Is it possible to be friends after divorce? Divorce is the end of a marriage relationship. But does it need to be the end of any kind of good relationship with your ex-spouse?
Being divorced does not mean you have to be enemies, although for some it’s very hard to see or have it any other way. One person who is good friends with her ex said that divorce means you’re no longer ‘wedlocked’. For her and her ex-husband, it sounds like divorce was some kind of circuit-breaker – they actually went on to have a better relationship after divorce.
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Divorce happens for a whole host of reasons. Now there are the more earth-shattering ones: one spouse has an affair; a child dies; serious illness or other significant trauma. It may be that divorce is the safe option for a victim of domestic violence and getting away from an abusive partner is the wisest and best choice in that situation. But often couples divorce because they have simply grown apart. There is not the fire of love there that once used to be. Or is there?
Clinical psychologist, Seth Myers, is a relationship expert. He says this about divorced couples:
Based on my clinical work over the years, I’ve found that the love never truly dies, no matter what came between the two individuals. It seems more likely that the love remains but is repressed to defend against strong, unpleasant feelings underneath. When you see two people who treat each other as strangers but who were once married, you don’t see the love on the surface, but it’s there – only in repressed form. You see the manifestation of the anger, sadness, or denial, but it covers strong feelings underneath. You can’t simply love someone day after day and ever truly stop loving that person. You surrender to denial if you can’t accept that there is a part of you that still loves and misses that person, even if it’s only the most miniscule part of you. Music comes to mind again as I think of Whitney Houston singing “…and if somebody loves you, won’t they always love you?” The answer, in a word, is yes, though some will go to the grave denying it.
It may not be that there is still an underlying ‘romantic’ love for your ex-husband or wife, but oftentimes divorced couples don’t allow themselves to remember that there was once love and that there might still be be an ounce of fond affection remaining. We often take our cues from the people around us and there are many that are hurting and broken from their relationships gone bad. Some deal with with what we consider the typical way: being angry, disparaging the other and generally working at being miserable.
Friendship After Divorce
There are others though, often the minority, who show a significant strength of character. They somehow manage to pull away from regret, disappointment and a sense of failure after divorce. When Al Deluise and his wife divorced after 11 years, they decided to do better than some of their family and friends who’d divorced. He says, “Of course there were difficult times, but in the end, I think we are all better off. It has been almost 17 years since our separation and we attend all family functions together and that includes any new significant others that might be around. And, as a bonus, my ex-wife is a wonderful cook who still feeds me.”
Choosing to rise above the negativity of a relationship ended is not an easy task. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a swirl of emotions. It’s integrating those into the healing process, which helps you to move onto a new phase in your relationship. Like any relationship that you want to maintain you need to work at it. There is no such thing as ‘set and forget’ when it comes to people. There is even greater incentive to forge a friendship with your ex when there are children involved. You’ll both still be parents of those children even after divorce.
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When Bill Lennan got divorced, he said a key way in which he and his ex-wife have maintained a friendship is to not play the ‘blame game’. He says, “Kim has gone from my wife to an amazing friend, confidant, trusted advisor and delightful co-parent. Arguably we have a better relationship now than we did when we were married. . . When we decided that living together wasn’t a working exercise, our first focus was to take excellent care of our kids. We currently live approximately a quarter mile apart, share custody and the kids roam freely between our homes. Kim and I both acknowledged responsibility for the change ― neither of us blamed the other ― and thus had no victim perspective. Taking mutual responsibility as a given and never playing the victim card is key. We text or talk daily, plan family events and share rides to kids’ sports.”
Some more recommendations from other divorced couples who have remained or become friends include keeping a sense of humour and working on forgiveness of each other. Each couple will have particular issues surrounding their marriage and post-marriage relationships with one another. Sadly, though, there are still quite a few individuals who find it very difficult to move on.
Although Jenny Erikson desired to be friends with her ex-husband, he found it very difficult to try and relate in that way. He said in a conversation to her: “It’s all or nothing. I can’t be just friends if I can’t have you for my wife.” So although they parent as best they can and communicate as needed, friendship is not how you’d describe their relationship. Jenny says, “Just like every marriage is different, every divorce is too, and sometimes the best option isn’t to remain friends. Trying to force a relationship of any kind when it’s not mutual is just a recipe for disaster.”
No matter what happens after your divorce, we’ll help you through this stressful time with sensitivity and care. We will always try to obtain a low-conflict divorce for you and always put the best interests of your children first.
If you’d like to speak to one of our family lawyers then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.