, it’s painful. Rejection hurts even when you know you have some big relationship problems. And, it may be that that person is not only rejecting you, but rejecting the children, the finances, the goals, the plans, the future, and more. That’s very hurtful, and it makes your head spin. I get that.

You have to work through your feelings (good to get some relationship help right away) and take care of yourself first. That will help you gain perspective as early on as possible. With my clients, I know that walking together with them through the early “broadsiding” is so important to healing. You need answers to the questions: 

  • Why now?
  • Why at all?
  • What was I missing?
  • What can I do?
  • What do I want?
  • Where do I go from here?
  • How do I regroup and carry on?

And all those questions need answers while your heart is hurting and your head is swimming.

Yes, sometimes, a partner makes a mistake and knows it immediately or close to. S/he comes back, apologizes, and agrees to go with you to get help with rebuilding the values, respect, and trust that your relationship sorely needs. You then have the option of saying “yes” or “no” to a fresh start.

What if you’re dating, or, have been in a relationship for only a year or less? At that point, when your partner says “No more,” you want to listen to that door slam on the way out, and be grateful. That’s why I say, “Really?” when someone writes and bemoans that loss of the relationship when he or she has been dumped.

Who would want to be with someone who doesn’t want you? Wanting that is close to self-destructive. For whatever reason the partner gives for leaving, it is clear that they have made a decision to show you who they are, and how they roll. Right?

Can you see it from that perspective? Can you recognize that wanting someone who doesn’t want you–once the initial pain is behind you–is a demonstration of lack of self-esteem?

You don’t want to be grasping after someone who has told you they’re moving on. Let that relationship go. Clearly, you are better off in the long run even though there is pain in the short-run.

Who, in their rational mind, would want someone back who treats them poorly, and leaves them bleeding in the dust?  People who:

  • have so little self-esteem and self-confidence, that they honestly believe they deserve to be treated poorly
  • actually think that it is their fault that another person behaves badly
  • believe they will be alone forever if that person leaves them
  • think they can nurture, nourish or love someone enough to change them
  • are more focused on “being wanted” than on quality in relationship
  • confuse being used with being loved
  • are afraid to be alone
  • have a self-worth issue, and think that being in a relationship–any relationship– validates them and makes them a more worthwhile person.

So, when I hear that question: “How can I get him/her back?” I wonder what is going on in the mind and heart of the person asking the question. Yes, it can make you wonder if you have value, or if there is something terribly wrong with you. It can make you wonder if you’re worthwhile. But, I hope, only for a short while.

Then, get help to pick yourself up, give your head a shake, and realize that you are better off. You now know who your partner is, and you understand–sadly enough–that you certainly don’t want someone who doesn’t want you.

Click here to listen…
If you are in a relationship with someone right now who makes you question your sanity and second-guess yourself all the time, think about coming along to the Virtual Retreat on Saturday, June 27, from 1 – 5 PM Pacific Time, on Loving, Living With, Or Leaving an Emotional Vampire! at   Only 12 spaces! 

Relationship Problems: Letting The Past Poison Your Present Relationship

Relationship problems often arise over what’s happened in the past. If you are bringing what’s happened in a past relationship into your current one, you’re likely asking for trouble.

It’s really hard to have a relationship in the present moment when you are focused on the trash of the past! When you focus on the past, you are missing the relationship that is in front of you right now. That’s a mistake.

Recently, I was working with a couple through Skype. They both said they were sure that they wanted to recover the love, trust and respect they believed their relationship began with. I wasn’t so sure if that was the case by the way they were behaving together, but we went with it.

The problem became clear quickly: every time I asked a question about their present relationship together, they brought up events in the past. Some of those events were in the deep, dark, distant past, too. These two seemed to have memories like elephants!

When I asked each of them to describe their partner as they are today, there was silence. They both had a trash accumulation problem. They were trash collectors. Each of them had accumulated and saved–almost nurtured and cherished, it seemed–each hurt, misstep, pain, and fault that they perceived in each other over their life together.

Wow! Not much question why they were miserable enough to come for relationship help. If you can only see who your partner isn’t, and add that to the unending list of “s/he done me wrongs” and “ain’t it awfuls,” then, you are perpetuating your misery. And, because you’ve told the story more times than good for you, you feel justified in your complaints, too.

