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 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.

Relationship Issues: 3 Ways Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Life

Who told you that striving for perfection and struggling for unrealistically high standards would bring you love, joy, and peace? 

I’m thinking “No one.” They probably never really said those words. They just inferred that  you SHOULD be better, do better, and achieve more to be good enough. Or, maybe they were a little less positive, and gave you the sense that you didn’t have what it took.

Somewhere, somehow, someone told you–or, at least, gave you the sense–that perfectionism was the goal. It isn’t, and striving for it simply makes you feel less than, never good enough, and somehow inadequate.

What perfectionism will do is keep you from accepting yourself and your partner–and your parents, kids, co-workers–right now. There will always be that niggling feeling of “could have been more, done more, achieved more” with no end in sight. It is a struggle that has no end!

Perfectionism clouds your vision of yourself and others. As Psychology Today says: “For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It’s a fast track to unhappiness….” And, think what happens if you pass it on to your kids!

Perfectionism may be a virus you were injected with. The good news is that you can recover. It’s not easy or quick, but it’s possible. And, doing it shows that you do truly care about yourself, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Why would you give up perfectionism? You may think that it is a positive driving force that keeps you reaching for your goals. It is not. Here’s three ways it can be ruining your life:

  1. In your deepest self, you think everyone is judging you. And, that they secretly know that you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. No matter what, you don’t believe your positive reviews. You think others are just being polite when they appreciate or praise you. You dismiss them as just not knowing how flawed you are, or how much better you supposedly could have done.
  3. In your inner self talk, you are secretly judgmental about the imperfections of others, and you are internally competitive about everything.

Three huge ways you could be missing out on the joy of living and loving!

My mom was the great purveyor of perfection in my life. I just could not be smart enough, talented enough, or slim enough. And, it seemed that she would only be satisfied if I could be all those three things at once! It was a nightmare. If I got A’s in school, but gained five pounds, she focused on the weight gain. If I won a piano competition, I could have looked better on stage if I were thinner. If I slimmed down–although, looking back at photos, I was never fat–then, I had better buckle down and study and practice more. A never-ending cycle of emotional abuse. Yes, that’s abusive. You can’t justify it or make excuses for it. It’s abusive.

Did you experience anything like that? If so, now is the best time to examine it. Time to change that programming, and enjoy life and love more fully. Perfectionism is one of the big relationship issues that I’ve helped many clients shift away from. I did it myself, and I know the way out of it to much more freedom.

Here’s today’s Podcast on Overcoming Perfectionism:

If you recognize that your view of yourself and others has been poisoned by perfectionism, that’s a great start. Now, do the work to lift yourself out of that mindset, and replace it with more love, patience, and appreciation for yourself. That will have a ripple effect and solve many relationship issues, too. You’ll be so much happier! 

If you know it’s time to get some relationship help, I’m happy to work with you. You can schedule an appointment at a time convenient to you right online HERE. 

Relationship Issues: Is Your Relationship A Competition?

Relationships with partners are often competitions in disguise. Don’t want that? Here’s a little relationship advice,

When you really step back and look at them–perhaps, with a little relationship help–the main event in a relationship is the constant battle for supremacy, control, and maybe, even a little domination. Not healthy. It doesn’t feel good, but couples do it all the same.

Competition. It’s got the not-so-good, not-so-loving trifecta. It’s:

  • tension-producing
  • fear-inducing
  • trust-reducing

What’s attractive about that?  It’s destructive and exhausting. Yet, it persists.

How do you stop competing in a relationship you say is based on loving each other? It requires a good deal of self-reflection!

When couples come to work with me, I can almost see the bubbles over their heads. Each bubble says, “If my partner would just see the errors of his/her ways, and change, we would be great.”  Unfortunately, although that may seem amusing for a moment, it’s the way it often is.

You want the issues to be because of the other person’s failings, flaws, and frustrations. Why? Because you don’t want to think that you are part of both the issue and the solution! It is highly likely that both of you have some changes to make.

Here’s the good news and the bad news: Change starts with you, not with your partner, if you want to put an end to the destructive competition in your relationship. 

Take some quiet time. Sit down and ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Is there a way that I am inviting competition in my relationship by my words, my actions, my demeanor, or my stance in life, and in my relationship particularly?
  • Do I turn everything into a debate?
  • Is my first inclination to find fault, rather than see the good?
  • When I’m really honest with myself, do I have a big need to be right?
  • Am I only happy when I am winning?
  • Am I on guard and look for ways to prove my partner is wrong?
  • Do I have a glass half full or half empty outlook?
  • How much of the time am I focused on what I appreciate and love about my partner? Is that enough?
  • Do I have my back up and something to prove that keeps me concerned, vigilant, and on edge?

Sit with that list. Come back and re-visit it. Let these possibilities sink in completely. You’re doing this to get better acquainted with yourself so that you can bring those insights to improving your part in your relationship.  It can help you release the need for competition.

Now, what if you read that list and your immediate thought is “That describes my partner perfectly!”

That’s a good moment to look at yourself clearly and ask:

  • Am I fueling it?
  • Am I matching it?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • Am I wanting to run from it?

We were shaped. We come by our traits, behaviors, and patterns from the people who raised us, and others who influenced us, usually before we were twenty years old.  That’s why we begin by looking at the various cookie cutters we met in life that left us in the shape we’re in. No, not through deep psychoanalysis, but by having an insight or two that can help us realize we can choose to do life differently.

We do not have to stay in the shape we were stamped with. It doesn’t have to be what we were “cut out” for any longer. We can change, grow, and transform.

If you only focus on your partner’s shortcomings, nothing will change. You’ll defer the blame, but it doesn’t stop the pain. Only looking within makes that difference.

If your relationship is a courtroom, boxing ring, or jousting tournament, you’ll never be happy. Where there is a focus on winning or losing, you cannot find love, safety, honesty or respect, and those are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

What does competition and “one up(wo)manship” do? 

  • It is destined to leave you single, lonely, or at least, with a lack of the intimacy you likely crave.
  • People will shy away from you because they feel unsafe with you.
  • Constant debate leaves you exhausted, worn down, and wounded.
  • The need to be right means that no one around you can also be right, and that is a losing strategy.
  • The need for control leaves others wanting to cut the strings and stay far away from the puppeteer you want to be.

If your relationship is a competition, you two need to be discussing, understanding, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Otherwise, no one will be happy–especially in the long run.  The self-reflection required to set and establish your personal boundaries is imperative. There is no quick fix or easy solution to that.

For now, be aware. Is your relationship a competition? If so, is it what you want? If the answer is no, get the relationship help and relationship advice you need to put an end to the tournament. You are best to get some professional relationship advice, because it’s almost impossible to put an end to the competition on your own.


Here’s today’s Relationship Advice Coupleology Podcast: Is Your Relationship A Competition? 

RIGHT NOW: You can also get a great start with my book, Kaizen for Couples: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain, or Strengthen Your Relationship,  and you can subscribe to Coupleology: Vital Tips for Relationship, coming to your inbox weekly.