You shared each other's lives, possibly a house and maybe children. But can you really share friendship with an ex?
We've all got a couple of exes knocking around. How to deal with them can be a dilemma. Impossible as it sounds, some choose friendship. But can a platonic relationship ever replace an intimate, sexual one?
"Yes... and no," says relationship coach Frances Amaroux (www.lovecoaching.com). "It depends on the type of person you are and the type of break-up you had. What you need to do is be honest about is why you want to be friends."
It's nice to think you're just being grown up, but maybe you have ulterior motives. Perhaps you never wanted to let your ex go, or you're keeping them as back-up. Maybe you don't want anyone else to have them, it's an ego boost to keep them dangling, or you want to make a new partner jealous.
"If it's for any of those reasons, you're not helping anyone," says Frances. "Spending quality time with someone, which is what you're doing if you're making a concerted effort to see your ex, means strengthening the bond with them. This can stop you both moving on with life."
That includes meeting someone else. If your ex is filling a certain role, particularly if you're indulging in sex with the ex, you might stop looking for someone else to fill that role.
Dramas also occur if you're not on the same page. "If you want to stay friends but you know your ex is still mad about you, tread carefully," says Frances. "They won't be able to complete the grieving process — that's what happens when a relationship dies — if you give them hope reconciliation is on the cards."
Children also complicate things. Arguing won't do them any favours, but playing happy families could give the wrong message.
"It's great if you can stay friendly," says Frances. "But make sure the children understand. Explain you still want to spend time together as a family, but you don't want to be a couple."
Jo Comans has done just that. Her marriage to Richard ended in 1977 after seven years and two children. She married her current husband Ray three years later, and they had a child. Meanwhile, Richard also married someone else, Jo's friend Narelle, who was a bridesmaid at their wedding. They have four children.
"We have a wonderful extended family life," says Jo. "We visit each other, celebrate our children's milestones together and share four grandchildren. Some people don't understand, but we've worked hard to achieve this and our children are grateful."
Such a success story requires effort from all concerned. And although Frances believes this scenario is becoming more common as the family unit evolves.
"It's no longer always one mum, one dad and a couple of kids," she says adding it might never be possible for some.
"Like anything, what works for one person won't work for another. So just be honest. If your ex wants to be friends but you're not ready, say so. It might become possible later. If it's the other way around, give them space."
Once a person is no longer your partner you might not want them in your life anyway. But if you do, honesty really is the best policy.
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