It’s unrealistic to expect true friendship status with your ex in the months preceding your split. In fact, it may take years to reach that point. Some people never get there. Although it’s part of popular culture now, at least one of you will be carrying hurt or anger. There’s a reason you parted. Let’s keep that in mind.
According to friends.com, Friendship is a combination of affection, loyalty, love, respect, and trust. The emotional safety provided by friendship means not having to weigh your thoughts and measure words.
It’s a key point. There’s every likelihood that you are weighing your thoughts and measuring words while establishing a friendship. With all this game playing going on now, there’s no time for grieving and healing to occur.
There’s no telling how long grieving will take. Grieving’s unpredictable like that. Although, if you can’t get yourself out of bed after six months, it may be time to seek professional help.
Deep grieving follows a process. Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance. And after the grieving, being friends with your ex doesn’t mean you take on BFF status. That’s Best Friends Forever for those who aren’t familiar with the acronym.
In maintaining a friendship with my ex from the beginning of our split, I was not allowing myself time to deal honestly with the anger I had harboured. I’m talking about decades of anger. Deep-seated hurt. In fact I was suppressing it further in order for us to maintain the appearance of friendship. But there’s no hiding from the truth.
Both of us had very different reasons for wanting connection. But it took us on a roller coaster of emotions, just like living our marriage again.
Why Stay Friends?
We loved shared times with our teenage children. Although no longer working as a ‘couple’, we had been great as a family unit. The kids benefitted from the harmonious environment . They were able to go about their lives as though nothing had changed. In order to get them accustomed to our new family dynamic, I did activities with them on my own. As did their father. We all came together for birthdays, Christmas, Easter.
Will it continue when either of us have new partners? Who knows. But I have friends who have remarried and their blended family’s successfully come together for special celebrations.
There’s a gaping hole that was once filled with a ‘body’. Even if it was a body that never spoke to you! You knew each others idiosyncracies. It can be hard work just thinking about the dating scene and all the mating rituals that go on. In the beginning at least. Until you meet the ‘one’, you’re happier sticking to what’s familiar and comfortable. You’re ex is that person.
The Down Side?
1. Some of those idiosyncracies still drive you crazy!
2. If you’re getting on really well, you’re left confused about why you split in the first place? This is significant because you line yourself up to ride a never-ending roller coaster of emotion. But remember, just like when you started dating, you’re both on your best behaviour during this phase of negotiating your new ‘friendship’ status.
3. Spending too much time in each others company is actually preventing you both from moving on in a healthy way. Certainly, it’s stopping either of you from making a proper go of new relationships.
While I was thoroughly enjoying my new-found sense of freedom, he looked sad and lonely all the time. So even though the split was driven by his lack of interest in me, I continued to feel responsible for his happiness. Just as I’d always done. That wasn’t my job. It was his.
I had left to find myself. Instead, I was feeling like we were still married. Our old patters were still being played out. To a lesser degree certainly. But keeping me stuck in anger and sadness just the same.
♥ Love & Forgiveness
Being keen to walk a ‘spiritual’ path, I reasoned that learning love and forgiveness necessitated putting myself in the firing line where my old patterns were waiting to challenge me. Meaning… how would I know if I’d really forgiven him unless I was being tested? Initially I didn’t recognise that this was another of my patterns for the past 30years.
I had always labeled my lack of boundaries as unconditional love. And when issues were never discussed, I called it forgiveness. I thought I was being resilient! Often we’re afraid to speak up and state the things we’re unhappy about. There’s a tendency to think it’s because we’re excepting the status quo. The truth? Perhaps we’re simply silent because we feel powerless to get our needs met. You have to be very honest with yourself if you want to truly grow.
It is possible to love and forgive from a distance. If you don’t feel an emotional attachment to memories from the past, that’s a sign that you’re on your way to forgiveness. If you find the gift that came from the past, you can’t help but love and be grateful for the lesson.
Does The Love Really Die?
Seth Meyers (Psy.D; Psychology Today), says it’s rare that couples are actually able to hold onto a friendship and stay close while still moving on after the divorce. But I think I’m big enough. I’m sure I am. When I see my ex, I simply can’t hate him. He’s a good man. I love all that was good about him. The love I had for my husband is always going to exist on some level. How could it not after 30 years and 3 children? Undoubtedly it will morph and change over time.
Ulterior Motives or True Friendship
Sometimes we stay friends because of fear. I’m not talking physical abuse here. That’s a different story altogether.
After 2 years of separation, we hadn’t settled our financial split. This left me feeling like he still had the upper hand and I was vulnerable. Might it go against me if we became enemies during this time? When we signed the papers, a tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders. Finally I relaxed into truly trying to navigate friendship on my terms.
As a word of advice here, women can often be the losers in a financial split. I was glad that we waited so long, as over that time I became stronger emotionally and had learnt to find my voice – and my worth!! The split certainly went in his favour, however, I was comfortable with the decision, and achieved what I wanted.
The Moral of the Story?
When I began to acknowledge what was really going on within me, and gave myself permission to feel that way, I began to really heal. That’s the grieving process. I began to truly feel love and forgiveness, and friendship – albeit a different kind of friendship.
Two years after our separation, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My ex had hoped that the cancer would send me back into his arms. To say he had regrets was an understatement.
A Chance To Heal Old Wounds
I was on such a high when we first separated, due to the fact that I was free of all the hurt I had lived with for 30years. But my busy social life came to a halt when I started chemo. And suddenly I was left to face all that suppressed emotion. When he started dating soon after my diagnosis, it triggered all my old fears about feeling abandoned, and my limiting belief about always coming second place in his life.
We talked a great deal about the past. We talked and talked. Much healing has occurred for me as a result. Rightly or wrongly, we were still sleeping together too. So this caused me confusion about my role in his life. I’m not a woman who can ‘do casual’ either. For me, it‘s full commitment or nothing!
By January of 2017, I had taken a big girl breath, set the reset button, got the all-clear on my cancer, and happily returned to the single life I was enjoying before cancer. No more sleeping with the ex. I’m starting to feel ready to let another love into my life. He’ll come when the time is right. If not now, later.
I’m ok with that.
Why not check out some of my Articles. I’d love to hear your story as well so leave a comment.
7 Steps to Dealing With Hidden Anger
Are You In Love With The Wrong Person?
Do You Have a Cancer Personality?
Chemotherapy Diet – Managing Side Effects
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Diagnosis and Treatment
Indian Ayurveda Detox Following Chemotherapy
Finding Life Purpose After Cancer Diagnosis