6 Steps Toward Friendship With Your Ex After Divorce

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Man and woman sits at a desk with hands clasped. marital problems, conflicts and stubborn concept

The heartbreak of a breakup, separation or divorce can shatter your world with such intensity that it feels as if you’re the only who has ever experienced such unbearable pain. If children are involved, not only did your heart break, but your family feels broken, too. Whether it was your decision or not, divorce feels like failure. Each fallen piece that symbolizes memories, hopes and dreams seems impossible to ever put back together — not only as a pair but as an individual. The broken pieces become a sharp reminder of everything that didn’t go right. But with time and self-action, it will not be like this forever.

Embracing Change and Challenge

Once initial feelings of anger, pain, suffering and separation anxiety start to subside, you can begin to settle into, accept and even embrace the change. Dynamics undoubtedly change between you and your former spouse, within your family and among friends. But divorce doesn’t have to feel like ongoing doom.

Since you’re always connected through your children, learn to become a parenting team rather than parents who are pitted against each other. This helps create a good situation for all to be happy and healthy. Moving from coexistence to teamwork helps you overcome one of life’s most difficult challenges and rise above as a better person than you were before.

Surviving a divorce is a process, but it’s in your hands to make the decision to start a new chapter in your life. If you’d eventually like to form an alliance with your ex, here are steps to take to make amends toward an amicable relationship.

Step 1: Accept That Love Never Dies

An article published in Psychology Today claims that while romantic love may end, love overall never truly dies. Years of emotional emptiness or anger from betrayal, for example, may suppress this love. You can’t deny that emotions may resurface and feel confusing. Understand that these feelings are natural, but they are in the past with no potential to grow. This leaves room for a new and different type of relationship to form.

Step 2: Grieve, Forgive, Heal

Once you’re strong enough to not confuse feelings that resurfaced, you can start to let go. Only when you let go can you move on. The recovery process begins with mourning the loss and “what was once meant to be.” Through this grief, you can explore the power of forgiveness. Forgiving yourself frees you from guilt. Forgiving your spouse frees you from anger and resentment. You start to heal and gain the insight to let go and move on.

Step 3: Establish Boundaries

Set up physical and emotional boundaries to encourage the reinvention of your relationship. This is especially important when one starts to date or enter into another relationship. With boundaries, comes respect.

Determine the level and type of (open and honest) communication you will have. Will you text only over parenting logistics? Will you connect over social media? Agreeing to not speak about personal topics, for instance, can further solidify a friendly and functional coexistence without gray areas of confusion. With boundaries, you learn to see each other’s roles in your lives differently, which helps create a non-toxic, perhaps even supportive, working relationship.

Step 4: Focus on You

There’s a reason that you separated. Although it’s a devastating loss, it’s typically for the best in the long run. Independence may be scary, but it’s also freeing. Reflect on your past to determine what you want for your future. This is an opportunity to cultivate your happiness (without the demands and expectations as a married couple. Human behavior, parenting and education expert Gail Gross writes for Huffington Post: “Terrible marriages do create wonderful divorces.”

Step 5: Create Structure

Structure and routine helps mitigate risk of irritation, frustration or anger. For example, regularly scheduled co-parenting meetings help you and your ex anticipate parenting matters and discuss expectations. This is reserved time to share frustrations, acknowledge what continues to work well and update your shared calendar of family responsibilities on your iPhone. Need to rearrange the schedule because something came up? A meeting is a diplomatic way to get everything out on the table without any last-minute surprises.

Step 6: Love Your New Norm

Surviving your divorce and turning your ex from an enemy into a friend is an emotional accomplishment. Enduring the necessary stages to arrive at such a positive place should empower you to keep striving for more and better. Take support from friends and family. Continue to be strong.

Open yourself up to meeting new people. Try something you’ve always wanted to do or never thought you could. Define your new norm on your terms and love it. Developing into the best version of yourself after this experience ensures you can be the best parent and role model to your children and the best friend to yourself.

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