Let’s be honest. Some divorces get very ugly. But the past decades have brought an increase in amicable divorces. So when it is fairly amicable, is it normal for divorced parents to spend time together?
It is normal for divorced parents to spend time together. Most divorced parents have been friends and partners for a long time, and their connection doesn’t simply disappear with a divorce, especially if it’s an amicable one. Plus with kids, there will always be a need to connect.
It was Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (of Coldplay) who coined the (slightly nauseating) term “conscious uncoupling”.
But no matter what you think of that term, the concepts it embodies DO make for an easier time in dealing with one another after the divorce. And it’s undoubtedly better for the kids.
The rest of this article will help you understand the following:
- The benefits and disadvantages of divorced parents spending time together
- How to maintain an amicable relationship
- How far would be too far as divorcees.
- How to make the most of the time spent together
Benefits of Divorced Parents Spending Time Together
While it might be good for the children if their divorced parents spend time together, is it really a good idea? In most cases, it would be, but if one parent is a very toxic person and their presence causes more pain than joy, then divorced parents should NOT spend time together.
That being said, there are some benefits of divorced parents spending time together with their children. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits.
1. The Best Interest of Your Children
Children benefit most when their parents have an amicable relationship. A civil or even friendly relationship between their parents makes children feel much freer to include both of them in their lives without having to walk on eggshells or feel scared of betraying the other parent.
A research study by Richard A. Warshark, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas, showed that children who spend at least 35% of their family time with each parent have better relationships with their fathers and mothers than those who spend most of their time with one parent and very little with the other.
According to the findings, children with two involved parents also tend to perform better psychologically, socially, and academically. They also tend to be less susceptible to anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental disorders.
For children of divorced parents, particularly young ones, life as they know it is changing quite suddenly.
Adapting to that shock is often a burden for them, and it’s important to make the process as easy as possible. Giving children a well-rounded experience with both parents helps to provide comfort and emotional stability.
2. Planned Parenting With Greater Ease
Change is uncomfortable, and transitioning from parenting as a married couple to a binuclear family can be an uncomfortable arrangement to work out. Divorced parents spending time together can help them develop a relationship that is civil and cordial enough for them to cooperate with planning and decision-making for essential issues.
A healthy family, even during arguments or misunderstandings, should not feel uncomfortable or be hostile.
A rapport between divorced parents helps create an ideal environment for genuinely happy parents and children who can freely express their physical and emotional needs. It also helps the parents to deal with joint involvement in the children’s lives without feeling uncomfortable or being hostile to one another.
Disadvantages of Divorced Parents Spending Time Together
Spending time together after a divorce isn’t a jolly ride all the way either. From making boundaries unclear to giving kids false hope, it has several disadvantages. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Mixed Signals to the Children
Divorce is confusing for parents, but even worse now so for children. Adjusting to having your parents decide to end their marriage is difficult for children, especially when they don’t understand what is going on or why it’s happening.
It is usually difficult for the children not to misinterpret their parents’ decision to get a divorce as evidence that they hate each other.
When these children see both parents spending time consistently, they get even more confused.
These kids usually end up caught between knowing that they still have both parents and wondering why they don’t just want to stay together. The confusion could have them feeling unwanted or wondering if they are the problem.
In fact, that kind of emotional trauma can affect their readiness to make emotional connections or change their perceptions of how relationships work.
2. Children Can Get Their Hopes Up
One too many children of parents who amicably choose to divorce usually stay hopeful that their parents will get back together. They hope that the divorce is only temporary and that their parents will be back in no time.
When the parents don’t hate one another and aren’t openly hostile, some of these kids get even more hopeful. Having their parents spend time together can do an even worse job of sending them the wrong signals of a potential reunion, only to have their hope crushed yet again.
This situation can get awkward very quickly for both parents, especially when the children are too young to properly understand what’s going on.
In many cases, this hope could drive them to make plans to bring their parents back together.
The process of getting them to understand the reasons behind the divorce, letting go of their denial, and admitting that the situation is most likely permanent puts them through immense emotional strain all over again.
The burden may even be worse for children who have used denial as a coping mechanism and may feel betrayed when their hope is taken away.
3. Messing Up the Parenting Plan
Divorces involve a lot of planning and arrangements on the part of the parents.
All the plans made at different times during the process help with navigating life easily post-divorce. When divorced parents spend time together, it will inevitably affect plans like custody arrangements, parenting schedules, and other earlier-made time.
As divorced parents spend more time together, especially as co-parents, the boundaries of individual relationships may become blurry.
When it becomes difficult to sort out things like provision, time with the children, custody agreements, or school events that involve both parents and the children, murky waters get even murkier.
