Why It's Important For Me To Be Friends With My Ex

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Getty

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, relationships just don’t work out, and the end of a relationship is always a challenge. And when you have children together, things are infinitely more complicated. It can be hard to have a positive relationship, much less a friendship, but sometimes it can be possible.

Being friends with my ex was always a priority to me; I knew it was going to be the best way for us to successfully co-parent our child.

Our split was a long-time in the making. We’d been together for about six and a half years, the last two of which were long distance. I knew I was unhappy, and he was emotionally checked out, so we both knew it was coming and necessary. There wasn’t an explosive incident; we simply grew apart.

Our break-up was amicable which makes friendship a whole lot easier.

Our son is still young so being friendly with my ex is important to me. We still have a lot of life left to live, and I always want him to be there for our son. So if I want him to be involved, we have to make the effort.

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There are parts of our son’s life we will have to do together. First days of school. Christmases. Birthdays. High school graduation. Taking him to college if he chooses to go. Maybe one day he gets married. Or what about if/when he has kids? I couldn’t force my son to divide his life because his dad and I can’t be in the same room.

Being friendly with my ex isn’t always easy though. Most of the time, it’s really fucking hard. There are many things I do to keep the peace between us because I don’t want my son to suffer. At the end of the day, everything I do is for my son. I know he loves his dad, and I would never want my feelings to stand in the way of their relationship. So I bite my tongue a lot. And I remind myself that he’s a decent guy and a pretty good dad, so I have no reason not to be friends with him. Sure, he drives me bonkers sometimes, but that isn’t unique to him — any friend can get on your nerves from time to time.

Because I want to have a positive relationship with my ex, I’m upfront and honest. I call him on his bullshit. When he could do better, I say so. We can be friends, but at the end of the day, his first priority is being a good dad.

But I also have to pick my battles. When he’s not pulling his weight, I feel like I’m the one making all the effort. I don’t like fighting, but just like with any other friendship, sometimes you have to let a person know when they’re not being a good friend. It’s just, in this case, he’s usually being a bad friend and a shitty dad. I can handle him treating me poorly, it’s when his behavior affects our son that I have a problem.

I’m discovering that being friendly with my ex is a learning curve. There is no handbook on how to get along. Some days we joke around like pals, and I remember that he’s a good guy. We try and look out for each other when we can. He’ll come over and help me put together furniture. Or I’ll let him have an important package sent to my house when he’s working long hours. Last Christmas he got me a nice gift. He didn’t have to, but I really appreciated the gesture.

Of course, we want each other to be happy and successful in life. For us, our careers are a huge part of our lives. We’re both in creative fields, so we understand each other’s struggles. Sharing career wins is an important way for us to show we care. When he books an acting gig, I make sure to congratulate him. And he will tell me he’s proud of me if I get a huge byline. Because our successes don’t just affect us; they affect our son too.

It takes a while, but eventually you can get to the point of being cool with each other. You have to work at it though; it doesn’t just happen. Some days I have to remind myself to be nice. To treat him with respect when I think he’s an idiot. Making sure that if we’re annoyed with each other, our son doesn’t have to see it. For the most part, we just take it one day at a time.

Even though our relationship didn’t work out, I know he’s not a bad person. The love we had for each other has evolved into something new now. Being friends makes raising our son so much easier. It allows us to hang out with him together. We can sit across from each other at dinner and it doesn’t (always) feel awkward. If the three of us go out together, it doesn’t feel weird. In those moments, I am reminded that he’s just doing the best he can too.

Being able to successfully co-parent hinges on being friendly with my ex. I realize I’m super lucky in how everything ended. Not everyone gets the luxury of staying friends with their ex, which is why it’s so important to me. Putting in the effort makes a world of difference for us and for our son. When our children can see two people who can get along, they feel more secure. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all we want for our kids?

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