Free Webinar: Loving Your Life After Divorce | Join us February 27 at Noon EST |   REGISTER NOW

Ep. 86 – The Manual and Coparenting

In this episode, Doreen and Jeff discuss what a manual is and how to think about them as to your coparenting relationship with your ex. However, recognizing where you may have unwritten manuals for anyone, in your life, is something worth considering especially as you move forward in healing from your divorce and designing a life on purpose.


Doreen: Hey, my beautiful friends, and how are you? So today we’re gonna talk about something that’s a little involved. It’s called the Manual, and in a nutshell, what it is, is basically a kind of operational manual for someone in your life that basically is outlining what you expect of this person. And what’s really interesting is that most of the time the other person doesn’t even know about this.

We’re gonna focus today though on specifically, although it will be general, we’re gonna focus on parenting, co-parenting with your ex and the manual that you have with your ex as to your children and him or her, et cetera. However, like I said, this is really relevant to any relationship that you have. So come and take a listen.

Here we go.

Are you ready to create a life that’s better than ever before? We are Doreen Yaffa and Jeff Wilson, and we are here to give you the strategies you need to create the life after divorce that you deserve and desire. As partners both in marriage and coaching, we use our expertise as well as our own personal experiences to help you make the next chapter of your life the best chapter.

Hey, Jeff. How are you?

Jeff: Good. How are you doing today?

Doreen: I’m okay. What’s up?

Jeff: Good. Oh, not much.

Doreen: What do you mean not much? Not much.

Jeff: I don’t know. Every time you ask me that question I always you, I’m like, draw a blank. But there’s there a lot going on.

Doreen: I was just talking to a friend yesterday, actually, a few friends about when, you know, when you ask your kids at dinner typically, or when they get home from school and you say, how was your day? And they say, great or good or fine. They don’t really give you any explanation on it. They just kind of like, you know, blow it off. That’s kind of what just happened with us.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I have, I guess I have so much going on that it was, I drew a blank in the, oh, not much.

Doreen: Yeah. And you know, so just as a side note, what we used to do is something called, remember the talking stick?

Jeff: Yes.

Doreen: So we used to have the stick when the kids were little, we’d sit at the table and we did your high and low, your best thing that happened to you during the day.

And the worst thing, we usually start with the worst so that we end on a high note and we pass a little stick around and it got the kids interested cuz everybody wanted to have the stick and we got to get a little bit more about what happened that day.

Jeff: Yes.

Doreen: And we also pared in it, right?

Jeff: We had to.

Doreen: Yeah, of course.

So just a little side thing.

Jeff: It was fun.

Doreen: So today we’re gonna talk about the manual and you know, I know that I’ve touched on this in previous episodes, we’ve touched on it, but we really think that it’s such an important concept and we want to see if you’re doing this in your life. So let’s start with what the manual is.

Jeff, you wanna explain to everybody what the manual is?

Jeff: I will do my. Well, basically what it is we all have to use some sort of operational manual in our life. In other words, if you drive,  you’re fixing your car or you’re building something, or you’re, you know, how to operate an electronic device, they come with manuals, right?

How, you know how to figure out something or instructions on how to build something that type of manual. Obviously this manual that we’re talking about is very different. The manual that we have for another person might be the way you expect them to act or the way you expect them to behave the way you expect them to do something.

It’s your preconceived instructions on what you want them to do.

Doreen: And what’s most interesting about these unspoken unwritten manuals that we have for other people in our life is that they mostly or very frequently involve significant others in your life. So for example, I know that I’ve had to do a lot of work on my manual of you.

Jeff: Yes.

Doreen: You know what I expect him, Jeff, to do as a husband, as a partner, you know, with regard to the children in the house and as a partner in business. So they’re kind of like my unwritten expectations, the manual that I have for you and what that means. So for like our situation, if I expect, for example, when you, this is gonna be really easy, but when, if I expect that you’re gonna take off the trash when it’s up to the top and there I am putting in that next piece of trash that can barely fit in and I’m going to myself, why can’t he just see that the trash is full and take it out?

