Good People Make Mistakes – What Matters Most is What Comes After

Mistakes happen. This seems like a very obvious statement, but when you are dealing with a difficult divorce or child custody decisions, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by perceived mistakes the other parent is making. Whether you’ve been through a divorce before or not, this is the first time you are making parenting decisions with your current ex. There are bound to be mistakes as you both figure it out, but what matters most is what comes next.

Forgive Yourself

As co-parents, the most important thing you can do to begin your new relationship with each other is forgive. Forgiving your ex is important, but when you make mistakes you’ll need to forgive yourself, too. 

If you can’t forgive yourself, it will be difficult to co-parent with your ex-spouse. Unforgiveness, either with yourself or your ex, leads to bitterness, resentment and criticism. These things make it difficult to co-parent effectively.

Leave the Past in the Past

It’s easy to get stuck in the past, whether that means you’re remembering the good times or the bad times! If your ex makes a mistake, keep your reaction in the present moment. Do not use past mistakes or arguments as a reason to judge your co-parent. Instead, remind yourself that you are on the same team and focused on what’s best for your kids. Deal with each mistake as its own incident, and move forward. 

Begin to Move Forward

When a marriage ends, there have been mistakes on both sides. By first forgiving each other and yourselves, and then leaving the past behind, you can move forward together as co-parents. 

“I started to realize that Ben and I both had our share of responsibility to take for the ending of our marriage. It really had taken two to break it.” – Nikki DeBartolo 

Everyone makes mistakes, here’s what to do afterwards:

  • Own your mistakes. No matter what the ultimate cause of your divorce was, it’s very likely that both you and your ex-spouse played a part in the end of the marriage. In order to move forward, you need to identify what role you played and own your mistakes. 
  • Apologize. Once you accept that you too made mistakes in the marriage, it’s time to apologize. First, apologize to and forgive yourself. Without this, moving forward will be hard. Then, apologize to your ex. Depending on your communication styles, this could happen in person, over text message or with an email or letter. In some cases, you may not even share this apology with your ex but finding forgiveness in your heart is the first step to a productive relationship moving forward.

“I needed to reach out to start healing mistakes and make myself vulnerable, and hope Ben would accept and honestly discuss his own emotions and vulnerabilities.” ~Chad Chronister

  • Embrace your mistakes. Instead of worrying about your mistakes, realize that they actually make you stronger. Making mistakes is a sign of growth. As you continue to build your new relationship with your co-parent, there will be bumps along the way. But each of these mistakes allows you an opportunity to learn a lesson and do things differently next time. 

Mistakes don’t need to define who you are as a co-parent. When you can both keep your focus on what’s best for the kids, including talking about concerns and mistakes with the other parent, these mistakes will be easier to move on from.


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