Divorces aren’t always acrimonious. Many are amicable, with spouses realizing that they just don’t want to be married anymore – and for one reason or another, they want to stay in touch. Can they go so far as to remain friends? It is possible to be friends with an ex-spouse. It is also possible to have that friendship take a bad turn if you don’t handle the situation carefully. Here are 5 tips for post-divorce friendships.
1. Stay Respectful
Even friendly divorces have their tense moments. Both of you must be respectful of the other. Any insults, either to each other or behind the other’s back, can drive a wedge between you that might overwhelm friendship. If you have insulted your spouse, for example, you need to get to the point where you can apologize, and your spouse can accept the apology. Otherwise, when you become exes, there will be a layer of bitterness or resentment that will taint attempts to be friendly. It helps to remember those qualities that led you to like and then love your ex in the first place.
2. Make Sure Family and Friends Stay Respectful
Your family and friends need to be respectful, too, and not take sides. For example, do not let family members tell your kids that your ex-spouse was terrible. Insulting family can eventually drive away a friendly ex-spouse because who needs that abuse?
3. Give It Time, and Let Yourself Mourn First
One or both of you may not be ready to be friends yet. Divorce is emotionally hard. Your marriage is over, the love of your life is no longer the love of your life, and your world has been turned upside-down even in the best circumstances. It is okay for one or both of you to take some time to recover and heal. Remain civil with your soon-to-be-ex or ex but give yourself room to mourn the loss of love and marriage. Let the new chapter of friendship begin gradually.
4. Get Counseling
Do seek counseling to help you process your thoughts and emotions about the divorce and everything behind it. Counseling should be a part of almost every divorce. It provides that opportunity to heal. It is also wise to discuss with the counselor the idea of being friends with your ex. You want to make this transition carefully and with your eyes open.
5. Reach an Agreement Regarding Sticking Points
The issues that drove you to divorce will inevitably come up at some point. These could be behaviors, beliefs, hobbies, or other issues. It will be very easy to get agitated and start fighting. Instead, you and your ex should agree to some rules for maintaining a friendship, set boundaries regarding these issues, and create an agreement about how to handle them. It could be that there will be certain topics you won’t discuss, or if one of you starts to behave a certain way, the other will have a key phrase that clues the first partner into what they’re doing.
Don’t assume your ex will be ready for friendship when you are. This could be a long process, but if you both remain respectful and work through your thoughts and feelings, you can emerge – eventually – into a productive post-divorce friendship that is a wonderful model for your children, family, and friends.
For assistance with any aspect of your divorce, contact us at Chase, Berenstein and Murray, Counselors at Law.