BIG QUESTION: Would you rather feel justified in your anger, pain, and disappointment, or, would you rather be open to love, change, and possibilities? 

Some people love to hear your drama, and they would be very disappointed if you gave it up. Your partner–and, even moreso, you–would be relieved, though. Could you imagine not telling the same old story and dredging up the same old nasty feelings? Life would be very different!

You chose your partner for a reason. Do you remember what that reason was? You probably had many good reasons. Remember them.

Life offers pain, difficulties, and complications along with laughter, love, and occasionally, lemons. People react or respond. People make mistakes. People change. They learn and they hopefully grow. Sometimes, they hide and wallow.

You are not who you were when you met your partner, are you? You’ve changed. Hopefully, you’ve grown in positive ways. Would you really want to have stopped and stagnated along the way? Not likely. But, did you let your relationship get stuck?

Dragging the garbage of the past behind you into the present moment is exhausting. It’s heavy. It’s painful. And, it’s unnecessary. Dragging it behind you into every circumstance, taking the lid off, and letting that putrid smell out once again does you no good at all personally, and can poison your relationship. No one needs a whiff of that!

It may take getting some relationship help to be able to see each other with kinder eyes in the present moment, but you’re worth it. The relationship is worth it. And, oh,  by the way, if you don’t learn new patterns, you’ll just keep whittling away at each other, and gather worse stories to tell. You don’t want that, I hope.

Tripping on the trash of the past keeps you stuck and down. You even get tired of your story. Give yourself and your partner a opportunity to see yourselves and each other differently.

Just think: you could be skipping into the future, hand in hand, light-hearted and enjoying yourselves. Or, you can continue to pile on more garbage. Not a lovely picture, right?


When you are ready to handle relationship issues and solve relationship problems in ways that give you back the love you share, you demonstrate that you care. Get relationship help. If you could have fixed the problems, you would have done it already.

Finding solutions for relationship problems takes willingness, courage and time: the willingness to take a good, honest look at yourselves and your relationship, the courage to re-create your relationship with new insights, new skills, and new tools, and the time to make the difference. Start now.

You can work directly with Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor, to move beyond your current relationship problems. Learn more HERE.  Get a free copy of the first chapter of her book, Kaizen For Couples, when you subscribe to her newsletter and podcasts HERE.

Relationship Issues: Fighting In A Relationship

In a relationship, some people expect a fight. Others look for one. Others run from one. Which are you?

And, there is one other approach: you can sidestep a fight.

Frequently, relationship problems turn into fights. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop that.

If you are looking for a fight in a troubled, or even in a relatively calm relationship, you’ll likely find it. It is possible, though, to change your focus.

Are you looking for a fight, or trying to make things right? 

Your instant answer to that question makes all the difference to the success of your relationship.

Not long ago, I was working with a couple in a Co-Parenting for Divorced Couples class. The fellow was regaling me with how they have rapid fire conversations, sending text messages back and forth that get progressively more unpleasant. He had a smile on his face.

The couple recalled one interchange–almost pleased with themselves–in which she called him a “Deadbeat Dad” to which he had replied, “You’re a fat cow!”  When I asked about this way of communicating and what they found so satisfying and amusing in it, the man replied that, although it was childish, it was fun. He said he enjoyed their exchange of insults, and here’s the kicker: He proudly said that, if she started it, he’d be sure to finish it, with a flourish!

Clearly, he loved the fight! And, just to add fuel to the first, the woman was unwilling to see her passive-aggressive tendencies, egging him on, and then, making him wrong for being upset. A match made in hell!

Does any of that sound familiar to you?

  • Do you take some kind of perverse pleasure in one-upmanship?
  • Do you feel superior, strong, or clever when you are putting others down?
  • Do you enjoy the battle, and have no problem bringing bigger and bigger weapons into it?
  • Do you like to see if you can push someone into losing their cool?
  • Do you feel powerful when you can get a rise out of someone, and then, make them wrong for getting upset?

If any of those are familiar to you, you are looking for a fight. Those could not be farther from trying to make things right.

Constant or frequent fighting in a relationship should be a red flag that you need relationship help now.

If you are the perpetrator of these things, you need to get some relationship help to explore what’s driving this. You are pushing people away for some reason, and you’d do well to figure that out sooner rather than later!

If you are on the receiving end of these behaviors, you can stop the fight by refusing to participate. You can be the one who can sidestep the angry, negative energy. You have to simply refuse to play this nasty game of lose-lose.

