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When I first started going through the divorce process, I knew in my mind that I wanted to stay friends with my ex. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of mixed emotions; from sadness, to anger, to guilt and shame. But, I didn’t hate my ex.
I felt like I was losing my best friend which is why I wanted to stay in contact. However, I soon realized being friends with him was not going to be easy. And after the divorce it became impossible.
You may be thinking, “But why Tiffiny? If he was like your best friend when you were married, why would that change after divorce? Why can’t two rational adults at least remain friends?” Well, there were many reasons that I did not anticipate. Reasons that were closely tied to the issues that plagued the marriage.
I’m not saying that you can never be friends with your ex especially if children are involved. And yes there are exceptions to the rule, but cultivating a healthy, respectful post-marriage relationship with your ex after a divorce will take a lot of time and patience.
Many times people get divorced for very specific reasons. A few of the most common reasons for divorce are:
This is not an exhaustive list, but it does give context as to why two people that pledged to share their lives would end the marriage.
When the divorce has been finalized the reasons that the marriage ended do not disappear. It just means that you are no longer living in the same home or having daily contact with the person.
In other words, if you lost trust with your spouse because of infidelity, getting divorced is not going to make you trust them again. If you constantly argued when you were married, you would probably still have arguments right after the divorce. If the person was violent or abusive during the marriage, they will probably still behave that way after the divorce.
So, being friends with an ex right after your divorce may not be a wise decision.
When you go through a divorce it can feel like a death. Even if you wanted the divorce, you still are cutting off a person that took up a significant amount of your time, space, and energy.
When you think about the concept of death, it is a transition. A person transitions from one state of being to another. Divorce is very similar in that the partnership you had transitioned and becomes void. All the hopes and plans you had for the marriage will no longer be possible.
It will be important for you and your ex to give each other space and time to grieve and heal.
Being in a marriage is like being in a new business partnership. You have to sign legal paperwork, you may change your name, you may move in together and suddenly you become a part of each other’s extended families. So much of who you are may be connected to the identity of your marriage. This is especially true if you were in a codependent or trauma bonded relationship.
Therefore it will be very important to learn how to create a new identity for yourself. You will need to relearn your wants, needs, and the new life you want to live. You may need to change your name again, move to a different home or make new friends.
This process will be very difficult if you are constantly being reminded of your old life because of your ex. It can also be easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior if you are friends with your ex which may lead to arguing, heartbreak, or further trauma.
Going through a difficult marriage and divorce can cause a lot of stress,
depression, and anxiety. All of which can take a major toll on your mental and physical health. It will be important to prioritize creating a self-care practice right after your divorce.
Part of your self-care may mean that you no longer speak to your ex. Any type of interaction with your ex right after a divorce can trigger a physiological response that could adversely affect your nervous system.
Be willing to focus on taking care of yourself instead of trying to be friends with your ex.
If your ex was abusive, you do not need to try to be friends with them. If you have children or a custody arrangement you can have someone help you mediate communication so that your ex does not have direct contact with you unless it’s an emergency.
An abusive ex many times will still be angry that they lost control over the marriage and will use your willingness to be friends as a way to continue to manipulate you. Be very careful and focus on your safety.
Lastly, if you wanted the divorce and your ex did not, by trying to be friendly you may unintentionally give them false hope that there is still a chance at reconciliation. If the person still thinks they have a chance they may mistake your kindness as a signal that you are still in love and want to rekindle the relationship. This not only will set them up for more heartbreak, but it will also make you feel guilty even though you were just trying to be “nice”.
It’s best to be very clear with your ex about the expectations you have for yourself and your life. If you do not want to be with them then be willing to clearly state that you do not want a relationship and think it would be best to give each other space.
Being friends with your ex can be a slippery slope. If you feel that it is necessary, it may take time, self-reflection, healing, and some form of forgiveness from both people involved. The good news is, you have a right to not be friends with your ex. Not being friends does not make you or them a bad person. It just means that you both are ready to move on with your lives.
Be willing to take the time you need to prioritize yourself and figure out how to become the best version of yourself as a single woman.
Want to learn how you can create a new identity after your divorce? Then let’s chat. As a women’s life coach, I focus on help divorced, heart centered, empathic women get clear on their new identity, build clear goals on the path moving forward, and learn how to rebuild confidence in themselves. Just click here to get on my calendar.
Tiffiny has a B.A. in Psychology, and master’s degree in Public Health Education. She worked in consulting for over 16 years, as well as previously owning a fitness and health business. In her personal life, she used personal development, mindset and health strategies to go from being overworked in a demanding corporate career, emotionally drained in a toxic marriage, physically unhealthy, and depressed to becoming an award-winning figure level bodybuilding athlete and entrepreneur. As a women’s empowerment coach, she works to help women get clear on their goals, build confidence, increase self-esteem, take action on their deep desires and create a life they love