You Don't Have To Be Friends With Your Ex To Co-Parent Well

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You Don’t Have To Be Friends With Your Ex To Co-Parent Well

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This is a pic of my ex and I sitting together at one of our children’s games.

Just kidding. That’s not us. I don’t have a pic of us together watching a game because 1) we never sat together, and 2) I didn’t ever think to take one and post it on social media.

For the past few years, we’ve been “blessed” with Facebook posts and pictures showing divorced parents uniting as a team to show their kids that they are still a family. These posts are wonderful, no doubt, and they most likely give some hope to people who are newly split and worried about how their kids will fare.

Inevitably, there will be comments on said posts and pictures. Many of the comments are similar to these:

“Aw…lucky kids!”
“That’s how it should be for all divorced couples!”
“If only all divorced people could put aside their differences and do this!”
“This is what happens when people take the high road!”
“Too bad some divorced parents are too selfish/petty/jealous/immature to do this.”

If you are like me and don’t have a cuddly relationship with your ex, you might read these and start to wonder, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

I’m here to tell you this: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

You know what I find ironic? Most of the people who shame us for not being friends with our exes are armchair family therapists. They think they know what is right and good for all.

They don’t know. We only know what is best for us, for ourselves, for our families.

And for some of us, that means we sit apart at games and concerts.

It means we limit our contact with our exes to emails or texts.

It means we celebrate holidays and birthdays with our kids but not with the ex.

It means we are civil. We are mature and polite, and we keep it 100% business with the ex because that is how we stay healthy.

Nobody gets to judge you for how you have chosen to navigate the unfamiliar territory of post-divorce parenting — unless you are doing harm to your kids by talking smack about the ex in front of them, denying them time with the ex, playing manipulative games, or god forbid, using the kids as pawns in order to “get back” at their other parent. But those are no-brainers, right?

If you have decided to be buddies with your ex, I say this: Congrats, and how great for your kids.

If you have decided to be civil but not friends? I say this: Congrats, and how great for your kids.

Because the reality is, both of these situations are okay. And both can be not only good for the kids, but also healthy for them as well.

You never, ever know the whole story behind the demise of a marriage unless you were in it. That’s why it’s not only wrong to decide what’s “best,” it’s insulting to those who have made tough choices and who have forged a new normal for their family.

Some of you had amicable divorces — the kind where you both sat down and said, “This just isn’t working,” and then mutually decided to part ways on good terms. Maintaining a friendship is easier if there’s a friendship to maintain. 

But some of you had bad divorces — the kind that comes on like an F5 tornado and leaves splintered wreckage in its wake. When it’s over, you don’t know if you’re ever going to be the same again. And in many cases, you aren’t.

You choose your friends wisely, and after a life-altering experience like that, you choose friends you know you can trust. Friends who have always had your — and your children’s — best interests at heart. When you decide not to embrace friendship with someone who has hurt you, either physically or emotionally, you are showing your children that there are consequences in life. That if you shit all over someone, you might not be prime friendship material. That how you treat people really does matter.

We will always see the pictures of split couples linking arms on the sidelines of their kids’ games, swaying back and forth and singing “Kumbaya.” That’s okay. The world needs to see positive images of co-parenting.

But I want those of you who don’t see yourselves in those pictures to know that you’re doing just fine too.

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