Figuring out how to co-parent after a divorce is challenging as you have to continuously act and cooperate as a united front to support your children. This is even more true since you’re not even sharing the same living space. But is it good for divorced parents to be friends?
It is generally good for divorced parents to be friends, as it can make co-parenting easier. However, while being friends with your ex can ease the stress of parenting decisions and help your child adjust, it can also lead to jealousy or insecurity if one or both former spouses begin to date others.
In this article, I’ll be going through everything you need to know about what being friends with your ex can entail.
But we’ll also look at when it can actually work, and how you can go about creating a genuine friendship that can facilitate this often challenging situation. Additionally, I’ll provide you with some insight that might come in handy to those divorced parents for whom friendship isn’t an option.
Being Friends With Your Ex: What You Should Know
People seem to have varying opinions when it comes to the idea of being friends with their exes.
They either seem to think it’s impossible and wouldn’t want to try even if they could, or they wish they could be friends with their ex, but they might not know how to navigate this type of relationship.
This situation becomes more complicated when you’re divorced and even more so when you and your ex have children together.
It’s definitely possible to be friends with your ex while you parent your children; however, before you try, there are some things to consider.
What Is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting, at its core, is a situation in which two separated, or divorced parents share custody of their child or children. However, you can share custody with your ex and still not “co-parent.” When you co-parent, you work as a team to successfully nurture and raise your kids.
This means that you’ll both take part in important parenting decisions and make sure that you do what’s best for your kids, the way you would if you were still a couple while parenting.
There are some benefits to being friends with your ex-spouse when it comes to being parents. These are:
- Attending parent functions and your child’s events are stress-free.
- You can spend holidays or special occasions together.
- Your child might better be able to adjust to living with divorced parents.
- No messy custody battles.
- It might be easier to communicate.
- You can still have “family days” together.
While none of the benefits above are exclusive to being friends and co-parents, having a friendly relationship with your ex certainly makes them easier.
However, there are some cons that you’ll have to learn to navigate if you become friends with your ex and you have kids together. These are:
- Your kids might see you getting along and not understand why you’re not together.
- New partners might be a little nervous about committing if you’re close with your ex.
- It might make it harder to move on from the divorce.
- Being friends and getting along may make you forget why you separated, to begin with.
- You might have a hard time finding your new boundaries as friends.
None of the factors above are meant to be arguments against being friends as well as co-parents.
However, they’re potential issues that could pop up that you’ll have to learn to navigate, both alone and with your ex, so you can maintain a healthy friendship while still effectively raising your children.
Scenarios Where Being Friends With a Co-Parent Can Work
While being friends with your ex might be the ideal outcome of a divorce, some situations make it more feasible than others.
You Ended on Good Terms
Possibly the most significant factor in favor of being friends with your ex, especially early on in your separation, is the way your marriage ended.
If your marriage ended on good terms, you’d be much more likely to maintain a friendship. Mutually deciding to end your marriage because it’s not working anymore can help ensure fewer hurt feelings.
It’ll still be sad, of course, no one wants a marriage to end, but there won’t be any of the bitterness that a messier divorce might have.
This means you’ll likely be able to be friendly with each other faster, which can help when it comes to deciding custody arrangements with your kids.
You Were Friends First
Similarly, you might find it easy to be friends with your ex if you were friends before you ever started dating.
If your relationship has a strong friendship foundation, it might be easier to get back to that way of interacting with each other.
Enough Time Has Passed
However, even if your divorce wasn’t entirely mutual, or you can’t move on from it quickly, you can still be friends with your ex.
The process might just take a little longer.
In this case, being just friends and co-parents with your ex without any romantic attachments might not be as natural.
Ultimately, though, if you want to be friends with your ex, there’s likely a way to do so. However, there are situations where being friends with your co-parenting partner might not be the best idea for you, your ex, or your kids.
Scenarios Where Being Friends With a Co-Parent Can’t Work
Being both divorced parents and friends isn’t guaranteed to be an easy relationship balance to accomplish, no matter what the situation is.
However, there are some cases when even trying to manage both might be so difficult that it becomes impossible.
You Ended on Bad Terms
The first thing you have to think about when trying to figure out if you should be friends or why your attempts at being friendly aren’t working, at least right now, is how you ended things.
If your divorce wasn’t mutual, for example, or was the aftermath of a betrayal that deeply wounded one of you, there might be too many negative feelings surrounding the relationship.
In these situations, even if you both end up sharing the opinion that divorcing was for the best, there might be too much anger or hurt to be able to have any sort of close friendship.
You Still Have Feelings
Another situation when you can try as you might, but you can’t manage to be friends and co-parents with your ex is when one or both of you still have feelings for the other.
I think everyone either knows or can guess how hard a regular boyfriend and girlfriend breakup can be if there are still romantic feelings involved.
