Are There Good Reasons to Stay Friends With Your Ex?

Friends with your ex? Post by Susan Leigh for Smart Divorce

A breakup is always a challenging time. Often both parties are in very different stages of readiness; one may have been waiting years for the right time to walk away, whilst the other may have felt that things were relatively fine, sticking with the mindset, ‘better the devil you know!’

Relationship counselling may have been a valuable way of managing the negative emotions experienced during the breakup of the relationship. It can help with understanding each other’s viewpoints, even when the relationship is irretrievable. However, choosing not to continue living together doesn’t mean that there aren’t good reasons to stay friends with your ex, especially if you’ve both learned to be more respectful of each other’s points of view.

Many practical matters can further exacerbate the situation as they require consideration and can influence decision-making. There’s a big list; where to live, the financial implications, custody of family pets, the dispersal of possessions, how to manage the diverse relationships with family and friends, as well as the serious matter of children, their custody, education and the impact a divorce will have on their lives.

Some people say divorce makes them feel a failure; they never envisaged their relationship ending this way. They may feel partly to blame or that they’re disappointing their children, family and friends.

Then a reflective period often follows where we consider the many devastating things that have been said and done. We often minimise or even forget the part we played in those heated exchanges. But eventually we come to terms with the hurt and rawness and things can start to ease and subside.

There are often good reasons to stay friends with your ex, especially if children are a consideration. But there can be other factors too, like shared connections of family, friends, history and mutual interests.

With that in mind, what are the good reasons to stay friends with your ex?

– Some couples may have started their relationship way before they’d completed their formal education or were in the very early stages of building their career or business. At that age people often don’t know what they want or expect from a long-term relationship. Over time they evolve and grow, sometimes becoming quite different people from who they were back then. Having lived together through those very personal early experiences means a unique insight and bond is formed which no one else will understand in quite the same way.

– Life can require adjustments to be made, like maybe leaving work to become a stay-at-home parent or juggling the responsibilities of becoming the major breadwinner. This change of role can bring its own stresses and introduce unexpected, ongoing tensions and pressures into a relationship as well as forcing priorities to significantly alter. Sometimes witnessing how each other copes with times of transition can mean that, even if we disagree, we may well appreciate and understand their responses.

– Counselling can help improve communications by providing a neutral, safe, supportive environment. Some people have even been known to reconcile as a consequence of improving their ability to listen, empathise and communicate with each other.

– Learning from what went wrong is an important part of the healing process. Personal counselling can be important to your individual recovery, where you accept responsibility for your role in the breakup and learn ways to avoid repeating negative, unhelpful patterns in future relationships. You may also become more tolerant, understanding and patient of your ex’s attitude and decisions.

– It’s important not to forget that your ex probably knows you better than anyone else. Throughout your relationship you’ve discussed your day-to-day hopes, dreams, fears, issues, concerns and, at one time, supported each other with enthusiasm. You used to love each other, laugh together, share your secrets, be part of a team; you planned on being together forever. When a split occurs it means the end of that intimate day-to-day connection, but your shared history may provide good reasons to stay friends with your ex, even if you’re no longer lovers.

– And, in fact, some couples actually do get on better after their divorce. Once removed from the day-to-day arguments, niggles and irritations they can become two separate, independent individuals who actually quite like each other and have a lot in common. Some people even find that they rediscover their original attraction once the pressure of living together has been eased. It may be too, that sharing mutual friends, family attachments, work-related interests as well as their personal outlook provides a powerful magnet.

How to stay friends?

After addressing and understanding the underlying causes for the split it may be possible to start again and build a stronger relationship than before. It’s important though to take time to reflect, discuss and address what went wrong. There’s no benefit in falling back into an old relationship out of habit, loneliness, financial concerns or health issues. Retaining a toxic or unhappy relationship out of fear or perceived necessity ultimately serves no one well.

Time apart can enable both of you to become independent and confident about what’s right for you, what you need and don’t need from a relationship. Some people say that when a relationship’s over, it’s over, you can’t and shouldn’t go back. Others say that having gained valuable insights into yourself and each other there can be good reasons to stay friends with your ex, but now on an updated footing, more relevant for today.

Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

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