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Can Exes Remain Friends?

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Relationships...can be really complicated. When you marry someone, usually it means that you originally had a very high opinion of this person. Once upon a time, you probably thought the world of him or her. Maybe, they could do no wrong. Now, your marriage has come to an end. Can you remain friends? Or one day, can you develop a friendship after the dust settles and the ink dries on the divorce papers?

Your marriage is definitely over, but what does that mean for your mutual friends, your in-laws, your neighbors, your in-laws’ relationship with your children, or even your future relationship with your ex’s new significant other? What is considered healthy? What type of post-divorce relationship is appropriate?

What Are the Codes of Conduct?

If you notice, you don’t hear about happy post-divorce relationships very often. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, they’re just not as newsworthy. Since the codes of conduct after a divorce are vague and few people have written about it, we thought we’d dedicate a whole article to the subject.

If you’re like most people, you’ve heard more than one divorce horror story in your lifetime. You’ve heard scandalous tales of bankruptcy, cheating, gambling, strip clubs, hiding assets in offshore accounts, second families, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.

But have you heard of any friendly post-divorce tales? Maybe, maybe not. “Did you hear about the beautiful friendship between Paul and Sarah these days?” just isn’t the kind of news that floats around the rumor mill.

Making Peace After Divorce

You may have had a bitter breakup, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t be mended with good intentions and perseverance. If you are determined to overcome the grief, anger, and sadness of your divorce, it is possible to achieve friendship eventually. But do you want to be friends with your ex? It depends on what kind of person they are, whether you actually “like” them as a human being, and if you have children together.

If you have children together, it is in everyone’s best interests to find an amicable way to co-parent with each other, despite your differences. It just makes life a lot easier on you and your kids, and your ex. And for your former in-laws, they don’t have to disappear because of the divorce, especially if you had a particularly good relationship with them.

When Divorce Pits You Against Your Spouse

By its nature, the divorce process has a way of pitting spouses against each other. It can even make people view each other as enemies, making it difficult to form an alliance down the road. But if a former couple has children together, they will have to learn how to co-parent regardless of how smooth the divorce was or wasn’t.

“It’s difficult for separated partners to remain productive co-parents when the legal process is making them enemies,” says Lillian Messinger, a marriage counselor based out of Toronto. According to Messinger, it takes a lot of maturity for people to make amends with a spouse who torn their life apart or who was a monster in court.

However, just as it takes two people to determine a marriage dynamic, it’s the same with a divorce. Both spouses decide if they’re going to make a good or bad divorce. All a former spouse has to do is make a change in their relationship dance. When one spouse changes their own behavior, the relationship with their ex changes too.

Cultivating a New Relationship with Your Ex

You may think that you can only be friends with a former spouse if you had a “good divorce,” but that’s not necessarily true. Even if you had a bitter divorce, it is possible to form a good relationship with your ex. You have to look at it as forming a brand-new relationship, one that is separate from your divorce. Remember, your marriage is over. It’s time to focus on healing and shifting your energy to a better, more positive place.

Most people grieve the death of their marriage, even when it’s truly for the best. Grieving a divorce is just like mourning any other loss – it’s painful and you have to take it one day at a time. To heal in a healthy manner, you have to let yourself grieve but then eventually you have to forgive and gain wisdom from the experience.

Healing may take you years, but if you have children together, you’re going to have to continue communicating with your ex about the details of your children’s lives. Whether these chats take place weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, a personality will begin to emerge. They could be frustrating or draining, or they may be productive and not irritate you at all.

“The boundaries have changed, but the parents must still work together in the best interests of their children. Effective parenting often involves putting yourself second,” said Rick Tivers, the co-director of the Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago.

Before you say something to your ex, ask yourself if what you’re about to say or do will facilitate a healthy co-parenting relationship. If the answer is, “No,” then don’t say it.

How to Succeed as Friends

As divorce attorneys who have seen and heard it all, we believe that when former spouses build relationships based on mutual respect and honor, they can’t go wrong. Many of our clients don’t have friends in mind when they negotiate a divorce settlement, but there are a few exceptions.

In some cases, our clients develop unplanned friendships with their exes after they’re freed from the marital bonds that tied them. It’s not unheard of for some divorced couples to continue to have sexual relations after their divorce is finalized.

“Sometimes friendships develop over time,” said Dr. Constance Ahrons, author of “The Good Divorce.” “But it’s not the goal of the post-divorce relationship. How would you act toward a colleague you don’t see very often?” said Ahrons. People can be friendly and polite without being actual friends.

Next: What Spouses Need to Understand About Divorce

We hope you found the information in this article helpful. To file for divorce, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for a free consultation.


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