Like so much else to do with post-divorce life, staying friends with your ex isn’t a black and white issue and nor is it static. I’ve interviewed women who never speak to their ex either because the divorce was so acrimonious or because without children, they have no reason to talk. At the other end of the spectrum are ladies like Molly, who still count their ex as a friend. I asked Molly why keeping that friendship was so important. Here’s Molly:
Why not? I pretty much stay friends with almost everyone I date and it’s been the way it’s been since we broke up. I guess I feel that when there’s a deep connection, so much love and so much that we shared, I really didn’t want to lose that. I couldn’t imagine him being a distant specter in my life. I felt he was such an intimate part of my heart, I didn’t want to let that go.
As time has gone on, I’ve realized he’s not my best friend anymore, he’s a very good friend, he’s my co-parent and up until now, he’s been the love of my life. Nobody else will take that place, but he’s also not my go-to guy.
I think we get along better because he’s not. I think I put too many expectations on him being my everything. He didn’t want to emotionally process my life with me, he wasn’t emotionally equipped to be the guy to pick me up when I was having a rough day.
I’ve learned there are better people to turn to for that and so I have come to accept him and his limitations so much better. By accepting what he can and cannot give and not expecting him to give something that he’s really not capable of giving, that’s made a huge difference.
When we separated, we didn’t want our friends to feel like they had to choose who they were going to be friends with. Most of them were closer to me than they were to him, so I think I set the tone on that. “I am peaceful with him and I care about him, I want you to do the same” and everybody felt fine with that.
I couldn’t imagine my life without his friendship and as bittersweet as it sometimes feels, I still imagine if we were to get remarried, I would go to his wedding, and he would come to mine, that we would always wish each other the best.
The Divorce Coach Says
People ask me if my divorce was “amicable.” I say it was “civil” because amicable would infer friendly and I don’t count my ex as a friend. For me, at some point in our marriage, we stopped being friends. I think the root of that was our inability to confront the reversal of traditional roles. There were simply too many issues we just never talked about that eventually drove a wedge in our friendship. Given that we weren’t friends when our marriage ended, it’s not surprising we’re not friends now.
That being said, our relationship is shifting. Maybe I’m mellowing, maybe we’re reaching that safe, benign comfort zone but we did co-host a family dinner for my daughter’s high school graduation this summer, and we did both help her move into her dorm at college. If I needed help with some home maintenance, I would ask him now whereas I wouldn’t before. Maybe a friendship will be possible because those divisive issues in our marriage, aren’t relevant to a friendship now and since I no longer have the high-paying corporate job, that power struggle has also gone.
It’s not that I want a close friendship, but I would like some feeling of friendship. I’d like to able to think of him fondly as a friend in my heart. That’s when I’ll stop feeling the twenty years we spent together were wasted time.