A divorce can be a very emotional process, so rules and plans are fundamental to keeping things as organized as possible. When the overfamiliarity from spending time together causes divorced parents to deviate from these rules and plans, the barely stable post-divorce “system” can come crashing down pretty fast.
Making the Most of the Time With Your Ex
Time spent with your ex-spouse can be very productive if you choose to make it so.
Top on the list of things to talk about when spending time with your ex are issues about the lives of the children. You could discuss practices you want to integrate or gently approach the issues you might disagree with about your ex’s parenting style.
Offer suggestions regarding your children’s activities, find a middle ground on matters where you disagree and look out for pointers on what you might be able to help with.
It would not only make your relationship healthy but caring for your kids would be easier and less tasking as a two-person burden. You would have to worry less about what happens in your absence, and it’ll give you room to be more efficient at work and in other aspects of your life.
How To Maintain an Amicable Relationship As Divorced Parents
If your ex is not a toxic person, you can have an amicable relationship with them after the divorce. But this takes a lot of honest and open communication, willingness to forgive, and putting aside petty arguments.
Let’s look at these further.
1. Set and Maintain Healthy Boundaries
Even if you and your ex-spouse can maintain a cordial relationship and spend time together after a divorce, it is imperative to respect their boundaries. You both have new lives, and it is wrong to pry into your ex’s personal life beyond the extent that involves you and your kids.
For example, my ex has a boyfriend that’s a guy she’s known for 7 years (our marriage officially ended just a few weeks ago as of the time of this writing).
You can bet I’m curious about their history and if either of them ever crossed a line that was inappropriate prior to our separating. But I don’t go there.
For one, at this point, it would make no difference. And for another, it could damage my relationship with her (I don’t care about having a relationship with him, and rebounds are notoriously short-lived).
If you constantly feel extreme curiosity about their personal life, it may help to remove yourself from situations that may get your personal lives entwined. Talk to your ex, mutual friends, and family about the boundaries you set, and make sure you maintain them.
2. Don’t Respond in the Heat of Emotions
We all hate being the person who gets told to “be the bigger person,” but as a divorced parent, you have to make concessions. It can be challenging to respond to situations that tend towards getting you riled up, especially if your ex has a high-conflict personality or can be reactionary.
The point where emotions are raging, and your personal frustration is spilling over is usually not the best time to address or approach conflict. Delaying your response until your stronger emotions have subsided and you can logically approach a situation can make a lot of difference when dealing with such issues.
3. Put the Kids First
Putting your children first is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re making the right calls concerning your family. Sometimes, it may be very tempting to get into a conflict with your ex, especially when they carry on without taking the children into account.
You should put yourself in the shoes of your children and factor their needs in whatever steps you’re taking. Be intentional about them in things as important as your career and finances to things as seemingly unimportant as where they get lunch.
4. Don’t Lose Sight of What Brought You Together in the First Place
Before a relationship or marriage, you built a friendship with your ex because of qualities that you appreciated and considered good enough for something more. Even if these things have waned, remembering them may help you see the bigger picture post-divorce as you both spend time together and make decisions that affect your family and kids.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help
Whether as a parent or a child, a divorce is a very difficult and emotionally tasking process to get through.
Dealing with life and your ex could come with seemingly insurmountable challenges that may make post-divorce reality very challenging. We all react to these challenges differently, and if you need help working through yours, it is perfectly all right to seek it out.
The internet is rife with resources on properly navigating this new terrain. If you are struggling with balancing things, there are videos and books available on how to manage time, deal with an uncooperative ex and give your kids the best care available.
Divorce can be mentally, physically, and in some cases, financially draining. If things seem to be spiraling out of control, you could seek professional help or reach out to family, friends, and anyone that can offer the support you need.
Always remember that you are not alone.
6. Give Your Kids Honest Information
Even when it may be difficult, always make an effort to explain what’s going on in the family to your children in age-appropriate language. It’s vital that they have honest, unbiased information about what is happening at every point in time.
It also helps them feel involved in their family and makes it less likely that they detect mixed signals or develop false hopes.
When communicating the events to them, be careful not to erase or misrepresent the facts. It may be tempting to tell your “side of the story,” a version where you are a saint and your ex, a demon, but your children are not judges in any situation. Giving in to the urge to tell them a biased story could cause them to develop ill feelings towards your spouse or begin to hate them.
Remember that the goal is to let your children feel included and aware in their family by letting them know the truth from an unbiased stance.
How often do exes hook up?
Overall, almost half of divorced couples do hook up at some point during the separation or after the divorce. Ironically, women are more likely to initiate that than men by a slight margin. And that was true of my ex and I during the separation process.
So it does happen and it is common.
In my situation, my wife and I hooked up 4 times during the time period after she asked for a divorce but prior to actually signing the divorce decree. Shortly after our last time, she started seeing a guy she’d known for years and things seem serious with them.
