Written by a child of divorce, who witnessed true friendship after divorce first-hand.
For my parents, the spark went out after 18 years of marriage. But just because they’re not “together” doesn’t mean they can never be together in the same room. Sure, my parents get on each other’s nerves on occasion, but they still consider themselves friends at the end of the day.
Over the years, I’ve seen what makes their friendship work (and what doesn’t). My divorced parents are just one example of a former couple who still gets along well — plenty of celebrity couples have also made a relationship with ex a real possibility after divorce.
As difficult as it may seem when ending a marriage, it is possible to divorce gracefully and carry on a friendship with an ex.
Read on to find out some valuable insight and advice for how to maintain a friendship after divorce, as told by a child of divorce, who witnessed it firsthand.
1. Give each other the space you need.
Since my parents are still close, they find themselves crossing paths fairly often. Still, with any friendship, there’s a limit to how much time they can spend together while staying sane. Everybody needs their space, after all.
With my parents, when an argument is about to happen or negative feelings are brewing, one of them will usually say “I’m leaving!” or “Get out!” This may seem harsh, but it’s much better than dragging out an argument and having them both get heated.
If one of them just leaves the situation for a while, they both have the space they need to cool down, and they return to what they were doing sooner than if they were both screaming at each other at the top of their lungs.
Ultimately, this arrangement allows both of my parents to keep their emotions (and blood pressures) at appropriate levels. Any former couple who still interacts regularly should prioritize their emotional well-being over their ego. Knowing when to walk away and give another person space is a necessary skill for any friendship.
2. Check in on each other, like any concerned friend would.
When one of my parents is sick, the other will drop everything to care for them when necessary. Even when one continues to say “I’m fine,” the other can tell when they’re not, and will force them to take the necessary steps to get well again.
Everyone would be lucky to have such a caring friend (or multiple) in their lives. Sometimes all we need is someone to check up on us, and I’m glad my parents can still fill that role for each other.
For couples in the midst of marital trouble, being able to support one another is respectable and admirable.
In October 2015, when Lamar Odom was found unconscious and transported to the hospital, Khloe Kardashian rushed to his side, despite separating from him two years prior. She even withdrew her divorce request, citing their need to focus on his recovery and solidifying her commitment to “be there supporting him every step of the way.”
Odom has since recovered, and the couple has since finalized their divorce, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kardashian was there for him when it mattered the most.
3. Do stuff together, like friends do.
I remember going away for one weekend and coming back to discover that my parents had eaten every meal together while I was gone. I was very pleased to hear this, because its just one more sign of them having a healthy friendship.
Spending time together is a hallmark of any friendship, and my parents have exemplified this. Over the years, favorite pastimes of theirs have included shopping together, golfing, and watching TV, all common activities for friends to be doing together.
Some former couples have even been known to work together after divorce. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are a great example of this. Since ending their 10-year marriage in 2014, Lopez and Anthony have released a single together and performed (and kissed!) at the 2016 Latin Grammy Awards.
Lopez explains her relationship with Anthony like this:
“[Working with Anthony] actually kind of repaired certain parts of our relationship that had been fractured from our marriage and our divorce and it kind of made us friends again.”
Being able to redefine their relationship around a common interest instead of love and marriage has allowed Lopez and Anthony to thrive.
4. Help (and accept help from) one another.
Knowing when to ask for help is tough for some — especially my parents, who both pride themselves on being self-sufficient and independent. However, there are some times when they need to rely on each other.
My parents often consult each other on various matters, including how to fix certain things in the house, where to buy certain things to get the steepest discounts, and even how best to negotiate with car dealers.
Friends should be able to lean on each other for advice and assistance, and my parents are no strangers to this concept. They may not always want to hear each other’s opinions, but they both recognize that there’s no shame in asking for help from a trusted friend.
5. Remember you have a shared history.
Even before getting married, my parents dated and lived together for a number of years. They’ve been through a lot together, and the end of their marriage doesn’t mean they have to forget about all of the shared memories they have.
All these years later, they still reminisce about old apartments they’ve had, favorite restaurants that have since closed down, and other fond memories they have in common. They also keep each other posted on how old friends are doing, and they don’t shy away from bringing up embarrassing stories from their past.
Finally, they recognize and remember people they’ve lost over the years and other tough times they’ve been through.
Sharing such a long, memorable history brings people closer, no matter what type of relationship you may have with them. My parents’ relationship is stronger today because of what they’ve been through in the past and how they both recognize this today.
6. Don’t lose sight of the importance of family.
Luckily, the end of my parents’ marriage did not lead to the fracturing of our family. To this day, both sides of the family maintain close relationships and get together for holidays. Even though they’re no longer related through marriage, there’s no love lost between my mom, my dad, and their respective families.
Unfortunately, keeping the family intact is not always this effortless. Though Jon and Kate Gosselin divorced in 2009, they are still involved in legal battles related to their divorce and custody of their eight children.
Last August, the Gosselins’ then 13-year-old daughter Hannah refused to leave her father’s car and go back to Kate’s house — the three-hour ordeal continued until the police were called. Instead of honoring their custody agreement and presenting a united front to get Hannah to cooperate, both parents let their bitterness get the best of them, creating further division within the family.
Though there’s little hope for couples like the Gosselins to get along, divorced parents across the globe have shown that remaining friends after a divorce is possible if both parties are willing to do so. It may take extra effort, and it won’t always be easy, but it’s worth it to be able to divorce as friends and maintain the best family life possible.