Can your Ex Be a Friend?
Co-Parenting: Tips to Remain Friends — with or without Kids — after the Divorce Is Final
Can you be friends with your ex? That’s the question Wevorce posed to its experts, who all agreed that, it is possible that you can have a better relationship with your ex-spouse in divorce than you did when you were married.This is particularly helpful, they agreed, if you have children, who often get caught in the middle of the emotional battlefield that can be caused by the breakup.”If you have kids, it’s essential to remain at least friendly after the divorce — for everyone’s sake,” said
“If you have kids, it’s essential to remain at least friendly after the divorce — for everyone’s sake,” said Tina Tessina, Ph.D., aka Dr. Romance, author of Love, Sex and Money, a book that helps couples discuss the topics that cause the most arguments in marriages.
“Unless your ex was so violent or abusive the courts have kept him away from the kids, you’ll have to work together even after the kids are grown. My husband had a large hand in raising his first wife’s son, so we’re all still close. Ten of us, the stepson and his new wife, her parents, his parents, and four stepparents all went on a cruise together last year and had a great time,” she said.
Dr. Mark Goulston, author of The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall In Love Again and Stay There, said ex-spouses who have children must make a choice. “On the one hand, children can be an incentive to be more friendly and cooperative since you are in each other’s lives,” Goulston said. “On the other hand, the way parents will deflect anger toward a spouse and away from kids who they feel a primal instinct to protect can increase animosity between parents.”
According to Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford, who along with Sharyl Jupe, is the author of Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation, it’s rare for a divorced couple to remain friends.
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D., co-founder of hermentorcenter.com, a resource center for divorcing women, says, “The circumstances that led up to the divorce and the individual personalities involved are major factors that determine whether a friendship maintains. I think that if couples without children remain friends, it’s only if the decision to separate was mutual and the divorce itself was not adversarial. In my clinical experience, these people are often socially isolated and provide a great deal of support for each other.”
Said Blackstone-Ford, “The key is to a relationship after divorce is that you must start from scratch — re-establish a new relationship with this person you were once married to so that you can successfully co-parent your children. And, ironically, friendship is often a byproduct of that new relationship.”
Goulston, who developed a program called “Recoupling Therapy,” which helped divorced couples to work on the issues that caused their breakup and help them remarry their ex, says, “The same attitudes and behaviors that enable them to repair their rifts are the same that enable divorced spouse to remain friends.”
Goldberg says parents often can become friends over time. “Many parents are able to rise above their own issues and be present for special occasions. They also try to communicate well and cooperate in order for transitions from one home to the other run smoothly. However, when one parent remarries and the family equilibrium shifts once again, new struggles can occur.”
And even if you don’t have children, you can still remain friends — if you want to be, “People who have been married and have no children sometimes stay in contact with each other, but this relationship is often adjusted when there are new partners on either side,” Blackstone-Ford says.
To help you remain friends with your ex, regardless of your parental status, all three experts have offered their own take on how to make your newly divorced status work for you and your former spouse. So we share:
TIPS TO REMAIN FRIENDS WITH YOUR EX — by Dr. Mark Goulston
1. Cooperation versus turning every disagreement into a fight.
2. Compromise versus having to be right and win at all costs.
3. Taking responsibility for causing problems versus blaming the other person.
4. Showing humility versus self-righteousness.
5. Expressing appreciation versus never saying “Thank you.”
6. Saying “I’m sorry” versus being defensive.
7. Being quick to forgive versus holding a grudge.
8. Being proactive versus passive or reactive.
9. Giving the other the benefit of the doubt versus being quick to criticize.
10. Showing a commitment to what’s best for children versus being self-centered and self-serving.
10 RULES OF GOOD EX-ETIQUETTE — by Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford
1. Put the children first.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
3. No badmouthing.
4. Biological parents make the rules; bonus parents uphold them.
5. Don’t be spiteful.
6. Don’t hold grudges.
7. Use empathy when problem-solving.
8. Be honest and straightforward.
9. Respect each other’s turf.
10. Compromise whenever possible.
REMAINING FRIENDS AFTER DIVORCE — by Dr. Tina Tessina
1. Let it be.
Don’t keep bringing up old hurts, disappointments, and wounds. Learn from them about what to do next time, and forget about getting satisfaction from this ex.If that could have happened, it would have in your marriage.
2. Think of the kids.
If you have children, put their welfare first.It’s harmful to them to have two wrangling parents using them for ammunition. Focus on doing what works for the kids, even if you have to swallow some pride.
3. Move on.
Get some excitement going in your own life — new activities, new friends, and a new attitude. Remember that “living well is the best revenge” and see this as an opportunity to rebuild your life, the way you want it.
4. Think of the future.
If something upsets you, think, “Will I be upset about this in a week, six months, a year?” Getting that future perspective will calm you down and help you think clearly.
5. Separate legal matters from everything else.
If you have to go to court to get your ex to live up to agreements, or make a better deal, just let it be business. Let your lawyer handle everything, and don’t talk about it to the kids or your ex.
6. Treat your ex like any other friend.
Don’t get too personal, and don’t expect too much from your previous connection. Let this be a new ballgame.
7. If you don’t want to hear about your ex’s dating or new love, don’t ask.
Wait until you have something new of your own: a new college course, new friends, etc. Keep in mind that men often jump immediately into a new relationship to try and avoid their emotions, and it usually backfires. Women usually take longer to open up to new relationships, and fare better, especially if they’ve taken the time to learn from past experience.
8. Keep the friendship with your ex on the appropriate level.
Just be as friendly as you need to be for a shared business, your kids’ school or sports events, or family functions. Just because you’re being nice to each other, don’t get nostalgic for the old relationship.
9. Don’t let your jealousy show.
If your ex has a new love, it might be hard not only on you, but on the kids. So, be the grown up, don’t act out on your anger and hurt. To vent your emotions, use a counselor, a trusted friend (who won’t tell your ex or gossip) or a minister or spiritual counselor.
10. As time passes, you may come to cherish this friendship with your ex.
You two could do far better as friends than as marriage partners. But, if the unforeseen should happen, and things warm up between you, run, don’t walk to a counselor, to make sure you don’t repeat old mistakes.