I know it’s a minor issue, but it’s an example. And so I think that, I think to myself, he doesn’t want me to take the trash out. He’s told me this before, but yet he doesn’t know that it’s filled, even though it’s filled. And he’s been in there five times before me and then I get frustrated. So I have this unwritten manual about this particular issue, but it stems into many things in your life.

Jeff: I think this is gonna be a long podcast.

Doreen: It’s gonna be a long podcast cuz, It’s an important issue. Well, and but anyhow, so what do I do about that? I’ve mentioned it to him. It still happens. It’s a regular occurrence. I can’t get all bent out in shape. Yes, I’m gonna get frustrated when I see it and the trash is overflowing again.

And I’m wondering why. And then I’m going, Jeff, come. Yeah, the trash needs to go out for like the hundredth time. Right? But I need to know that this is not something that I can control of him. He’s an adult. He can see that it’s filled. He can take it out. He chooses not to.  Do I  decide to get all bent out of shape.

Now, you might say, really not a big deal, Doreen or Jeff, really not a big deal. Why can’t you just take it out when you see it’s filled? I don’t know, but I, but when I get emotional about it and it becomes an issue, that’s where it’s a problem. So how does this play into rebuilding your life after divorce?

And what we wanna suggest today is that what manuals do you have in your life that you might wanna identify? And you know, we’ve listened to our clients and we see that many of them hold these deep rooted manuals for their ex that they probably had or did have, I should say, most times prior to the divorce.

And now it’s extending into their after divorce relationship. And we’re focused here on co-parenting because after divorce, if you don’t have children together, then you don’t have to be involved with this person. You can choose to be involved or not and that’s something we can work on separately in another episode or with you individually.

But for the purposes of today, we wanna talk about your ex. And your relationship with your ex, because if you have children, that’s something you need to understand. And having that manual is really, really important in the sense of do you have one and have you communicated it with your ex? And then how is it impacting you and your life?

Jeff: Yeah. I think the first question we’d like to start with, I think you brought it up earlier, where do you have these manuals in your life. And who do you have them for? You know, can you identify this as a starting point? You know, then, you identify who you have them for. The next question is, have you let this person read the manual?

Yeah. I mean, do they know what you expect of them? Have you shared it? Does the person clearly understand what he or she is to do and how to act on it. Most of them would say, no, I don’t. I have no idea.

Doreen: So after you identify this, which, what we need to then think about is, does this person that we have a manual for, let’s, let’s assume the focus today on our ex and co-parenting issues, right?

Do they have to follow our manual? And the quick answer to that is what, Jeff?

Jeff: Obviously not.

Doreen: Yeah, because?

Jeff: Well, we have the ability to do what we want to do.

Doreen: Because we’re adults.

Jeff: We’re adults.

Doreen: And when we start trying to control someone else, and their actions, it backfires because we get all frustrated about it.

It just seems so simple, right? For example, let’s say we just, our manual is that our ex is gonna bring the children home on time fed, ready for the next day. Seems reasonable, right?

Jeff: Sounds like a great request

Doreen: And most parents would, would probably agree that these things are reasonable. But your ex is not doing this.

The children are coming home late. He or she is never on time. They haven’t done their homework, and now you’re scrambling around that night trying to get everything done because he or she failed to do it, and you get so frustrated. Sounds so reasonable. But the problem is, is that you cannot control another person.

You can certainly communicate what it is that you expect, especially as co-parents and why, but after that, we suggest if they don’t do it, you have to let it go. Right? Now, I wanna talk for a minute about the legal part of that, because I’m dealing specifically, we’re focused in on children post divorce and as a lawyer, I just wanna say, if you have a major issue with your ex that is affecting the best interest of your children, not that they’re coming home five minutes late or not ready for the next day, because I’m gonna tell you right now, at least in Florida, based on what I understand, you know, practicing over 25 years..

