Updated: Feb 16, 2021
The second reason I chose to spend my birthday with my ex was this: he asked me to and he genuinely meant it. He wanted to show up for me in a way that he hadn't in a long time, and he wanted to help make my day special. And he did! It was a really lovely evening. I had a lot of fun and felt very loved. And because of the work I have done, I was able to accept and enjoy the efforts he made instead of judging him by past actions or the standards that had been set in our marriage.
This might not work for everyone. I am fully aware of that! But with the growth that we both have done as co-parents and as individuals, I no longer compare who he is and how he shows up in the NOW to who he was and how he showed up for me in the PAST. In my opinion, this is another really important key to a truly functional co-parenting relationship. Releasing the past and allowing for the present and future. Again, it doesn't always happen for everyone and in certain parenting relationships, it isn't even a healthy possibility. But it is for us. In my situation, becoming good partners as co-parents meant letting go of who we had been as partners in life. And this is how I did it...
Most marriages end with a degree of hurt, sadness, frustration, and anger. Mine certainly did. And it isn't easy to forget all of that. Nor am I saying you have to! But it is not fair - nor is it productive - to hold one another accountable for actions/feelings/decisions that had everything to do with your marriage and nothing to do with co-parenting. Co-parents do not have to be best friends, or friends at all for that matter. However, co-parents DO have to accept one another at somewhat face value in the present in order to peacefully raise children together. This means separating your past relationship as lovers and partners from your new relationship as co-parents.
From the beginning of my separation, I set a goal of making sure we could raise our son together in harmony. I felt the importance of this strongly both for my son's sake and for mine! Making sure my son feels loved, always, and that he won't have to ever choose sides in his family is incredibly important to me. As for myself, looking into the future, I did not want to miss out on any of his special occasions or create a situation that would ever make him feel uncomfortable with both of us in the room; a situation that might someday make him choose to leave me out of his inner circle. I was clear that I had to find ways to separate my past from our future. And I did.
Working with my own relationship coach, I did a lot of journaling, visualization exercises, and activities that helped me say goodbye to who I saw as my partner and let go of the emotions I attached to him and us. These things allowed me to mourn him, and mourn our relationship, and created appropriate places to channel and release my anger/pain/disappointment/whatever emotions. At the same time, I set foot on the co-parenting relationship focused on the simple idea that there was only one thing I needed to do: trust my ex in the present with our son. That is it. That is the basic premise of co-parenting, trusting that the other parent will safely care for your children during their time with them, and vice versa. No matter what went down in your marriage, none of it really matters when it comes to co-parenting (so long as everything is within the bounds of normal safety, of course).
Starting out on this base level pedestal helps build a clean, new relationship. Basing our co-parenting relationship on that low (but incredibly important!) level of trust gave us a real chance of success. It allowed me the emotional space to process all of my personal stuff without having it get in the way of the task at hand: co-parenting our child in a loving, cooperative manner.
As time passes and personal work continues, emotions shift and the relationship changes. Sometimes co-parents become friendlier, and sometimes not. It really depends on who you both are, how you relate, and what you want out of the co-parenting relationship. Some co-parents do better with minimal contact. Others become best friends. It is an individual process.
For me, we are at the place where I can gladly accept an invitation for dinner. And I can enjoy it! We don't spend a ton of time together, and I don't need to confide all my personal thoughts in him. But I trust him. I can even say that I love him. And we are raising a child apart, together.