Does it have to be painful to be friends with your ex? That depends. If the breakup was acrimonious because of infidelity or some other egregious breach of trust, financial misdealing, or emotional or physical abuse, then your desire to establishing a cordial relationship might rightfully be nil from the start.
And, for that matter, establishing a friendship with your ex might not be worth the effort. After all, the whole reason for the breakup was some degree of incompatibility. While compatibility is a very important component in marriages, it is also a much-needed criterion in friendship.
On the flip side, if the split was amicable, or the emotional pain has subsided enough that both of you can now put the relationship's benefits in a positive perspective, it may be advantageous to both of you to keep in touch. This is especially desirable if you and your ex share parenting responsibilities.
Here are some criteria to use in making your decision that a friendship may be possible:
You don't feel guilty, hurt, angry, resentful, or emotionally crippled around your ex. If you do, then you have still not processed the pain from your breakup, and now is not the right time to consider a friendship with your former spouse.
Your ex has also expressed the desire to establish a friendship. As in all relationships, it takes two to tango. If your ex is still upset over the divorce, it just won't happen until something changes this emotional barrier.
The two of you still have a desire to share personally satisfying experiences, although you no longer have a need for a romantic attachment. Friends don't have to be in love to care for each other and share a portion of their lives together.
If you both feel you can meet the challenge of friendship, here are some tips to help your new kind of relationship endure:
Remember that all friendships have boundaries. Friends look after one another, but they do not try to live each others' lives or insinuate themselves into situations unless their advice is specifically requested.
Like the majority of your friendships, this one does not include romance -- and that's okay. The fact that you were once romantically involved does not mean that this will ever happen again. In fact, if you want the friendship to last, it may be best to keep things platonic. Otherwise hurt and resentment may once again tear you apart.
You share a past, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll also share a future. Like all friendships, this one will have a natural life cycle. If your interests stay similar, it may last a lifetime. If your interests change, you may grow apart or lose touch altogether. Don't feel obligated to be a friend or stay a friend if that is not where your path leads. If it is meant to happen, it will.
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John Gray, author of the best selling book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has recently launched the "Mars Venus Coaching" program.