The court system is not gonna micromanage your relationship with your ex. And what that means is even though the children should be ready for the next day and come back on time, the courts are not going to, nor do they have the ability to be involved in those kind of decisions and those kind of enforcements, however, and I just wanna say if it is a major issue, meaning something that is abuse, neglect, abandonment.

That is something you definitely wanna seek legal advice on because if it is affecting the best interests of your children’s health and safety, That is another issue and you should talk to your lawyer. I’m talking about the things that you get frustrated about because your ex and you are not on the same page when it comes to co-parenting.

Right? And we have a lot of experience with this because again, my ex and I, we had very similar parenting, thoughts, ideas, understandings. We had these understandings before we had children. We knew certain things and we had conversations about it. For example, that the children would attend would be involved in some sports activity.

That was important to both of us because both of us said he’s an ex-athlete. And I’m a firm believer about the children staying busy and being involved with the team and what that means and what, you know, that’s a great learning experience. So we were on the same page with regard to that. But you had an opposite situation with your ex where what, you guys didn’t agree on it.

Jeff: We didn’t agree on anything mostly, but I think one thing I just thought of is, it’s almost like you and, and your ex wrote the manual together

Doreen:. Oh, yeah. But that’s another subject.

Jeff: I mean, when you’re, when you’re talking about the manual that you have for co-parenting. Yeah. You imagine getting together and writing your own manual together.

Versus what happened with my ex and I, where we didn’t even talk about a manual. We just, we were winging it and I was winging it a completely different way than she was.

Doreen: Well, and what happened was you had this manual of what you expected from her as a co-parent, and she fell short of it in your mind all the time.

And it caused what? Major, major issues. But mostly for you? Like you got all frustrated and then poor, you know, my stepson, you know, Spencer got in the middle of it. Yeah. And you know, it was like you had a different thought process about being involved in sports and she did as an example, right?

Jeff: Yeah, of course. I thought, the man, I think in our case my manual was more towards her than co-parenting.

Doreen: Well, I think there was a lot of anger there still built up. So anything she suggested you didn’t agree with? Anything you suggested she didn’t agree with? That’s just my take on it. And that’s a whole different episode about, you know, basically, that’s really dealing with yourself and working on yourself, and we’ve done that.

I mean, it took a long time for you to work on yourself and really understand that you can’t have these manuals with her.

Jeff: Right.

Doreen: Right? How did that feel when you were, I mean, it took years.

Jeff: It was like carrying around a bunch of encyclopedias and, and getting ’em off my back.

Doreen: Yeah,

Jeff: It felt great.

Doreen: So, you know, it’s important that you think about this and what you can control and what you can’t control and what you’re gonna bring to the courts attention for enforcement purposes or best interest purposes and talking to a lawyer about what that involves. But for other things, I’m gonna take an example. I had a client recently who is a vegan and she is a firm believer and has a lot of scientific, you know, studies and research about why feeding the children a vegan diet is important to her. Right? And during the marriage it wasn’t an issue because she was basically took on that role as the person who prepared meals. And you know, that was her job. That was what she liked to do. And she made vegan meals. And her husband at the time, he didn’t object or have real, really any opinion of it, but when they got divorced, he decided that he didn’t wanna be a vegan anymore.

So in his household, when he had his time sharing, he did not feed the children a vegan diet. And she was very upset about this and she had good justification for this, however, however, the bottom line is the court is not, at least in Florida, is not gonna require a parent to feed a child a vegan diet, unless somehow it’s in an agreement, which I have never seen in all my years of practicing.

Maybe it could be in an agreement if it’s enforceable in a contract. Fine, but there was no understanding of this legally. So when she wanted to pursue it, you know, obviously the advice would be, you’re not gonna win this, the court is not gonna do this. And in fact, the court may even see this as being a frivolous cause of action and you might be assessed fees.

