Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Co-Parenting When Values Don’t Match


My wife left me for another man and is living with him. She and I share custody of our 15-year-old daughter. That means my daughter is constantly exposed to this ungodly lifestyle.  My daughter attends church with me and has accepted Christ. But how do I communicate that her mother's living situation is wrong without sounding like an angry ex-husband criticizing his wife? I want my daughter to embrace purity, but her own mother is not setting that example.


This is a difficult and delicate situation and you have good reasons to be concerned about coming across as the “angry ex” who is just out for revenge.  Satan will do all he can to discredit you, your motives, intentions and your perspective.

It’s good that you want your daughter to embrace purity and that is more likely to happen as she is encouraged to embrace her relationship with Christ.  While you shouldn’t ignore the problem it’s most important for you to focus more on how you can be salt and light to her.

St. Francis is often quoted as having said, “Preach the gospel. When necessary use words.”  Start by showing her what a love relationship with Christ looks like and the difference that living for Christ can make. Remember what our Lord said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.”

You have a powerful opportunity to model, in the words of Philippians 4:8, what is “true, honorable, right, pure and lovely,” and as she sees you deal with your own fears, hurts and frustrations in your interactions with her mom and in other relationships your life will speak in ways your lips can’t.  If you have started dating again make sure you are practicing what you preach.

If she ever asks you questions be prepared to give answers.  It sounds like you know what the Bible has to say and that’s a great start.  Also share with her why marriage matters and the many reasons for embracing purity.  Be aware of the research on the high costs of cohabitation and don’t be afraid to share those with her.

Also, encourage her participation in a healthy church group where biblical values are encouraged and lived out.  Encourage her participation in mission trips where she can experience in unique ways the transforming difference that Christ can make.

Make sure you spend ample time listening to her and look for opportunities to connect. This will build greater trust and where there is trust there is love and respect.  Love and respect are the foundational building blocks to make it more likely that your daughter will accept your influence and that the faith of her father will become her faith too.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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