But things have soured between us anyway, so any hooking up in the future is damn near an impossibility!
Why do former couples hook up?
It’s familiar. And even for the person who initiated the divorce (the wife about 75% of the time), it’s still a hard time.
Hooking up with an ex doesn’t require all that effort of getting to know someone and building that trust, rapport, and sexual chemistry. Almost all men and women like sex. And separation and divorce can see men and women going long periods without sex.
So it’s nice to have sex, feel that connection, and not have it be as awkward as it would be with a new person.
In my ex-wife and I’s case, we had a lot of issues, but they were rarely in the bedroom. So connecting in that way a few times while we were separated before the divorce was finalized felt natural, familiar, and good for both of us.
I have a friend who left his wife years ago after she was unable to let go of the pain from an affair he had. But she recently got re-married to someone new, and he replied he was bummed because now they probably wouldn’t continue to hook up.
So in their case, they’d been hooking up for years despite the divorce and despite the reason for the divorce being her inability (seemingly) to get past his affair a decade ago.
How Does a New Partner Impact a Former Couple Spending Time Together?
Ultimately it depends on the level of trust the new relationship has formed.
While it’s not uncommon for exes to be good friends after a divorce, new partners coming into the mix often have different perspectives about what is and isn’t appropriate.
While they will appreciate the benefits of an amicable divorce, if there is any level of insecurity or trust issues, they may not react well to you and your former spouse spending a lot of quality time together.
So it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open, including the new romantic partners occasionally so they don’t feel left out, and recognize that while a healthy co-parenting relationship has a lot of benefits, it can also blur the lines too.
And new romantic partners will be keenly aware of that.
But with new partners, the more important question is whether are they insecure or jealous, and has there been anything that has happened so far to damage the trust?
Ultimately having faith and trust is what really matters; not who our partners hang out with.
If you have that trust and the new partner has a healthy attachment style, then it’s really a non-issue. And if the new partner is insecure and jealous and there’s been no incident to create those feelings in them, then you have a bigger problem anyway.
How Much Time Does It Take After a Divorce for a Couple to Become Friends (again)?
In many cases, the couple never took things to an ugly place in the first place.
When there’s a lot of anger, resentment, and bitterness, it can take years for that to subside. In my life, my folks split up when I was 6 months old. And my first recollection of spending a holiday together with them was Thanksgiving 2008 when I was 44.
But they enjoyed a deep friendship that likely started when I made them both grandparents in 2007 until my father’s passing in 2014.
But the good news is that if a couple uses effective communication and focuses on the children’s lives more than on old wounds, they can have a successful co-parenting relationship.
Then the idea of spending time together and family dinners together won’t seem strange or out of place.
Is It Normal for Exes to Spend Time Together for Special Events?
Things like birthday parties, Christmas, and Thanksgiving dinner will be better if the former couple can find a way to come together.
It will have a positive effect on everyone involved. And it will strengthen the parent-child relationship.
While you don’t want young children to get false hope, there is something special about spending those special times with both parents instead of shuttling between separate homes.
This past Halloween, my ex (begrudgingly) agreed to do trick or treating together with our then 4-year-old.
And you could see the positive impact with our daughter of doing that together. She originally refused, just as she has for our daughter’s upcoming birthday party and the upcoming holiday season.
But I’m hopeful that eventually, she will see the benefit of putting our egos aside and that spending a little time together is the best thing for the kids.
Can Exes Be Best Friends?
Occasionally spending time with an ex or having a good relationship is one thing. But should your ex be your best friend?
In short, they can, but there are a number of challenges that come with that unless the romantic relationship had been gone a long time before the new best friend status came into being.
There’s nothing wrong with a strong relationship but actually being best friends can potentially send the wrong message to the kids or to new people who might be potential romantic partners.
And let’s be honest.
If there had been a strong sexual connection at one time and now there is a deep connection and friendship, that line can blur fairly quickly under the right circumstances. What circumstances?
For starters, any situation where it’s just the two of them and alcohol is being consumed.
But also times when one of the former spouses is feeling especially emotionally vulnerable such as following the death of a loved one. In that type of scenario, it’s natural to want a shoulder to cry on. But its easy for that deep intimate connection to get skewed or confused by one or both people.
The bottom line is that it’s perfectly normal for divorced parents to spend time together, but it has its pros and cons.
Families are very different, so even though time together for divorced parents is normal, there is no one-size-fits-all rulebook on navigating the relationship. There will be many challenges to deal with and questions to answer, and you, the person who knows your family best, are the only ones who can do that.
Prioritizing your children’s welfare, as well as your happiness and stability will help you find the answer to those questions. Cheers to having an easier journey ahead!