People are often surprised when divorced couples stay connected and stay friends but if it’s something you both want, your ex can still be part of your family post-divorce.
Antonio Borello and his wife were married for about ten years and together for three years before they got married. They were friends and partners for a long time. While the level of conflict in their relationship was such that it was clear the marriage couldn’t continue, Anthony knew it would benefit their children if the connection between him and his ex didn’t just end. In fact, he says he and his ex are better co-parents now than they were as spouses. Here’s Anthony:
It’s important to kind of pick your battles and to look at the bigger picture. If I give a little and she gives a little, and we come up with a great compromise, then I’m happy that she’s not upset and she’s happy that I’m not upset, and then the kids are conflict-free. Everybody wins. It’s not like I gave up and it works out well.
I think that her and I are much better at co-parenting this way than we were as husband and wife.
I also think that as a whole our family is thriving. Our children are doing well. They see us as friends and they’re not experiencing conflict. When we were married it was constant, and that was just not a healthy environment for the kids. That was ultimately what led to our divorce because we realized that what we were putting the kids through by being married and staying in that situation was far worse than the adjustment period that we had to go through to get to this point.
At the end of the day she’s still the mother of my children and she matters. If she’s happy and my kids are happy, they have a healthy environment there. If I can help to facilitate that, I’ll do anything I can to make that happen. That’s part of being, I think, a responsible parent.
I have to say she is not a person that makes it impossible for these things to happen. If I had been divorced from a person who was evil, let’s say, or completely out to get me or harbored all this revenge and anger, if she was diabolical perhaps this wouldn’t be possible.
But for the most part when people get divorced, if both parents are relatively healthy I think that they can pull it off.
The way I’d look at it— I know that this is something that a lot of people disagree upon, but I really do feel that my ex felt part of my family. Although our relationship is definitely different and it’s not what it was before, I probably look at her as I would a sister or an aunt so her well-being is very important to me. I believe that she would say the same thing as well.
The Divorce Coach Says
Recognizing that your relationship with your spouse isn’t ending but rather is changing brings a different perspective to the divorce process. The divorce process becomes less about an end and more about a transition or a new beginning and that view on the future may change the choices and decisions you make.
I think it’s important to make a conscious decision about how you would like your relationship to be. So start by looking at the other relationships in your life: your friends, your siblings, family members, work colleagues. Which one of these most closely represents the relationship you’d like to have with your STBX? It is absolutely acceptable to see your STBX as someone who you will always regard as a friend, much like you would your college roommate.
Now think about what defines this particular type of relationship? Are there topics you don’t discuss, socializing you will or won’t do? Think about physical boundaries too such as the distance you keep between you when you’re having a conversation, where you’ll meet or where you might touch the other person.
Identifying these will help you define your rearranged relationship with your ex and will help you renegotiate it. That renegotiation is a gradual process over time and often it happens sub-consciously. Being more aware of this transition and making conscious deliberate decisions will not only speed the transition but also make it smoother. And it’s entirely possible that you will stay connected with your ex for many years after your divorce.
Ideally, you would have a conversation with your STBX about your relationship and what’s important to you. If your STBX hasn’t thought about this, your conversation may encourage them to do so.
Now, Anthony did acknowledge that his good relationship with his ex wound’t be possible if his ex had a difficult personality or was bitter, angry or vengeful. I agree. There are definitely situations where even with the best intentions, having a collaborative, civil, mature relationship is simply not possible. Does this mean you should skip this? Absolutely not. I think you can still go through the same process. You will have to modify your desired relationship for what you believe will be possible given your ex’s disposition. The benefit of still doing this is that it will help you set your own code of conduct. And I think knowing that you did your best, held true to your values, is a fine way to live your life.
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