So what does she do? Well, the only thing she really could do was just recognize the fact that he’s an adult. He gets to do what he does, and then she was able to take all that energy being frustrated and now teach her children about being a vegan. Right. So when I ran into her recently, now as the children have gotten older they want to pursue a vegan lifestyle.

And so they are, and I’m not sure if both children are, but I know at least one is, who’s older. So she took that energy and just said, Hey, you know, I know dad feeds you, whatever, but, and I’m not suggesting it’s right or wrong, but please don’t involve your children in the middle of those types of things.

But in our house, here’s what I think is important. Here’s what we’ve done. Help me prepare these meals. I want you to learn about this. And so now the child carried it over. And guess what a dad’s house is requesting a vegan diet. No, and you just we were talking earlier. This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t have a conversation about whatever’s important to you, co-parenting with your ex.


Jeff: Right. I mean I think that if you do have a conversation with your ex or even with your current partner, something that you have a manual about that’s not being followed, so to speak, and it’s upsetting you, maybe there should be a compromise. Okay. Well this is, you know, you, we talked about letting them know about the manual and once they know, then they can, maybe you can work it out.

Doreen: Yeah. But if they don’t do it even if you agree on things. What I’m suggesting is unless you have in writing where there’s a court order and you’re just having conversations about co-parenting, which I promise you, you’re gonna have. And you now are on the same page about certain things, if they don’t follow it, the issue is they get to be an adult.

So maybe something like, you know, we agreed on ex and I noticed why I thought that we had an understanding on this, and maybe the person just needs a little bit of a reminder and that’s great. But when you’re reminding somebody you know, 2, 3, 4 times, that’s where it becomes issue for you, because obviously you cannot control another person.

They get to make the decision of what they wanna do, and I know for many of you, you’re sitting there and you’re going, but when it comes to my children, like what I’m asking is totally within their best interest and makes sense. Yes, I understand that, but you cannot micromanage the other person. That’s the issue because then you get all caught up in that frustration and energy and it’s gonna snowball into a bad effect for everyone, including the children, most likely who are gonna be in the middle.

So do what you can in your own home. Try to communicate, try to have common understandings. Here’s another thing I wanna mention is that these manuals and not controlling someone else in your life, like I said before, they stem to any relationship you have. It could be your friends, could be other family members, could be coworkers, it could be employees.

Employees are different. And let me explain now, certain people in your life, you should have manuals for those people are children. And people like coworkers or teammates, not coworkers, but your employees, right? Because as the parent, part of our responsibility as parents is to teach our children, so they should have an understanding of rules in the house.

You’re required to do your homework before you have time on your, you know, electronics. You’re re, you know, you cannot have dessert until you finish your main meal. These types of things, right? These are teaching our children that is different because they are children. And part of what we teach our children is rules.

This is what is equired of you. This is what the consequences etc. That is very different than adult to adult relationships. Employee employers, same thing. If you are employing somebody, okay, and you expect X, Y, and Z from this employee that is hopefully written somewhere where they can see it, this is their job description.

They are given a warning if they do not follow. And then again, if it comes up again, then you make a decision. I wanna have this person remain as an employee. Give them another chance or not because your energy as a professional, as an entrepreneur, as the employer needs to be spent not trying to get someone to follow their job description, but to spend, spend elsewhere.

And you know that as an entrepreneur, right? So there’s a very big distinction here. We’re talking about adult to adult relationships outside of those two examples, for example.

Jeff: Yeah. And I think that the manual that we’re talking about is more a psychological manual than this is what you do as a job description.

Doreen: You know, and I also wanna suggest when I agreed that when you are talking to your children, you’re creating the rules, right? Their operational manual, that it be clearly understood by them. And that if they don’t do it, they clearly understand the repercussion of that. Right. That is explained better in two episodes that I have earlier on about boundaries.

