Blog written by Senior Associate Kelly Krupinsky for Divorced Girl Smiling.
We’ve all been there. A relationship that once meant everything to you ends because of a betrayal by the other person that makes it impossible to stay together. It’s possible they were unfaithful, had substance abuse problem, or just failed to communicate in a healthy way. You might be in complete shock or maybe you’re the one who wants to the divorce. Either way, the relationship is over and it’s devastating. But how about being friends with an ex who hurt you? Is it possible?
Although you might think there would be no reason to continue the friendship after such a deceit or hurtful behavior, there are many reasons why it might be beneficial. The biggest reason is, the two of you might need to have a peaceful relationship because you have children together. Or, maybe the friendship was the best part of the relationship and you just aren’t ready to lose that. Whatever your reason, it is possible to be friends with an ex who hurt you. Just beware of some of the pitfalls and have the tools to avoid them.
Here are some things that can hinder being friends with an ex who hurt you:
- High Levels of Conflict.
Divorces marked by intense conflict, arguments, and disagreements can leave emotional scars. The heightened emotions and animosity during the divorce process may make it difficult for individuals to transition to be friends.
- Betrayal and Trust Issues.
If the divorce was prompted by issues of betrayal, such as infidelity or financial dishonesty, trust may be severely damaged. Rebuilding trust is a crucial component of friendship, and the breach of trust during the divorce process can create lasting barriers.
- Unresolved Resentment.
Feelings of resentment, whether stemming from the breakdown of the marriage or disagreements during the divorce proceedings, can linger and hinder the possibility of a friendship. Unresolved resentment may manifest in ongoing tension and animosity.
- Contentious Legal Battles.
Engaging in a bitter legal battle during the divorce can exacerbate conflict and strain the relationship further. The adversarial nature of litigation may make it challenging for individuals to transition from opponents in court to friends outside of it.
- Lack of Communication.
Poor communication during the divorce process can carry over into post-divorce life. If there was a breakdown in communication during the marriage or divorce, it may persist, making it challenging to establish a foundation for friendship.
- Impact of Third Parties.
The involvement of new romantic partners or close friends in the lives of either ex-spouse can create jealousy, insecurity, or discomfort. The presence of third parties may complicate attempts to forge a new, platonic connection.
- Emotional Rollercoaster.
The emotional toll of divorce can be overwhelming, leading to periods of sadness, anger, or confusion. Navigating these emotions may make it challenging for individuals to focus on building a friendship immediately after the divorce.
- Unequal Power Dynamics.
If the divorce process resulted in one party feeling unfairly treated or at a power disadvantage, it can create an imbalance in the post-divorce relationship. Friendship often thrives on equality, and such imbalances can hinder the establishment of a supportive friendship.
- Impact on Social Circles.
Divorce may lead to changes in social circles, with friends taking sides or relationships becoming strained. The shift in social dynamics can create added stress and make it difficult for ex-spouses to maintain a friendly connection.
- Unresolved Issues.
Issues left unaddressed during the divorce process, whether related to parenting, finances, or personal differences, may resurface and hinder the ability to move on and establish a new, positive connection.
A key to being friends with an ex who hurt you
Mediation can play a crucial role in helping individuals remain friends with their ex-spouses by fostering communication, collaboration, and understanding.
Here are ways in which mediation facilitates the development of a post-divorce friendship:
- Facilitates Open Communication.
Mediation provides a structured and neutral environment for ex-spouses to communicate openly and express their concerns. A trained mediator helps ensure that both parties have an opportunity to speak and be heard, fostering a more constructive and respectful dialogue.
- Promotes Collaborative Decision-Making.
Unlike traditional litigation, which often involves adversarial approaches, mediation encourages couples to work together to reach mutually agreeable solutions. This collaborative decision-making process fosters a sense of shared responsibility and can contribute to a more positive and cooperative post-divorce relationship.
- Focuses on Common Interests and Goals.
Mediation allows couples to identify common interests and shared goals, especially when it comes to issues such as co-parenting or asset division. By finding common ground, ex-spouses can build a foundation for a friendship that is rooted in shared values and mutual understanding.
- Encourages Empathy and Understanding.
The mediation process encourages individuals to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Mediators often facilitate discussions that promote empathy and understanding, helping ex-spouses acknowledge each other’s feelings and experiences, which can be essential for a friendship to develop.
- Addresses Emotional Aspects.
Mediation recognizes the emotional aspects of divorce and provides a platform for addressing these emotions. By acknowledging and working through emotional challenges with the help of a mediator, individuals may be better equipped to move past hurt feelings and lay the groundwork for a healthier post-divorce friendship.
- Allows for Customized Solutions.
Mediation enables couples to create customized solutions that fit their unique circumstances. This flexibility in crafting agreements allows individuals to tailor arrangements according to their needs, leading to a more personalized and satisfying post-divorce relationship.
- Minimizes Hostility and Resentment.
The collaborative nature of mediation tends to minimize hostility and resentment compared to adversarial legal proceedings. Ex-spouses who go through mediation are more likely to experience a less combative and acrimonious divorce, reducing the negative emotions that can hinder the possibility of friendship.
- Encourages Future Planning.
Mediation often includes discussions about post-divorce arrangements, including co-parenting plans and ongoing communication strategies. Planning for the future allows ex-spouses to envision a positive and supportive relationship beyond the divorce, laying the groundwork for a potential friendship.
- Preserves Relationships with Shared Social Circles.
Mediation may help in preserving relationships with shared social circles. By avoiding a contentious legal battle, ex-spouses may minimize the impact on mutual friends and family members, creating a more supportive environment for the development of a post-divorce friendship.
The mediation process acts as a bridge, connecting ex-spouses in a way that fosters understanding, cooperation, and the potential for friendship after divorce. By prioritizing open communication, collaborative decision-making, and addressing emotional aspects, mediation provides a framework for couples to navigate the complexities of divorce with grace and dignity. As more individuals embrace this approach, the prospect of remaining friends after divorce becomes not only feasible, but also a positive and achievable outcome.
In closing, every divorce situation is unique, but being friends with an ex who hurt you is very possible, and a lot of it is in your control. Then again, your ex has to want to be friends with you and that is something you really can’t control. I also believe that friendship with an ex takes time.
Don’t expect to be friends with your ex just days or weeks or even months after your divorce. Sometimes it takes years to become friends with an ex, as resentment, anger and bitterness fade over time, as long as both partners have the desire to move on with their lives. Being friends with an ex can turn out to be a wonderful gift. It helps the kids, of course, but it can also benefit your own life, as no one can have too many friends.