If you are dating after divorce, there is a pretty good chance you have dated other divorced people, and undoubtedly, you have a sense of what his or her relationship is like with the ex. There are two extremes that really bug me when it comes to divorced couples.
On one end of the spectrum, there’s divorced couples whose hatred, anger and bitterness are embedded in each of them. They barely speak unless they are arguing or making snide comments to each other, their lawyer bills are hitting the roof, they spend oodles of time trashing one another to everyone they know, and foul language and name calling to each other is second nature. They are like boxers in a ring, fighting for the title.
On the other end of the spectrum are the couples who have everyone wondering why they got divorced. They go to their children’s events together, they travel together, they talk all the time, they reminisce, and they talk about each other glowingly.
If you are dating someone whose relationship is on either end of the spectrum, it can be challenging. I can attest to that first hand.
I have been on dates with divorced guys who called their ex a b****, useless, a terrible mother, a cheater, a liar, and the most horrifying name of all, a c***. I once dated a guy who said he didn’t hope his ex wife would die, he just wished she would “get into a canoe and drift into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and stay there forever.”
How can you have respect for a man (or woman) who hates their ex so much, that they can’t even keep their feelings to themselves on a first date?! Such a turn off!
On the other hand, I also dated a guy once who began talking about his ex-wife as if she was a princess. “She’s such a great mother, she really is a good person, she’s dating this trainer who really isn’t good enough for her, she’s kind hearted, she still looks great for her age.” At first I thought, ‘How refreshing! How nice that he has gotten rid of his anger and can be such good friends with her.’
But, one night, he said something to me about how much fun he and his ex and the kids had had at a carnival they all went to together that day. Keep in mind, he had been separated (but not divorced) for over two years. Something suddenly dawned on me: he was still in love with her!
After about three dates, he never called me again. That was five years ago. I hear that he still single, and all of his relationships last a month or less. Not surprising.
Here’s the thing. I think it is great to be friends with your ex. Some very smart guy once said to me, “If you can’t be friends with someone you dated, then you never really had anything real.”
Of course, there is a big difference between breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and a divorce. But, the principal is the same. If you truly loved your ex at one point in your life, shouldn’t you be able to become friends at some point after the divorce? It might take months, even years, but after the bitterness and anger subsides, if people are willing to forgive each other and embrace acceptance, I think it’s possible. I really respect people who can be friends with their ex’s. Lord knows, I am perpetually trying for that.
The opposite side of the coin is, you got divorced. That’s the bottom line. So, being best friends with your ex aint gonna happen. The two of you chose to separate permanently (or one of you did) so acting like the guy (or girl) is still your sole mate isn’t acceptable anymore. It’s sad, but it’s reality.
A relationship between a divorced couple should be somewhere in between arch rivalry and B.F.F.’s. Cordiality is always appreciated. Birthday wishes and holiday salutations are nice. And perhaps the most valued, the willingness to help each other out in co-parenting, scheduling, and raising your children together, even though you’re not together. Everyone benefits from this type of attitude.
Remember this. If you are striving for a better relationship with your ex, and he or she is still treating you like the devil who ruined his or her life, all you can do is be nice and kind. If you help him or her out, and then he or she doesn’t return the favor, so what? What have you lost? Karma will play its role in this, and you will receive good things from other people in your life. You only have control of how YOU act, not how he or she acts. You just have to hope that person will come around someday. And if they don’t, oh well. You can go to bed every night saying that you are acting in a way that is kind and human, and the best for your kids. Everything else is out of your control.
One last thing, if you are ever on a first date with someone who trashes their ex for more than 60 seconds, red flag. Either call him or her out on it, or say buh-bye.