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In co-parenting, should we focus on our strengths or our struggles?

We each have our own definition of courage. A google search defines it as: “Strength in the face of pain.”  The concept of courage came up during an icebreaker activity at a recent “Strengthen Your Family” workshop, when participants were asked to write down a strength and a struggle that they saw in themselves as a parent as well as a strength and a struggle that they saw in their co-parent.  They were also invited to share what they wrote with the co-parent.

One participant noted that, in couples counseling, they are often directed to focus on each other’s strengths and that focusing on struggles tends to feel like blaming each other. “I am trying to avoid blaming him so why are we looking at the struggle areas?”

In Neanderthal times, the willingness without hesitation or ego-driven obstacles, to be critical allowed us to survive. It was important to criticize your shelter to the nth degree to ensure it could withstand the elements; 70,000 years ago it was necessary to criticize hunting and gathering skills, fire making skills etc.  I can only assume that it did not take courage to judge or be judged, it was a necessary aspect of life.

In modern living, judgment and criticisim, by ourselves and by others, do not feel necessary for survival but much the opposite, we let ourselves be torn apart by them.  The ego has evolved and, though the need along with our lifestyles though the development of ego strength (the ability to be “wrong” and be ok with it) is at times lacking.

So, when it comes to the question of the benefit or the harm of assessing each other’s strengths and struggles, I see it as a crucial step not just in our survival but in our ability to thrive.  To look at the strengths if we are not looking at struggles then we are not looking at the full picture.

With co-parents, it does take some courage and grace to be a part of this however, whether you are delivering or receiving.  Since it seems our lives do not depend on it in the moment, we tend to be more sensitive about what we hear, more defensive.  And, as the ones who express, we can deliver the information through the filter of our own emotion and at poorly chosen times.

All we can control is ourselves and so, as we take the journey into the full picture of ourselves, if we each look at criticism as critical to thriving, we will tap into the lost wisdom of our ancestors and perhaps find the courage to embrace the struggles.

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