An answer to the age-old question.
Can you stay friends with your ex? In a simple word, yes.
With some individual exceptions, it’s a no-brainer; of course you can. You loved each other once; that means that there’s something there to work with. Persevere enough and you can break through, remembering the old adage that hate is simply love made angry.
However, to me there’s a far more important question, and that’s: should you?
I’m a divorced dad with two great kids and an awesome ex-wife. We get on really well, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is ideal for the children. I fought really hard to stay friends with her. I persevered through many phases, from anger to hate, to hurt. The outcome is a relationship that is (almost) as strong as ever.
What I’m discovering now, though, is that this is not ideal.
Here’s the thing: I imagine, if you’re like me, you don’t plan on staying single forever, and I’m sure that you don’t expect your ex to either. That’s where the complications come in. You see, it’s not about you guys, it’s about them, the new partners, and if it isn’t, it should be.
We try so hard to protect the friendship we have with our ex, believing it to be healthy and good for the kids, that we forget to consider the effect it will have on the new people in our lives. I have first-hand experience of this, not just with my partner, but with my ex’s too. Expecting people to compete with the ghost of a relationship, often one that spanned years, is simply too big an ask – it shouldn’t be a competition. As hard as it seems, and as hurtful as it appears in the short term, you need to put your new partner first.
So what’s the solution? Luckily it’s not black and white; grammar provides us with a very convenient shade of grey. We need to turn the noun into an adverb. We need to move from “My ex and I are friends,” to “My ex and I are friendly.” Rarely will two little letters have such a big impact. Friendly is good. Friendly means smiling and hugging when you pick up the kids; friendly means being flexible when commitments cause schedules to change. Friendly means sharing special moments and school concerts with the only person that loves your kids as much as you do. Most importantly, though, friendly means drawing the line. Friendly’s hard… but I think you’ll find that friendly rocks.
For a long time I believed that if we were still friends, then our relationship didn’t fail – it simply evolved. This was important to me. Like most men, I struggle to deal with the idea that I failed. What I realise now, though, is that if I don’t let go, failure will be something I experience again and again.
So, choose rather to succeed. Choose to succeed at being friendly. Do it for your ex, do it for your kids, do it for that new special person in your life, but, above all, do it for yourself.
Courtesy of Longevity Mag