Can You Remain Friends with Your Ex After 25 Years?

Q: “This was to be our 25 year anniversary but we are getting a divorce instead. We had a great life and I do not hate him. I want to remain friends with him and his family. We were very close and did things together a lot. Would it be bad for me and my grief recovery to remain friends? Should I just let our teenage boys maintain that relationship? If so how do I get past the jealousy of him getting to “keep that part of our life”?”

A. I know this isn’t how you might have imagined celebrating 25 years of marriage, but I commend you for the relative amicability you have been able to achieve so far. With teenage children in the mix, it is important that you are able to preserve your ability to co-parent and communicate with one another. You raise some great issues and I will do my best to address them.

In terms of your grief recovery, you will discover the degree to which you are able to remain friends with your ex. There are certainly examples of divorced couples who have found a way to maintain, or perhaps more accurately re-invent, a relationship after divorce that goes beyond simply co-parenting. However it requires willingness on both sides to have that as a goal, and to develop the communication skills and personal mastery skills to do this. As you move through your separation process, I recommend you tap into the resources of the expertise you’ll find in the Divorce Resource Kit or from an experienced counselor.

In terms of your teenage boys and their relationship with their father, I would certainly encourage you to do what you can to support their continued relationship with their dad. They are old enough as well to express their preferences. You say that you feel jealous about your husband being able to “keep that part of our life,” but with all due respect that precious part of your life, ie your teenage boys, was only made possible with the participation of your husband. It is the ego that feels jealousy or wants to compare if you receive more or less love.

But your higher self already knows that there is no shortage of love. What I recommend to help you through those feelings is to keep your children’s best interest in mind and resist any temptation to put your children in the middle of their divorcing parents. Keep the long term perspective in mind. How do you want your children to feel at a future milestone like a college graduation or wedding if both mom and dad are present? Build and celebrate your relationship with your sons. Let your relationship with them be your primary focus.



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5 thoughts on “Can You Remain Friends with Your Ex After 25 Years?

  1. I have to tell you my story: my parents divorced when I was 2, and co-parented my entire life through college. My mom remarried when I was 4 and between my mom, dad and step-dad, I had a LARGE extended family.
    My parents made an effort never to speak bad about each other in front of me and always included each other in plans, such as picnics, birthdays and even funerals.
    My parents never argued over who got me for the holidays and vacations were decided well in advance.
    When I got married, both my fathers walked me down the aisle.
    When I had kidz, they were lucky enough to have 3 sets of grandparents (my mom and step-dad, my dad and step-mom, and my then husbands parents) and 2 sets of great-grandparents waiting in the room to greet them, not to mention aunts, uncles, and cousins galore!
    All of my family were at parties, weddings and funerals. And yes, I had to explain to my friends why MY dad was at my sister’s wedding. He had to be – he had known her all her life and she invited him!
    As I got older, and went through my own divorce, did I realize what a sacrifice that must have been! How many times did my mom or dad hold their tongue? LOL. But I know and both of them know it was worth it!
    You have a hard job in front of you, but work with your ex and his family to maintain that relationship. Include them in your plans, invite them to the birthday parties, let them know of deaths in the family, plan your vacations well in advance so you don’t run into conflicts. Just a few things to consider from experience.
    Good luck and hang in there!

  2. Just wanted to let you know that my Grandfather, on my mothers side, died this past February. My dad sent flowers to my mother and my Grandmother, and even made a donation to Hospice in my Grandfather’s name. We live in WA and ID. My dad lives in CA. Distance doesn’t stop my father from participating in our lives, and showing his appreciation for our family and it’s legacy. My ex and his family sent me a beautiful sympathy card, returning the favor that I did when his grandmother died just 6 months prior. Divorce ends a marriage that couldn’t survive between two people. Divorce doesn’t have to end a family that survives beyond the marriage. Again, hang in there and take care.

  3. Thank you everyone for the great article and the great comments (stories) above. This was a great read all around and I appreciate all the helpful information. Divorce effects everyone differently but some of the issues that surround divorce everyone has to deal with even if it is in there own way.

  4. With a lot of determination, believe it or not, you can overcome the anger, grief, and sadness of losing a marriage and eventually achieve friendship. Whether or not you want to be “friends” with your ex is a decision in itself, but if you have children together, finding a way to be amicable with your co-parent makes life a lot easier.

  5. Dear Carolyn, I’ve been reading your emails for years and I appreciate everything that you have to share with your audience and all the knowledge that you have and all your excellent teachings. You are so blessed because you have love and compassion for everyone in the family. In a divorce situation, you think of the women, the men and the children.

    After 7 years of poisoning myself with the anger towards my ex-husband and after weeks of excellent (tough love) therapy, I came to the realization and accepted that I played a big part in the breakup of my marriage. My therapist, a woman in her late 60s would not allow me to trash my ex-husband. She got me to focus on my current situation and got me to think of a plan to get out of my pit. She had to remind me that I had a young child (age 13) to whom I owed love, a safe and stable home, respect and a good education. I now have a child who is a grown, beautiful, loving and compassionate man (age 23). Three years ago, I forgave myself and then I forgave David, my ex-husband. We are now good friends and our son is very happy about it. We (Dad, Mom and son) recently met in Las Vegas< Nevada and had a great time together.