Divorce happens. In fact, it happens so often that there’s one every 36 seconds in the U.S. No matter the shape of your relationship or how gleeful you might be to not be in a marriage anymore, separating from your spouse is never easy. It comes with stress, self-doubt, and a lingering frustration with your ex that makes even seeing them at the store, let alone maintaining a relationship, a Herculean task.
But there is such a thing as a friendly post-divorce relationship. After litigating the division of assets, dealing with the post-divorce emotional fall-out, settling into a co-parenting groove, you may just need space. But down the line, as wounds heal, your relationship with your ex can get easier. Here, five divorced men talk about how they negotiated a happy — or at least, amicable — post-divorce relationship with their spouses.
Dr. Manish Shah, Father of Three
Our relationship is a lot more respectful. It’s a lot more natural. It’s a lot more easy-going and a lot more dedicated to trying to help each other out with our day-to-day needs. There’s no minute management of who has who when.
In the beginning, oh my god, it was ridiculous. Every time I needed something from her, either it was a cash payment or I had to give up my left kidney. She has mellowed out tremendously in the last 8 years, and understands that I’m not the enemy. We just weren’t good to be married together. Today, we’re very respectful of our imperfections and we still try to work at them so the kids can continue to see a respectful relationship that they maybe didn’t get to see when they were younger.
We figure we owe them — and ourselves — that kindness.
Darryl Frost, Father of One
We have boundaries, just like any good relationship. I keep my son as the focus and focus on facts. Even all the way up until now — I got divorced in 2012, I keep that overall context: no matter how my day is going, I’ve got to focus on what’s best for my son. Even if it causes me to lose a battle. I have to keep my kid as my primary focus.
Over the long term, I could see us becoming friends down the road. But over the short term, it’s been really about our son. Sometimes there are moments where we might draw each other into a battle. If I keep the focus as my kid, I can step out of it. If I see a fight developing, I have to ask yourself those long-term questions to keep me out of something for short.
James McFadden, Father of Two
We’re really good friends. In fact, I’m going over there this afternoon to cook some pork chops. We eased into it. But I’d known her for a long time before we got married. Ten years of being friends, living together, doing things together. When we were transitioning to being married, it was just a legal thing. It’s not like it was a big change. When we went through divorce and came out of it, it was just another legal thing.
I don’t know if that’s typical. We do holidays together, my kids will go to their house for Thanksgiving, we went down for Christmas once. We went to go see our daughter who lives in Philadelphia together. We went down there together. We’ve been to California together for my other daughter. We’ve spent a couple of weeks together and kicked around.
Hodges Davis, Father of Five
To be totally honest, I just don’t like her very much as a person. We don’t do birthdays together, any holidays together, we don’t travel together. We don’t have meals together. That being said, I do know that the things that she brings to my kids. It’s not unusual that I tell the kids: look, your mother is so much better than me at this. You really should ask her.
I don’t want to be her friend. And I know couples that do that. We show up at graduations and weddings, but if it were my choice, I’d have my table and she’d have her table. It’s not that I don’t respect her. The best part of our relationship is how we are as co-parents. And my kids know that.
Johnny Olson, Father of One
We’re still friends. That was one part of our relationship that didn’t really fail. We didn’t stop being friends. The problems that we had were beyond that.
Nowadays, now that our daughter is an adult, we don’t talk nearly as often as we did. But when our daughter was growing up, we would talk to each other at least a few times a week. We’d go somewhere and have a weekly family dinner. We wouldn’t do it at each other’s houses, but we’d go out to our favorite restaurants and try to get that family chemistry feeling back.