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Should I stay friends with my ex?

‘Should I stay or should I go?’ is a very common question for those thinking about divorce or separation. But what happens when you’ve decided to ‘go’ and you’re thinking about your future relationship with your ex partner?

‘Should I stay friends with my ex?’ might be an important question playing on your mind.

One of the first things to do is consider why you want to remain friends before moving on to suggesting this to your partner. Particularly in those initial conversations about divorce and separation, emotions can be very hard to understand and manage, so it’s important to take some time to process how you’re feeling so you can communicate effectively.

If you think that suggesting you stay friends will make the breakup more bearable, or soften the blow on your partner, but ultimately you think you will drift apart, this is probably not going to be the right option for you.

Some reasons you might want to stay friends could include:

  • Your feelings are platonic but no longer romantic – it is likely that you and your partner have a solid foundation of friendship that you are not ready to give up
  • You have children and aim to co-parent positively – staying friends can help maintain good family dynamics and support your children as they process your separation or divorce
  • You have things in common – friends, interests, hobbies. You have built a life together, so these things will be hugely important, particularly your support network, and the thought of losing that might be very emotional.

The important question, however, is whether you should stay friends after you have divorced or separated.

Staying friends can be a good idea, but it is better to process the divorce or separation first before jumping headfirst into a friendship that might not do you or your ex-partner any favours.

Looking ahead, if you have an amicable divorce, friendship might well be on the cards.

However, you need to ensure that both you and your ex-partner have time to process the practical and emotional parts of the separation individually. This could take any amount of time, from a few weeks, to years.

There is no right or wrong to whether you should stay friends with your ex. You will know your relationship best, and how you both manage the breakup will give an insight.

Remember that friendship is a two-way street, and your partner may not feel the same.

Staying friends for the children?

For some ex-couples, remaining friends works for them and their dynamic. It certainly can make life easier if you have children together and are co-parenting.

However, if you plan to stay friends and co-parent your children, it’s important to:

1) Not do it solely for the children, as this may end badly and can also be confusing for children

2) Set boundaries so that the children understand your relationship with your ex-partner and that there’s no chance of a ‘parent trap’ situation where they think you will get back together

3) Remember you can co-parent very successfully without being friends with your ex

What if I don’t want to stay friends with my ex?

It is perfectly natural to not want to stay friends with your ex. Many couples who go through divorce try to never cross paths again.

It may be that neither of you want to be friends after your split, or perhaps your ex wants to be friends with you, but you don’t want that.

It is important to set boundaries and communicate these in a healthy way. Be honest and remember you don’t need to defend or justify your decision. You also don’t need to make promises about the future, and or suggest that you might change your mind.

It is also important to remember that even if your breakup was amicable, friendship does not automatically have to be on the cards. You can peacefully go your separate ways or begin a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Useful Links

My partner’s a good person but I’m not happy

When ‘I do’ becomes ‘I don’t’

Blended families and stepparents: A beginners guide

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The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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