I have mixed emotions about this topic. On the one hand, there are some really valid reasons why staying friends with your ex is a healthy, mature thing to do. On the other hand, it could be holding you back from moving on. Here’s a quick true-false quiz:
True or false: Our differences in philosophy or religion or politics or etiquette became more and more problematic.
True or false: He/she cheated on me and left me for another person.
True or false: He/she became addicted to (pick one) drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping.
If you answered “true” to any of the above, please take a moment to ask yourself how a friendship with your ex can bring you joy. I suspect you’ll agree with me that it’s time for you to move on.
Now, three more questions:
True or false: The decision to end your relationship was more-or-less mutual.
True or false: You have a good relationship with your in-laws.
True or false: You have children together and share similar attitudes about parenting.
If you answered “true” to any of these questions, it will probably be easier for you to stay friends with your ex. So, make the effort.
Here’s the Good: Staying friends with your ex is especially a good idea when you’re co-parenting. I often tell my divorce mediation clients that they’ll be a family forever, regardless of their marital status and living arrangements. You’re also setting an example for your kids, your family, and your friends, that people can end their relationships without destroying one another. (This is a particular advantage of divorce mediation over divorce litigation.)
Here’s the Bad: If staying friends with your ex is a decision you’ve made because you’re hoping to win him/her back, you might be fooling yourself. And if staying friends with your ex includes “benefits,” I’d like you to take three minutes to read my “Sex With Your Ex” blog.
Here’s the Ugly: If you’re not sure what you should do, let me remind you that staying on the emotional roller coaster sucks. Limbo is an okay place to visit for a short period of time, but I, for one, wouldn’t want to live there. And agreeing to be friends with an ex in an effort to let him/her down gently isn’t doing anyone any favors. It’s insincere, it conveys false hope for a reconciliation, and most likely, it’s a waste of time.
Ending a relationship is always difficult. Ending it with dignity and respect for the other person is a lofty goal, but it’s achievable. In my mediation practice, I try to help my clients stay mindful of the future, and even though the process is, to say the least, challenging, they will all eventually move forward. This is true regardless of whether you remain friends with your ex.