Why Being Friends With Your Ex-Husband Isn't Always a Good Idea

When I hear stories of other divorced couples being friends with each other, I turn a little green with envy. A lot of times it’s for the kids, of course, but there seems to be a lot of “we just didn’t function well as a couple” going around. I guess it’s easier to be friendly with someone you don’t have to live with every day.

That’s not my story. I can wish it was all I want, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. It’s been almost a year since we ended things, and I can count on one hand the number of conversations we’ve had that didn’t involve the logistics of the divorce or the children.

And you know what? I’ve accepted that. Maybe things will change someday, and I’m certainly open to and hopeful for the possibility, but for now I’m OK with not having my ex in my life.

I don’t know why or how some couples are able to settle into friendship after a divorce. I’ve certainly tried, but the results have not been good. I invited him for ice cream with the kids at the mall once, and I thought we might be crossing over into the land of friendship, but I made the fatal mistake of mentioning it.

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“This is nice,” I mentioned, as our daughters were playing together in their own world. It was a little awkward, but the conversation was flowing, and much to my surprise, I realized I was actually enjoying myself a little bit. “It is,” he agreed.

“Just because we’re not married doesn’t mean I don’t want to be friends,” I said. You think I’d know by now not to say such nonsense, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted a friendship not just for the kids, but also because there are parts of him that I genuinely enjoy -- I did marry him for a reason. No such luck.

He just stared at me and said, “I can’t be friends.”

“What do you mean?” I cautiously asked.

“It’s all or nothing. I can’t be just friends if I can’t have you for my wife.”

And that’s basically it right there. The fundamental personality differences that made it impossible for us to have a mutually satisfying long-term marriage are now making it incredibly difficult for us to have any semblance of friendship, no matter how superficial.

So we make the best of it. We both love our daughters and make sure they know they are loved and that this has nothing to do with them. We communicate when we need to, but we do our own things the rest of the time.

Just like every marriage is different, every divorce is too, and sometimes the best option isn’t to remain friends. Trying to force a relationship of any kind when it’s not mutual is just a recipe for disaster.

Do you think ex-spouses can really be friends?


Image via Alpha Chen/Flickr



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Coles... Coles_mom

I don't understand why you two aren't together. It sounds like he wants to be.....so why are you holding out? Was he abusive? Violent? Alcoholic? Let me guess....you weren't "compatible"....you weren't living up to your potential? Right?


And I'm not making reference to him.


Jenny, I'm not sure you realize this yet, but I think (and I have no scientific or survey-based knowledge of this at all) many people who claim to be "friends" with their exes are LYING.  I've watched former couples who CLAIM to be friends post-breakup but their behavior tells me they are no such thing.  Sure, it can work sometimes, but not as often as many in that situation claim.  People just don't want to look like butt-heads by telling the truth.

I'm not exactly sure what kind of conversations you want to be having with him, but asking for pre-divorce type conversations is out of bounds.  You really don't NEED to be having conversations with him outside of divorce logistics and children.  Period.  That part of your relationship is over - he's pretty much told you that you can't have those parts of him without the parts you don't like and you have to accept that (or this is going to end BADLY for you).  Besides, when both of you, inevitably, move on -- your new significant other may not be comfortable with you being "buds" with your ex (I know I wouldn't, but I don't speak for all).  Take his refusal of friendship as a gift that will help you in future relationships and move on. 

Cordial is great and frankly, required on both sides.  Friends is, in his words, asking too much.

nonmember avatar SickOfHearingIt

Maybe if you had told him yourself you wanted a divorce instead of waiting until news got around to your pastor, he'd be more willing to be friends. You can't treat people like garbage and expect them to throw on a happy face so you can feel better about your behavior.


It might take him longer to adjust to his new normal. I think SLA put everything in a nutshell. You have to get on to your new normal.

bandg... bandgeek521

I've never stood up for you before Jenny , but I want to apologize for the first comment. No one should judge someone else for their reasons to divorce. Just because he still wants to be married doesn't mean you're obligated to stay with him. I understand that marriage takes work - I've been married almost 7 years now, so I know better than to say it should all be happiness and butterflies. But no  one should have to consign themselves to being miserable just to stay married. From what I've read of your relationship with your ex, I fully support your decision, although I don't believe anyone needs approval or permission from others for this kind of personal choice.

the4m... the4mutts

My ex and I are GREAT friends. Honestly, real friends.

He comes to every family event, we talk on the phone and txt when we're bored, not just about kids. We have even been known to just go have lunch together.

He still goes to my parent's house, and he has had bbq over at my in-laws house.

Just like any friendship, we have boundaries. We don't talk about my marriage or his girlfriends. As long as they're not serious enough to meet the kids, I couldnt care less who he's with.

It's not impossible for SOME people to still be friends after a divorce. I don't know if it's right for y'all, but I know it has been great for us.

pippi311 pippi311

I think it's great when exes can be friends and when there are kids involved it makes it so much easier on them. Some people can get there, sounds like you're not there yet, perhaps maybe one day you will. good luck.

Lucki... Luckicharmz

My ex and I are good friends, we had our relationship in high school when we were very immature and wanted to follow the crowd. When our daughter was born we followed what was expected of us then realized it wasn't what either of us had actually wanted. It was a mutual split because there was nothing romantic left in our relationship and now we're both happily remarried and will have 5 kids between us (including our shared daughter) who all get together and play on weekends., go trick or treating, etc.

It all honestly depends on the situation, what led to the divorce, and the kind of people you are. I know lots of couples who can't be friends because things went extremely south for them.

nonmember avatar Jen

Not married and no children but I tried to have a friendship with my ex. It was short-lived. He just didn't put much effort into it once he realized that there was no possible chance that we may someday get back together (and the breakup was his instigation.) I guess he expected me to wait around for him while he did his thing?

In any case, I was miserable in that relationship but had that martyr complex that Coles mom seems to have that said you have to put up with any amount of bull and make it work no matter what. Sometimes people aren't compatible. I could go into detail, it would gross you out (just his hygiene issues alone would, without even referencing the substance abuse issues and the punching holes in every door in our shared apartment). You don't have to rationalize your decision to anybody else.

You were dragged down the aisle as a teen bride by a bats***t religious father. It's a wedding that never should have happened in the first place.

KevWi... KevWife.BaniMom

Well, depending on who you are and HOW you broke up, its completely possible! And I am being completely truthful when I say that I am actual friends with most of my ex's. I am friends with their wives as well. I was with a guy for 4 years. The relationship ran its course, we split with no hard feelings. In the early beginning it was, difficult. But after a small amount of time, its perfectly natural. My ex and his wife took me to Country Thunder for my bday one year and we had the best time. I am in contact with my ex husband as well. We email and write and his new wife I have also developed a relationship with. My ex BF still calls my mom 'Ma' 9 years after our split. I say to people who say that that is odd, I tell them that you can tell the kind of person I am if a majority of my ex's and their families like me and hang out. Obviously I am not a psycho. LOL. Some people you NEED to get away from but there was obviously something outside of romance that we liked about each other.

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