Divorced parents I would dare to guess, there isn’t a child, of any age, wishing for that title. Most, if not all hold the dream of their parents remaining together their entire lives. I consider myself very fortunate to have witnessed a parental marriage lasting 45 years; and proud to say it doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.
I also am aware of my good fortune. There are many my age as well as older and younger who have gone through the experience of parents divorcing. There are a number of children that hold the notion of their parents remaining friends after divorcing. With the hopes that holidays and other special events are amicable and pleasant. Staying friends after a divorce may be difficult. But a lot of parents try to maintain a relationship with their ex-spouses because of their children. The important question, however, is whether it is healthy for divorced parents to be friends.
In all honesty, this question can’t be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. The answer really depends on the situation the two people are in and their emotional health. As much as I would love for this article to be able to give you the outcome. Alas, I do not have a crystal ball.
Let’s define the word ‘friendship’. In this instance friendship is going to be referred to as a relationship between two individuals. These individuals are able share a common space. The space will include physically, emotionally, and energetically. While sharing said space, they will be supportive of the other individual’s personal choices and decisions. This friendship is not an intimate exchange but a human exchange. Ideally, it would be wise for divorced parents to become aware of where they are currently. Then work on improving some of the following areas (this is only a partial list) to successfully create a friendship:
Divorced Parents Choosing One Not Over the Other
Finding peace after a divorce is challenging for all parties involved. And forgiveness might be one of the hardest places to arrive at. Inevitably one of you will move forward at a faster pace than the other. If this is you then it becomes part of your responsibility to honor where the other is. Provide the appropriate space, time and communication to the other. This ‘allowance’ will enable them to be more effective in their emotional resolution towards the finalization of the divorce.
Maintaining a Physical Relationship
If there is still a physical attraction between the two of you; then a deeper issue may still be left to resolve. The support of counselor or relationship coach might be necessary. Asking for the support of a specialist will help uncover the ‘desire’ or ‘need’ the physical interaction is covering up. A ‘friendship’ wouldn’t be wise as it will cloud or complicate the separation. And certainly make the discovering of new boundaries difficult if not impossible. This doesn’t even begin to discuss the negative and confusing impact this physical exchange would have for the children.
A New Addition to Divorced Parents
Ohh, this is a biggie as they say. Having a new partner in the mix. if they are a new individual, then getting to know them is important. The challenge comes from if you are uncomfortable being around your ex and their new ‘friend’. This can be based on the emotional element you aren’t fully stable with the separation. Jealousy can begin to kick in when one of the two introduces a new ‘friend’ into the relationship.
No matter where you are in the divorce, you will always have a ‘relationship’ with the other. This relationship is co-parenting your children. If you are not in a situation where children are involved then your interaction with the other is completely optional. You will need to ask yourself why you are still sharing any type of space with your ex. Again, if you are moving in the same network of friends, you may need the support of a counselor or coach to help you come to terms with your ex moving forward.
Emotional Hurt Unresolved
If one of the reasons the marriage is dissolving is due to trust issue, then the emotional trauma can run very deep. This can then trigger other unresolved issues for you. Before you can have a friendship with your ex, it is imperative you move through the emotional hurt. Establish a healthy perspective of self-respect and self-worth. Again, you may need the support of a counselor or coach. Do not be afraid to ask for the support you need, when you need it. It is a sign of strength when bringing in the right support.
Emotionally Dependent on the Other
This challenge may be a difficult one to recognize and/or even to admit. You can begin by asking yourself what ‘need’ is the emotional exchange (positive or negative exchange) with your ex serving? Is it a supportive need to your personal growth and overall wellbeing? If not, then you need to begin to work on and create new boundaries for yourself. Remember boundaries are not about keeping people or emotions out. But about respecting yourself and being conscious about what you are willing to accept into your life. Healthy boundaries support healthy relationships and better balanced life and wellbeing.
When Divorced Parents Need to Reflect
A few of the other areas we can identify for you to reflect on might be:
- Discussing your current relationship with your ex
- Did you have a physically abusive relationship with your ex?
- Are you hiding the fact that you are still friends with your ex from your current partner?
Now you’ve read thru this brief listing of different elements to work through. Are you ready to resolve any obstacles standing in the way of being able to be friends with your ex? Which of these situations did you identify with? If none, then you may be fortunate enough to be able to remain friends with your ex. Remaining friends without getting too emotionally involved (with them), and having a healthy relationship that is.
It would be great for your children if you and your ex have a working, cordial or amicable relationship. However, remaining friends with your ex only for the sake of your children is not the right decision. In fact, the idea may in backfire. Backfire on you and your children. Even if you are in a healthy marriage, I would challenge you to review this list from the perspective of past interactions with your spouse. Moving through this exercise will allow you to build on your current healthy partnership. Empower you both to live in your own truth, honor the other and be celebrating many more anniversaries.