Boundaries one, boundaries two. There’s two different episodes and about clear boundaries. Okay. That’s very, very different because it’s very different to say, hey. You know, if you don’t clean your room, then there’ll be a consequence for you. That’s very different than if you don’t clean your room, then you’re gonna hurt mommy’s feelings.

That’s what some consider emotional blackmail.

Jeff: Right?

Doreen: Because you’re teaching your child that. The opposite of what we’re saying is that if somebody doesn’t do something, then it’s affecting you personally at your feelings, right? No. With children, it’s a clear boundary of if you don’t do this then you cannot do this, or if you do this, and here’s the repercussions.

It’s very different than saying, mommy’s gonna be upset or daddy’s gonna be upset. I just wanted to make that little distinction there cuz I think it’s important to know.

Jeff: And we’ve also made the distinction earlier that typically in the manuals that we’re talking about, the other person doesn’t know where, in this case, with the children and setting expectations, they do know.

Doreen: And so, you know, again, going back to post-judgment, contempt issues, you see some exes they stay in this litigation mode after the divorce, right? That they have certain ideas of how they should parent, and then they’re coming back to their lawyers or going to the court system and trying to enforce and micromanage the other person.

Lot of money, lot of energy being spent, that probably, and that depends on what your lawyer tells you. So I’m not giving legal advice, but in Florida, I can tell you, probably not gonna get very far with it. You’re gonna spend a lot of money. The court’s gonna look at you, maybe do something minor about it, but they, they’re not gonna be able to enforce these types of things.


Jeff: Yeah. And I think that the emotional. Uh, tournament that you’re putting yourself through isn’t worth it either.

Doreen: And let me, let’s talk about something else. You see the distinction here is that when you’re co-parenting, you don’t have the choice to say, I no longer want you in my life as, you know, our child’s co-parent, because the reality is that this person is, you may not want them to be.

And that’s something that you should call us and we should work on separately, but, or maybe you have good cause, but we’re talking basically about, you know, can you decide if the person is not living up to what you expect, whatever of that relationship. Can you decide to leave that person? Well, in a co-parenting relationship, you can’t. Right? And that could be another thought we could talk about, but they’re the parent, right? So you’re kind of forced into that relationship. So these manuals are even more important to understand and what you can and cannot control.

In other relationships, let’s say you’re dating somebody new and you request certain things of this person.

You expect certain things and you’ve communicated this, and this person just wants to do something different. Now you get to make a decision. You don’t get to bitch about it. Really you don’t, what you get to do is say, I don’t wanna be involved in this relationship. Right? You don’t have to be involved in the relationship.

You have a choice. Right? So I also wanna talk about owning your own feelings about whatever this person is not doing. Okay. That’s part of your manual. And how that’s really on you.

Jeff: Yeah. I think it’s important to remember that your happiness only comes from you. It doesn’t matter who your ex is or what he’s done or what she’s done.

It comes from your own emotional happiness. You know, if you’re trying to focus on controlling yourself and your response to how other people behave, what do you imagine your life would be like? You know, how could you use that energy to make your own life and your own children’s life better after divorce?

You know, when they don’t honor your request or they don’t follow through on what you ask them to do, you get to decide to let that go. But the truth is you don’t have to be upset about it. You don’t have to be angry about it. It’s totally up to you.

Doreen: It is up to you. And that’s what we teach in the model.

Because, let me give an example. The act of your ex bringing the home, the children home late, that act itself in and of itself is not what’s causing some to be upset. Right? It’s your thought about it. You can go to the thought, why does he do this? The children are tired. He’s just doing this to hurt me.

And that’s gonna result in a feeling of anger and probably some lashing out, and the result is further distance in the relationship versus if the child is brought home late and you’ve already voiced your opinion on this, right? That you get to say This is who he is. The children are fine. This is what we’re gonna be dealing with. Let me just have a nice night with my kids.

Jeff: Or maybe there’s a good reason why he is late.

