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Is your coparenting conflict filled with assumptions about intentions versus impact?

You may be unaware of your coparent's intention but aware of the impact it has on you.

Conversely, your coparent is aware of their own intention but unaware of the impact on you.

Curious questioning can uncover intention and impact -

You "What was the intention behind your action…?"

Coparent "My intention when I did x was …"

You "When you did x, I felt …"

Coparent "How did you feel when I did x…?"

Example conflict - Your coparent got a call from your child’s school to say Billy is sick and can they collect him to take him home.

Your coparent left work and picked up Billy and took him to their place

Your coparent called you to say they have Billy and you can pick him up on the way home from work

You are so angry that it is your parenting time today and if anyone should have been called to collect your sick child it should have been you.

Conflict escalates as you felt your coparent took the opportunity to take some of your parenting time (perceived intention) when your parenting time has been impacted.

If you both discuss the issue with curious questioning to uncover intention and impact it would result in better understanding and reduced conflict.

You “What was your intention on picking Billy up from school when I was going to collect him after school?”

Coparent “My intention in picking Billy up from school was that the school called me at lunchtime and I thought you may not have been able to get out of work as you were picking him up after school. Since I was working from home, I went to pick him up so he could sleep whilst he waited for you”  

You “When you picked him up, I felt like I wasn’t there for Billy as he knew I was picking him up today.”

Coparent “How did you feel when I had picked him up?”

You “I felt like I had let Billy down”

This has created an awareness and understanding of the intention and subsequent impact providing an opportunity to discuss how it could be handled in the future.

You now see your coparent’s intention in picking Billy up from school at lunchtime was because you weren’t picking him up initially until 3pm after school. Billy would be able to get some rest before you came to pick him up.

Your initial assumption was that your coparent was taking the opportunity to gain extra time with your child. This was a negative assumption suspecting ill intent.

So, as you can see assumptions can lead to conflict, whereas questioning about intention and impact enables you both to understand the situation better so as to respond rather than react.

You may continue to discuss how you would like the situation handled in the future by requesting that your coparent call you to see if you are available to collect Billy at lunchtime. If not, your coparent may suggest that they collect Billy and you can drive by to collect him at 3pm. You are both part of the decision-making process on what is in the best interest for Billy if he gets sick at school in the future.

Billy see’s his parents’ problem solving rather than feeling like he has caused an argument between his parents as they blame each other and argue about who should have picked him up. These are great skills for Billy to learn from his parents modelling problem solving to help Billy adopt the skills for his future problems in life. If Billy was to continue to witness his parents blaming each other and not resolving issues, he may grow up unable to resolve conflict damaging his relationships with friends, work and future partners.

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce & Conflict Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator & Parenting Coordinator


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