The decision whether staying friends after divorce is right for you and your ex can be a complicated one. The main factor is whether you have children or not. If you have children, then staying friends after the divorce is for the benefit of the children. You’ll need need to find ways to communicate with each other. You don’t need to be best pals but you do need to be civil with each other so you can help your children grow and mature.
If you don’t have children, then staying friends after divorce can depend on the friendships you and your ex have with other family members and friends. For example, if you work together or belong to the same social groups, then trying to stay friends makes sense. If you and your in-laws never got along and you never liked his friends, then there’s less reason to stay friends or stay in touch.
If abuse or dishonesty was the reason for the divorce, then staying friends is not in your best interests. Staying friends after divorce can also be difficult if one ex-spouse still has strong feelings for the other spouse. In this scenario, a clean break may be the better option.
One factor in staying friends after divorce or not is how contentious the divorce was. It can be hard to trust an ex if he/she refused to settle the divorce issues and tried to attack your credibility at every turn. Keep in mind though that if you were married for any length of time, you do have memories (some good, some painful), that may make staying friends after divorce worth the effort. If things go well, you may want to revisit your divorce agreement and seek modification of custody, visitation, or child support.
Suggestions by Woman’s Divorce on staying friends after divorce
Woman’s Divorce recommends that spouses consider the following factors when considering remaining friends after a divorce:
- Give yourself permission to grieve. A divorce means that your relationship did not work. Most spouses need time to cry. They need to eat a little ice cream and watch some bad movies. You’ll need a girl’s (or guy’s) night out. You need to rant and complain a little bit. It’s healthy to get rid of the negative feelings first before focusing on a friendship with your ex-spouse.
- Take it slowly. There are reasons the marriage dissolved. The reasons may include different interests, betrayal, a lack of communication, and other reasons. If you have children, you might focus on their needs by having a weekly dinner or a game night – something your kids will enjoy. Understand that you don’t have to start being friends right away if you have children. You just need to be able to communicate about your children’s lives.
- Focus on spending time – just as friends. Treat your ex as a friend and not a romantic partner. Keep in touch by an occasional email or phone call. Accept help. Do activities you (and your children) enjoy. Focus on making each other laugh. Confide in each other. Consider doing things with other people instead of just with your ex so that you don’t have to worry about getting too close. Staying friends after divorce is possible with considered thought about situations you put yourselves into.
- Don’t become intimate. Just one night together can change the focus from friendship to all the reasons you divorced in the first place. There’s a difference between being best friends after a divorce and being romantic.
Woman’s Divorce states that,
“When you have sex with someone, your body releases a bonding agent called oxytocin. This love hormone connects you to someone on a deep emotional level. Oxytocin has also been proven to boost feelings of physical and mental attraction, enhance emotional intimacy and boost trust.” “Other forms of physical affection such as giving massages, holding hands, hugging, cuddling or kissing can also bond you closer to your ex.”
- Build Trust. Friendships require trust. Divorced spouses often lose the trust they had in their partners. Some of the ways to build trust when staying friends after divorce include:
o Following through on promises you make.
o Keeping private matters private.
o Not saying negative things about your ex to other people.
o Not lying.
o Admitting when you’re unsure or wrong.
o Trying to communicate better.
o Not overreacting.
- Focus on the positives. It’s OK to relive old memories. Focus on the better parts of the marriage instead of pretending you and your spouse never had a life together. Focus on each other’s good qualities.
At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, we’ve been advising spouses for 30 years. We provide legal advice about your rights. We also provide practical advice based on our experiences with other clients. In some cases, we recommend spouses work with professional health counselors such as psychologists to adjust to life after divorce. To discuss staying friends after divorce and other questions about your divorce call us at 908-691-2104 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.