If you want things to change, both of you can use these four essential statements as soon as you realize that you are beginning to feel angry:

  1. I recognize that I am getting angry.
  2. I care about the relationship.
  3. I am going to withdraw and calm down. (Say what you are going to do: go for a walk, put on my headphones, exercise, watch a movie, run errands)
  4. I’ll be back at __________o’clock and we can talk about this then, or agree on a good time to talk about it.

Taking control of your anger in this way lets you know how powerful you really are. Fighting, whether it is bickering or blowouts, is damaging, hurtful, and unproductive. You know that all you do when you fight is make one more thing to throw at each other the next time you fight. That’s crazy!

What’s your answer? Are you looking for a fight in your relationship? Or, are you trying to make things right? That answer will make all the difference to the relationship problems you will be able to solve together.


Relationship problems need solutions, not stalemates! You are wise to work with a relationship expert as soon as possible if fighting is a frequent thing in your relationship. You’re just causing and perpetuating pain. That is definitely not love!


Relationship Issues: Is The Person You Love An Emotional Vampire?

Some people are difficult sometimes. Other people are perennially difficult. These are called High-Conflict People. They create different relationship issues that need specific relationship advice to help you live with, love, or leave them.

I’m not talking about annoying people today. They may have habits, quirks, and strange ideas. Annoying, but not draining. I’m talking about the people who draw you in, and then drain you. These are the ones Albert J. Bernstein, PhD, calls “emotional vampires.”

Yes, that’s dramatic, and it may sound extreme. When you think about it, though, that’s what happens. You are drawn in because they seem interesting, up, bright, talented, charming, intriguing, mischievous, and seductive. You like them. They’re delightful. They’re different. You trust them. You are hooked. And, they have their teeth in your neck.

After a while, the light begins to fade. The colors wash out. The life goes out of it. You expected more. Unfortunately, you got less and less. You give, and they take. The balance is gone. You begin to realize that you’re doing all you can to give them what they want, so that you can hopefully retrieve that balance. What you find is that the scales keep tipping in their favor.

Are you beginning to feel this? You’ll likely feel it before you believe it. It’s draining. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting. The more you give, the more you get taken.

Good people are endlessly hopeful, it seems. They think that, if they give, give in, appease, and deliver, it will finally be recognized, and the high-conflict person will give back. No, that’s not the way it works. That game is:

“Give me what I want until it hurts, and then, I will ask you for more…and I’ll make you wrong if you don’t give it to me!”  

You’ll know you’re in relationship with a high-conflict person if you’ve every said this sentence:

No matter what I do, what I give, what hoops I jump, what extremes I go to make things good, it will always be my fault things are not working out.”

If you are already aware that everything will be your fault, you have learned that devastating lesson. It’s devastating because it is a battle that has no truce. You have only three options:

  1. Give everything you have way beyond when it hurts…and, oh, by the way, they do not care if you hurt because, to them, it is your own fault.
  2. Walk away and leave everything you have behind…and, if you have children, be prepared for endless battles, because they will concoct all kinds of charges against you for things that likely did not happen.
  3. Get help to understand, manage, and cope with high-conflict behaviors, and put what you learn into practice every moment…and, this is your only hope for sanity, so choose this one first!

Yes, you can learn to work with these behavior if you love a person with high-conflict personality traits, an emotional vampire.

It’s not an easy shift, because it requires that you have clear values and boundaries held in place with assertive communication skills. You may be a little worn-down by living with these traits for so long, so it will take you some extra umph to learn these strategies and put them in place. IT’S WORTH IT!

Did I mention that high-conflict traits don’t go away? You have to learn to manage them so you can return to your old confidence and believe in your own sanity. Emotional vampires do their best to rob you of both. You can get them back.

You cannot get there without relationship help. You are not herding cats, you’re engaging vampires. That takes special skills, believe me! And, your family and friends cannot give you the rules of engagement for vampires, either.


Get the relationship advice you need to stand up, speak up, and show up in ways that make a positive difference in your life and relationship. Choose that!

Listen to today’s Coupleology™ Podcast on High-Conflict People & Emotional Vampires:

If you know you need help to understand and manage emotional vampire behavior, I offer a Virtual Retreat you can attend from your home or office: Living With–Or Leaving–An Emotional Vampire. Learn more and register here.