Why You Don't Have to Be Friends With Your Ex
When my ex and I first split, I felt it was crucial we be a unified front as much as possible, for our daughter's sake. I still believe this — however, we took that unified front to the maximum. We did many joint activities together, and as time went on, I felt a pressure both from others and from myself to make sure we were all a "happy, amicable divorced family." Is this truly such a bad notion to have? Absolutely not! But some of these altruistic ideas created problems that I would not have had had we kept a civil but more distant approach to separating.
For example, too much joint time together confused our very young daughter. It also confused us, emotionally. The more time we spent together and got along "well enough," it made us wonder: Was divorce really worth the pain and suffering we would experience?
The answer was, indeed, it was, because we could only get along "well enough" when we were with each other for short times. It wasn't enough to last, um, till death do us part. Of course, when it came to the pressure of keeping up with the "perfect divorced family," (can you believe I subjected myself to such worry?) that part was my own to blame. Divorce is messy and emotional. We try our best and we have hit a new stride in the New Year after the bumpy holidays, which is great. But we're only human, and as divorced parents, we are learning how to steer the boat in the middle of the storm. Caring about what others think never makes anyone happy. I think I worried too much about constantly doing the right thing and keeping everyone happy that my own happiness was becoming compromised.
With that said, I also learned that being friends with my ex wasn't going to help me move on. For some, maybe it does, but for me, I realized a comfortable distance in which we could co-parent and get along was the best for both of us. Being too friendly kept us from completely moving on. So what do you need to do when it comes to your ex and fellow co-parent after divorce?
No matter what, show respect to this person. It's your child's parent who he or she loves and adores, even if the parent isn't the best parent by far. Showing respect will then inspire this person to give you respect. If he doesn't, you can say to your kids later on in life, "Mom tried her best," and truly mean it.
Keep an open line of communication with your ex, but be sure to use email and text when necessary. There comes a time when you have to maintain a distance in order to emotionally separate and not just be physically separate from someone. It's also crucial to step back from fighting and negativity. If the two of you really can't see eye to eye, keep it to email and texts solely unless in the case of an emergency. If it continues to be this bad, speak to the court. They may require that a parent coordinator get involved legally to get the two of you on track.
Accept that the two of you will have different feelings at different points about the divorce, toward each other. Accept that it is over. Accept that things will not be the same and that they will constantly evolve in the course of the divorce. This is OK. The only constant in life is change. Accept that you can be happy and that life will get better.
Bottom line is you only need to be respectful and courteous to your ex, even if you hate him. Yes, actually especially if you hate him. If you have that much anger, you have to work harder to cope with those feelings. Personally? Anger only kills the carrier, not the source of the madness. Stop killing yourself, and let it go. And if you can be friends with your ex? That's great! Whatever works for you and your family is all that matters. If you can be friends and both move on with new partners and grieve the end of the marriage properly, kudos to you!