“Just Friends” or “Still Friends”?

The trend in some social circles (not to mention the suggested goal of some books and specialists) is for divorced and separated individuals to remain good friends. While I can definitely see the advantages for child rearing if both parents remain warm and friendly, I can also understand why many of us do not and cannot remain friendly with our exes. Whether it is an ex-spouse or someone with whom we have dated or been involved—why is the goal or expectation that we HAVE to remain friendly? Can we be cordial and business-like and not feel compelled to be buddies?

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is absolutely great if people can stay and be friends after breaking up—especially if children are involved. In my own personal life, I have been able to remain or build friends with some of those people with whom I was romantically involved, but not with all of them. As for my children’s other parent—we are not buddies or friends, but we are able to be adults and co-parent with some reasonable effort. I really don’t see myself ever “hanging out” or even going to lunch—but I can focus on what is in the best interest of the kids.

As dating single parents, the boundaries can get confusing as well—who are our friends, exes, support team members, etc.? It can be rough when we get involved or serious about someone only to have the relationship end and it may seem like it is better for everyone involved if we try to be friends. We may be concerned that our children will suffer more loss if we completely “erase” someone from our lives. I do think that each case is individual and we have to balance whether we actually want a friendship with an ex, and whether it is beneficial to ourselves and/or our children. Even if we choose to NOT be friends, however, if the person is still moving in the periphery of our life, we can be cordial and mature.

The most important thing I have learned is to listen to my heart and to pay attention to what feels healthy for me—if someone is not “good” for me or my family; I have every right to let that connection go.

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