When a couple ends their love relationship or marriage, in the majority of cases, both people want it to be an amicable break up.
Quite often, the two will promise to be “friends” as they make the transition to single life.
We’re completely in support of there being as much respect and kindness as possible during and after a relationship break up. However, many times the desire to stay friends and maintain a strong friendship with one’s ex causes all kinds of problems.
While it is absolutely possible to be friends– even good friends– with your ex, this needs to happen with a lot of clarity, honesty and consciousness.
Take Jim and Candace for example…
When Jim and Candace got divorced, they were so intent on making the changes easy for their kids, they pledged to be friends no matter what. They promised one another that– for the sake of their children’s happiness– they would continue to make one another a top priority, they would all spend regular time together as a family and they would always “be there” for each other.
This seemed to be working out well, until Jim started dating again.
He still had dinner with Candace and the kids a few times a week. He still e-mailed and texted with Candace– about the kids and other topics too– at least once a day. And, Jim willingly continued to be the first person that Candace turned to with a problem.
As you might guess, when Jim’s girlfriend saw how involved he continued to be with Candace, she felt jealous. Even though Candace was outwardly supportive of Jim’s new love relationship, inside she was devastated. Candace felt betrayed and hurt, regardless of how supportive she was trying to be when she talked with Jim.
Jim felt torn and unhappy about the whole situation.
Can you be friends with your ex?
Is it always wise or in your best interests to be friends with your ex?
Know your motives.
Before you promise your soon-to-be ex that you two will “always be friends,” stop. Before you continue to be best buddies with your ex, stop. Take some time to examine your own motives.
When you’re completely honest with yourself:
- Are you only agreeing to be friends with your ex because you are holding out hope that one day the two of you will reunite?
- Are you saying “yes” to a friendship with him or her not because you really want to, but because you feel like this is letting your ex down easier?
- Are agreeing to be friends as a way to feel safer, less lonely or to have someone to help you take care of your home or other responsibilities?
There are all kinds of motivations that might be compelling you to be friends with your ex. It is understandable that you might want certain roles that he or she used to play continue. It is also understandable that you might want to keep some level of interaction alive– even if it is not what it used to be (or what you really want).
You’re not wrong for wanting to be friends- or even more than friends– with your ex.
After all, you have most likely shared quite a bit of life and yourself with this person. It makes sense that you may wish to hold on to that connection in whatever form you possibly can.
What we’re urging you to do is to recognize the reasons why you want to be friends with your ex.
Remember, being kind, considerate and respectful are not necessarily the same thing as being friends.
Being friends with someone almost always involves a level of commitment and emotional intimacy. Being kind, considerate and respectful can make interactions with another person more pleasant and peaceful.
If you’re starting to see that your motivations are leading you toward heartbreak, bitterness or resentment, remind yourself of this important difference.
Allow space for healing.
Even if after considering your motivations you do decide that remaining friends with your ex is wise and appealing to you, take some time for just yourself and your healing. It’s vital that you give yourself space to start the healing process and to adjust to the transitions taking place in your life.
It’s just about impossible to wake up one day married or as lovers and then the next day declare– and really believe it– that you’re just friends.
Deliberately widen your pool of support people. Re-connect with friends and family members who can possibly be there for you when you need a hug, advice, help with a clogged drain or other things that your ex used to do for you.
Make completions with your past relationship and grieve for its ending if that’s how you feel. Take the time to really listen to how you feel and give yourself what you need.
Shift your expectations and create a new friend relationship, if you choose.
Be clear with yourself and with your ex about your new friendship. Let him or her know what being friends means to you and then follow through with what you’ve stated.
If you feel jealous of your ex’s new partner or you are annoyed when he or she doesn’t call or e-mail you as much as you’d like, this is a signal for you to once again explore your motives.
Acknowledge your feelings and re-visit the question of how healthy maintaining this level of friendship or interaction is for you.
Again, remind yourself that your ex is not the only person in your life who can be a source of support, companionship, fun and love.
If you’re having a difficult time thinking of anyone else who can do this, challenge yourself.
Open up to new friendships with others and to deeper connections with the people you already know.
Susie and Otto Collins are married soul mates, certified relationship coaches, authors, speakers and seminar leaders who are on a mission to show men and women all over the world how to keep the love, passion, connection and spark alive forever. In Magic Relationship Words you’ll find the answer to how to stop fights and connect more deeply with your partner.