When Kim and Jeff decided to end their marriage, their top priority was to make this transition as easy on their kids as possible. They didn’t want their young children to be scarred for life by feuding parents who can’t stand to be in the same room together.
So, as they worked together to draw up dissolution papers, Kim and Jeff agreed that they would be friends. At the time, it all made perfect sense.
Their marriage has legally been over for almost a year now and Jeff recently moved in with his new girlfriend. The kids seem to be handling all of the changes pretty well. Kim is trying to keep up her end of the bargain and be friends with Jeff, but she is having a really hard time.
She feels grief for the the cohesive little family she used to have and she struggles with rejection because breaking up was Jeff’s idea. She’s also angry because he moved on to another relationship faster than she expected. Kim does her best to put on a friendly smile whenever she sees Jeff, but it’s getting more and more difficult to do.
“We can still be friends” is what some couples promise each other when they break up.
Sometimes the intention is genuine to remain friends after a relationship ends or divorce and other times it is mostly meant as a consolation to cover over the awkwardness and emotional pain.
There is no doubt that moving from a love relationship into a friend relationship is tricky at best. If you are accustomed to interacting with your ex in certain ways, there’s bound to be confusion– both within yourself and between you and your ex.
So, can you and should you be friends with your ex?
Our answer is “Yes” it is possible and “Maybe” you should or “Maybe” you shouldn’t.
Every person and situation is different and the best answer to this question is one you need to figure out for yourself.
Take the time.
It’s probably wise to not make a promise to your ex that you two can be friends. This doesn’t mean that you have to make your ex’s life a living hell by being as mean or cruel as you can. It does mean that you take the time to process your feelings.
No matter how much sense it makes for you two to end your relationship and despite your desire to be amicable, give yourself space and time. Allow yourself to get angry, sad or whatever it is you feel– which will most likely be a mix of emotions.
Give yourself permission to decide if you really want to be friends with your ex after you’ve sorted through the raw emotions that will undoubtedly come up after your breakup.
If you have to see and be around your ex because you have children together or if you two work in the same office, you can be polite and keep a certain distance between yourself and him or her. Whatever it takes so that you can heal and make your own transition to this new life, do it.
Be honest with yourself.
If, after doing some healing and processing of emotions, you decide that you want to be friends with your ex, have an honest talk with yourself first.
It’s nearly impossible to not have expectations about what this friendship will be like and what it might lead to. Get clear about what being friends means to you.
Does it mean that you’re simply friendly and nice when you bump into one another on the street or when you drop off your kids at his or her house? Or, are you looking for a friendship with your ex that involves hanging out together socially?
Ask yourself not only what being friends looks like to you, but also what your motivations are for wanting to be friends.
If you secretly hope that being friends will be one step toward reuniting, admit that to yourself. If this is the case, we encourage you to really look at the facts of the situation. If your ex has remarried or is in another committed relationship, are you setting yourself up for more pain?
If you are already in another committed relationship, can you truly be just friends with your ex and not compromise trust and connection with your current partner? What holes are you possibly trying to fill by having this friendship with your ex?
Let us be really clear here…
There’s nothing wrong with you being friends with your ex, just be sure you are very honest with yourself about what you want from the friendship.
It can be a real win-win when exes are able to be friends. But, this is only the case when there is complete honesty and a match between what both expect from the friendship.