Can you be friends with your ex? That's the question Divorce360 posed to its experts, who all agreed that, it is possible that you can have a better relationship with your ex-spouse in divorce than you did when you were married. This is particularly helpful, they agreed, if you have children, who often get caught in the middle of the emotional battlefield that can be caused by the breakup.
"If you have kids, it's essential to remain at least friendly after the divorce -- for everyone's sake," said Tina Tessina
, Ph.D., aka Dr. Romance, author of "Love, Sex and Money," a book that helps couples discuss the topics that cause the most arguments in marriages.
"Unless your ex was so violent or abusive the courts have kept him away from the kids, you'll have to work together even after the kids are grown. My husband had a large hand in raising his first wife's son, so we're all still close. Ten of us, the stepson and his new wife, her parents, his parents, and four step-parents all went on a cruise together last year and had a great time," she said.Dr. Mark Goulston
, author of "The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall In Love Again — and Stay There," said ex-spouses who have children must make a choice. "On the one hand, children can be an incentive to be more friendly and cooperative since you are in each other's lives," Goulston said. "On the other hand the way parents will deflect anger toward a spouse and away from kids who they feel a primal instinct to protect can increase animosity between parents."
According to Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford,
who along with Sharyl Jupe, is the author of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation." it's rare for a divorced couple to remain friends.
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D., co-founder of hermentorcenter.com
, a resource center for divorcing women, said "the circumstances that led up to the divorce and the individual personalities involved are major factors that determine whether a friendship maintains. I think that if couples without children remain friends, it's only if the decision to separate was mutual and the divorce itself was not adversarial. In my clinical experience, these people are often socially isolated and provide a great deal of support for each other."
Said Blackstone-Ford: "The key is to a relationship after divorce is that you must start from scratch -- reestablish a new relationship with this person you were once married to so that you can successfully coparent your children. And, ironically, friendship is often a byproduct of that new relationship."
Goulston, who developed a program called "Recoupling Therapy," which helped divorced couples to work on the issues that caused their breakup and help them remarry their ex, thinks "the same attitudes and behaviors that enable them to repair their rifts are the same that enable divorced spouse to remain friends."
Goldberg said parents often can become friends over time. "...Many parents are able to rise above their own issues and be present for special occassions. They also try to communicate well and cooperate in order fortransitions from one home to the other run smoothly. However, when one parent remarries and the family equilibrium shifts once again, new struggles can occur."
And even if you don't have children, you can still remain friends -- if you want to be, "People who have been married and have no children sometimes stay in contact with each other, but this relationship is often adjusted when there are new partners on either side," Blackstone-Ford said.