While an amicable divorce sounds like the ideal way to part, if feelings have been hurt and trust no longer exists, remaining civil, let alone friends, isn’t always easy.
Is it even possible to remain on good terms with an ex spouse and if so, how do you do it?
According to Gurpreet Singh, a relationship counsellor at Relate, it’s only natural to have some negative feelings towards your ex and it’s important not to deny this. To establish healthy dialogue, ex couples should own up to these thoughts, with the ultimate aim of working through them together.
“Be honest about how you feel. It’s also possible that with the loss of the relationship some level of trust has been lost. This will further impact the tone of communication and the level of honesty in it,” he told HuffPost UK.
“Knowing that trust is lost and setting boundaries to prevent further deterioration is important. If the conversation starts to go south, then sometimes it’s a good idea to walk away and come back when both of you are a little bit calmer and able to talk more rationally.”
Singh said establishing this fair and calm communication helps to take some heat out of certain aspects of divorce, such as dividing assets. Of course, you should see a solicitor to make these decisions legally binding. Singh also advised against expecting friends and family to pick sides.
“It’s unlikely that anyone will want to intensify their hurt and pain by losing other relationships on top of the one with their partner. Relationships are an emotional investment for both of you,” he said.
[Read More: 7 questions about divorce in the UK answered]
“Understanding this about yourself and your partner allows you to manage these feelings. It’s likely that there will be some awkwardness and there may be some realignment of relationships with any common friends and family. Understanding the awkwardness and working through it by talking to your friends and family openly about it, and with your partner, minimises the hurt feelings, the loss, the pain and allows closure for everyone. It’s particularly beneficial to any children involved.”
Couples from around the UK previously told HuffPost UK it is possible to remain on good terms after divorce, but it often takes hard work and time.
L’Tomay Douglas said it’s important to see an ex as an ally, after all, you will have a shared past. She wanted nothing to do with her husband Melvin initially after their “mutually hostile” spilt. However, as the years passed they found a way to put their differences aside and establish an amicable relationship. They attended their daughter’s university graduation together and are now even Facebook friends.
“[We separated because] our belief systems no longer aligned and that was negatively impacting our marriage and view of one another. Our marriage ended in an ugly divorce in which I almost lost custody of our daughter,” she said.
“The love for my daughter motivated me to find a way for us to get along. It was difficult, but I resolved to move past the pain of our dissolution, recognise that our daughter needed her dad and focused on the good that could only come from having him as an ally.”
Faith Brown said you shouldn’t give up hope if you can’t initially establish a friendship with your ex. She described the period after the divorce from her husband as a “grieving process”. The pair went their separate ways and eventually lost touch after she came out as lesbian, but Brown decided to reach out and reconnect years later.
“Despite what had happened, I essentially finished growing up together with him. So, I wrote a letter and posted it to his mum’s address. She passed it on and we started communicating again from there,” she said.
“Looking back at my previous marriage and divorce I am very thankful to have done it in many aspects. He is a fantastic person I was lucky to have known and it couldn’t have happened any other way. At the same time, it must have been quite painful for him. It certainly was for me and I was the one who instigated the divorce.”
Both Douglas and Brown are now in happy relationships with other people after divorce and Singh said finding love again can be easier if you’ve had an amicable split.
“An acrimonious split will create negative feelings that might delay or prevent closure and may also follow one or both people into their future relationships,” he said.
“But an amicable parting through good communication allows both parties to move on and build stronger relationships in the future.”