A very common question for newly separated and divorced women is ‘Can I still be friends with my ex?’
This may be because when we’re in the midst of pain and heartbreak, the thought of NEVER seeing our beloved again can be simply too much to bear – particularly if the decision to divorce was not our own. We feel like utter crap and the idea that we can still have a piece – even a small piece – of our beloved is a comforting one.
But here is the thing: this person is no longer our beloved. And harsh as it may sound, the sooner we give our psyche permission to accept this fact, the sooner we will move forward and heal. Holding on to somebody we were once but are no longer intimate with can seriously delay our healing.
Of course, in our grief, our brains will be telling us the opposite of this. We fight to hold on because we don’t want to feel the bitter pain that will ultimately come once we concede that it is really over. Who wants to feel pain? Not most of us.
In order to escape at least some of the pain, our psyche urges us to hold on to something, anything. So we tell ourselves that we should ‘remain friends’ with him. This is where we have it wrong. Yes, we will feel pain when we let go. Yes, pain sucks.
But on the other side of pain and heartache is FREEDOM – freedom from wanting and needing something that is no longer good for us; freedom from craving something that is simply no longer there.
The unfortunate catch is that we must go through it in order to get through it. For true healing and recovery, there really is no better way. By being brave enough to let go of your ex – truly let go – you will pave the way for an even better and brighter future for yourself; a future in which you become the independent and beautiful creature you know you are capable of being.
Here are 3 points to consider if you want to remain friends with your ex:
1. You need to work at EMOTIONALLY separating from him
When we have spent a good portion of our time with another person in an intimate relationship, emotional bonds and ties will have formed – this is a normal and natural process. During a break-up, those bonds and ties must be severed, and this naturally hurts.
It especially hurts in the early days of a breakup or divorce. And it is during these early days that we need to be especially mindful of allowing the process of emotional separation to occur. The simplest way to allow it to occur is to have physical distance from your ex. Put simply:
To heal and move forward, you must emotionally separate from your ex.
To emotionally separate, you need distance.
It is completely normal and natural to pine for your ex in the early days of divorce. What is important is that you do your best to remain mindful of what’s going on – and what needs to happen – during this period. So, rather than give in to temptation and text, call or turn up on his doorstep, use this time wisely.
Learn how to be alone. Learn how to not hate it. Learn to self-soothe. Learn to go deep inside and discover who you are – who you REALLY are – without the labels of ‘wife’ or ‘girlfriend’. Reconnect with old friends. Find your passion! Remember, you were someone before your relationship. And that girl is still in there somewhere. Make it your mission to find her.
2. You need to decide what level of contact is best for YOU
This step works a whole lot better once you’ve begun the process of emotional detachment or separation. This is because you will be making the decision from a place of clarity – not a place of grief, sadness, and confusion.
Only you can decide what level of contact (if any) with your ex is best for you moving forward. Everybody’s circumstances are different. If you are going through a divorce, have children or other family or financial ties with your ex, there will obviously need to be some contact and it would be in everybody’s best interests if that contact was civil.
Be mindful here that civil (or friendly) contact does not mean that you need to have a friendship. It does mean that you are able to participate in a conversation with your ex without being reduced to a grieving, crying and/or angry mess.
In the early days of my divorce (before I’d emotionally separated and ceased pining night and day for him) I found it helpful to limit contact to text message and email. Face-to-face and telephone conversations usually saw me reduced to the aforementioned grieving, crying and angry mess.
3. You need to take it one day at a time
Finally, if you’re having a tough time in the heartbreak department, there is no need to torture yourself by declaring that you will NEVER see your ex again. It is OK to simply take it one day or week at a time. Understand that things will likely look a whole lot different in six or twelve months’ time.
When my husband first left me, I honestly could not imagine that there would come a day that I would be able to look at him and not feel heartbreak, or love, or anger, or grief, or excruciating pain. I was in an agonizing state of flux – wanting to see him to ease my misery; wishing he would die because seeing him was torture.
Now, five years on, I feel none of these things when I see him. I sometimes feel an odd affection for what we once had together. We are friends, but not best friends. We do what’s best for our kids. The great thing? All of this happened organically – with time, space and healing. And now I truly can’t imagine life any other way.