That only gets harder when you’re divorced or divorcing. Even more so, if you have kids.
If you’re still in love with your ex-spouse, then you probably can’t be friends with them. Sure, initially, it might seem fine, but how will you handle it when your ex starts dating again and you’re hanging out together because you’re friends.
Will you be able to be supportive and maintain a healthy level of communication? Or will you start to shut down, making parenting even more difficult?
The same can be said if your spouse is the one who still has feelings or if you both do.
It’s Hurting Your Children
Your kids are the most important people in your life.
They might even be the reason you want to stay friends with your ex in the first place. However, children can struggle with processing their parents’ divorce.
If your kids see you and your ex having fun together and seeming happy, a number of ideas could go through their heads.
They might think they’re the reason you were unhappy and blame themselves in some way. They might be unable to understand why you’re able to enjoy being around or talking to each other so much but can’t be married or live together.
If you and your ex-spouse being around each other and being friends is somehow causing your child distress, then it might be best to hold off on trying for a while.
The Relationship Was Toxic
There are thousands of reasons why parents could decide to get a divorce, many of which are just irreconcilable differences.
However, a relationship can often end because it was toxic for one or both people involved. It may be impossible to have a healthy long-term friendship with your ex in these cases.
If you’re unable to maintain that level of friendship, or if it turns into a toxic relationship (like your romantic one), then it could severely impact your ability to parent together.
It’s essential to think about why you got divorced.
If you got divorced because you couldn’t be around your ex for whatever reason, you can’t expect that to magically go away just because you’re no longer married.
Even if it’s easier to be friends for a while, it could just be a side-effect of being separated and the newness of the friendship. Ultimately, none of these situations in a vacuum will make a friendship with your ex impossible.
However, they may make it challenging for a while.
You may have to resign yourself to strictly trying to co-parent your kids the best you can for the time being, and maybe down the line, you can try to be friends.
How To Be Friends With Your Ex
If you’ve gone over all the pros and cons and you think that you’re in the right kind of situation to be able to be friends with your ex while still managing to parent well, that’s great.
However, it might not be as easy as just mutually deciding to be friends.
If you’re having trouble creating to a genuine friendship, here are some things you may want to try:
Talk to Your Kids
Make sure your children know and understand that you and your ex are going to be friends, and it doesn’t mean you’re getting back together. At the same time, see how they feel about it.
Answer any questions they have honestly and if they don’t like the idea of you two being friends, consider just being parents for now. Your children’s emotional and mental well-being always comes first.
Compromising is an essential part of all close relationships. It might have even been an area where you and your ex struggled while you were married.
If you want to be friends and good parents, you’re going to have to make sure you compromise.
Don’t argue about every little thing.
If your ex lets your kids have an extra cookie after dinner, and there’s no actual harm in it other than you saying you just wanted them to have one, then don’t fight about it.
It might be easy to jump right into sharing everything with your ex and basically acting as if you were still married.
You need to decide on boundaries. Sit down with your ex and decide what sort of friendship you think would be healthiest right now. Maybe you don’t share news about dating, and you don’t introduce your kids to any romantic partners yet.
Maybe you don’t hang out or call more than once a week unless it’s about the kids. It doesn’t matter what the boundaries are, as long as there are no mixed signals for anyone, you, your ex, or your kids about this new relationship dynamic.
Figure Out Your Expectations
This point builds right off the last one.
It’s important you and your ex both know what you’re expecting out of this friendship. Maybe one of you wants to become best friends eventually, and the other just wants to be more casual friends who don’t talk about much personal stuff aside from the kids.
While you’re setting up your boundaries, discuss what you’d like out of your friendship so you can both navigate it properly and have the most cordial relationship you can.
The most important thing to remember when your friendship with your ex isn’t as easy as you’d like it to be is that you’re all going through an adjustment period.
Make sure that you’re communicating with your ex and focusing on being good parents to your kids. You can let your ex know that the door is open if they ever need you or when they’re ready to try being friends with you.
Don’t force the friendship, and just give it time.
Maybe you decide you and your ex can’t be friends right away, or perhaps it takes some trying before you realize it’s not a good idea. That’s okay.
Don’t do anything that isn’t good for your mental health or the mental health of your ex and, most importantly, your children.
Just because you can’t be friends doesn’t mean you’ve failed in any way. All you need is respect, communication, and dedication to your children, and you’ll be great co-parents. Anything else is a bonus.
Being friends with your ex when there are kids involved can make parenting after a divorce easier. However, it’s not a relationship everyone can manage.
While it’s possible that with some patience and communication with your ex and your children, a marriage that ended on good terms can lead to friendship, sometimes it doesn’t.
You can try out a few strategies to foster a friendship with your ex, but if you can’t, you can still be great parents together.