Doreen: Right? But I don’t think you wanna get too involved in thinking about that. It is what it is. Move on. Okay. And I’m not, I’m not talking like they’re an hour late and you have a final judgment that says, you know, one time talking about a few minutes late, right.

I have parents call me and they’re so upset about that, and I get it. I get it. I’m a person that is very diligent with my time. It’s like I’m on a schedule, but the courts are, you know, they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do with this. So, and I also wanna suggest that we were talking about communicating with your ex.

When you communicate, and I have an episode on that as well, but it’s really important to try to find common ground. You know, for example, what we suggest is that you set a time to meet. And hopefully your ex will meet with you. It’s about the children. Let ’em know. I just wanna talk about some things.

Meet in a friendly, neutral place, maybe a coffee shop or something, and do a lot of listening in the beginning. Let them be validated on what they think and why. And then start to find the common thread. For example, the common thread might be we want, you know, we want our son to do well in school. Can we agree on that?

Yes. Can we agree that in order to do good on school, in school, he probably needs to be rested and have a good night’s sleep?

Jeff: Yes.

Doreen: Yes. Can we agree that, you know, in order to do well in school, he’s likely go going to have to be on top of his homework and do it and make sure it’s ready to go the next day?

Yes. And then you try to build some common ground and then say, well, in order for that to happen, would you agree that he would need to be in bed in time? Yes. And so having him home or me having him to you at the time that we are supposed to is important. Yes. So maybe there’s some different way of approaching the conversation in a calm way.

Jeff: That’s what I was kind of hinting too with having some compromise is basically having that same conversation may not be the easiest conversation to have, but for the sake of the children, an important one.

Doreen: Right. So here’s an exercise to consider.

Think about those requests that you have of your ex or any person in your life. If you prefer, you know, try and write this down for yourself? What do I expect of this person? Why do I keep getting frustrated when this person doesn’t do what I expect? Do I have a manual? Then take the time to think about it.

Right. What would you feel, what would you imagine you would feel if they voluntarily did all these things? What would you be thinking? Right, if, for example, Jeff just took the trash out, what would I be thinking if he did this. I’d probably be thinking, wow, that’s really great that he did that, right? Remember, all of your feelings come from your thinking.

What would you be thinking if this person basically behaved in the way that you want them to think about that? Do you have that thought available to you? Now, do you, and can you think about this person without them having to do all those things? Right. Does that make sense? Like can you still think about this person in a good way even if they don’t do it?

Kind of a little involved. Any questions on that or thoughts?

Jeff: No, just that I’m gonna go take out the trash.

Doreen: I think you already did this morning.

Jeff: I did.

Doreen: Okay. So do that. You might wanna do that and then think about, like we said, the co-parenting issues you have and what’s going on with that. Cuz you can decide that you’re not going to make your life about other people’s behaviors. You can really do that, and it can be so freeing in so many ways because the only thing you’re really entitled to we’re entitled to is adults, is taking care of your own emotional life and your own brain and making sure that you have thoughts that serve you.


Jeff: Yeah. I’m just wondering, uh, to take some time to consider this. Maybe, have you considered giving up your manuals?

Doreen: Yeah. So something to think about. All right, my friends, I know it’s an involved subject. If you have any questions, as always, just reach out to us. You can visit our website  at

We’d love to hear from you.

Jeff: Me too.

Doreen: All right. All right. Have an amazing week. Think about this and go out there and be good to yourself and others, and especially to your children. All right, everybody, have an amazing day.

Jeff: Have an amazing day. Bye.

You have the vision of what you want your life to look like after divorce, but maybe you just don’t know how to get there. So if you’re ready to take control of your life and want to find out more about our coaching, visit us at That’s L A D as in life after divorce dash

Doreen: Until next time, have an amazing rest of your day. And remember, yes, you can have an amazing life after divorce.


Start creating your best life after divorce and book your complimentary Discovery Call