Changing the Dance as Co-parents
Changing the dance
Knowing your attachment strategies and how you react in the midst of stress, danger and conflict, will give you a distinct advantage the next time you find yourself “dancing” with your other. Let’s face it- you do not want to dance anymore, not in the same way at least.
So what is the “dance?” A dance is the patterns that emerge, are reciprocal, trade energy back and forth and deepens to become more chaotic rather than offer relief as you interact with your ex or partnering parent.
Without awareness we deepen our reliance on our default strategies which only makes things worse. This could be a really important part of the “how to stay in relationship.” As tensions arise between the two of you, a simple exchange of your child, discussion between you or trigger awakening traumas of the past, you both will default to your protective strategies.
What are these? Just a few examples.
For a Type A, it might be avoidance, distance, feeling or acting superior, unemotional, in control, showing only a “positive face.”
For a Type C strategies may be high emotions, chaos, fast pace activity, drama, love/hate or black and white thinking.
Remember, these strategies are not faults. They are to be acknowledged as ways you have survived and coped during stressful times. They are also ways of interacting that you may decide to change to healthier and forward moving. But as you engage in interactions with your other, what may begin as a low level protective strategy, as it is met by your ex’s protective strategy- the cycle or dance begins. You find your irritation increasing, your ex’s manipulation may increase, your annoyance moves to anger, maybe you become more rigid, your ex also loses any flexibility, anger to rage, increased control to a blow- or even to an ominous chilly silence, a freeze, that you know will only erupt with greater vehemence later. Breathe!
You know your dance- it’s likely what you experienced before you parted ways.
So how do we stay off the dance floor? Well, you can’t. You will on the dance floor; you will be in relationship as we have already established. We want to remain in a functional “we.” A way of relating in order to navigate the details, coordination, shared parenting.
We focus on the need to remain open, not necessarily agreeing but with clear boundaries, engaging in a functional moment of relating towards the goal.
When you hear the dance music begin, Think about your strategy- awareness is armor. Remember it is not arming yourself but it is a new way to be protective. Preteach yourself new skills. Rehearse how you want to react.
If I know I react by getting very rigid and inflexible when the partnering parent starts to demand rather than ask, I can bring that to my awareness. Wrapping language around that moment, even in my mind, a silent rehearsal, will empower my brain to reduce my emotions and help me think more clearly about the bigger issue. With practice, I can be present in the stressful moment, stand still and watch my ex dance without me- or over time watch the whole dynamic change. If my strategy feeds theirs, then a starved strategy has to change. Create a new more functional dance.