Many divorce guidelines support remaining friendly with a former spouse, particularly when children are involved. While good co-parenting is invaluable, a working relationship with a former spouse is different from being friends. Remaining friends seems like a good idea, but oftentimes is not in the best interests for either spouse or their children – being friendly does not necessarily mean being friends.
Sometimes spouses attempt to remain friends with a former spouse in order to resolve unfinished business, ease guilty feelings about the divorce, or even in hope for reconciliation. Setting aside the anger from a divorce may not be easy, however, and going into a break-up with the expectation of no friendship can be beneficial.
According to one lawyer, staying friends with a former spouse is a bad idea because:
- The healing process begins when the relationship naturally dies and frequent contact opens a wound that must close.
- The focus following a divorce should be on the person and the children, not the former spouse.
- A new identity as an individual must be created to separate the person from the couple.
- Grief when a marriage dies requires space.
- Staying friends when a true friendship never existed forces something that was never there.
- Children become confused seeing parents spend frequent time together.
Remaining cordial with a former spouse can be beneficial for children, but boundaries are often in the best interests of all involved. Taking care of oneself is important following a break-up, and anything besides maintaining a co-parenting relationship with a former spouse can prevent that.
To put it another way, as one observer puts it, former spouses must stay apart because they have seen each other naked. It’s difficult to bring a relationship back to its normal state after being intimate. Intimate partners always have an image of that person naked, and memories of the trysts triggered by the smell of her skin or perfume, or even by hearing a song. Put another way, after being entangled in each other’s skin and sharing a moment of sheer ecstasy with one another, it can be difficult to downshift to “just being friends.”
Former spouses also can’t confide in each other as friends would. As hard as they may try, they can never really confide in each other. How does someone tell a former spouse about a hot date tonight or that they are going away on a steamy getaway? New lovers and mates will remain a sensitive issue.
Remaining friends seems to provide a security blanket that the person who has been in our life is still there, someone to call on every once in a while to find out how they are; however, one will never actually know how they really are.
Moreover, there will always be one-sided bitterness. One party always feels resentment or bitterness toward the other. Even if the former spouse is feigning friendship, it is not a sincere friendship.
And where there’s bitterness, there’s jealousy. And the truth of the matter is that it’s hard to be sincerely happy for a former spouse who has found the new love of his or her life. It’s human nature to be jealous or resentful when a former lover finds a new person to cuddle up to, even if the glow has somewhat faded. It becomes a race of who will find the new lover first, a challenge especially brought on by the person who was dumped. Even for the person who did the breaking up, the thought of someone new in the shared memories is hard, and sometimes extremely painful to fathom.
Passion may also still exist. Even when the marriage was completely problem-ridden, chances are that the passion and sexual chemistry still exists. Moving on is hard enough, but having that person lingering on as a constant reminder makes it even harder to meet new people.
In a perfect world, the ideal would be for former spouses to be friends; a friendship where bitterness, jealousy, passion, and human nature exceed reasoning and rational thought – it’s impossible. Unless the two spouses were the best of friends during the happier times and broke up on mutual terms and have no qualms about either person seeing new people, both former spouses are better to leave the friendship behind.