A few months ago I was asked to help a divorced couple re-establish a friendship with each other. My first thought was, umm, I am not really familiar with this. But then I thought, surely there are some resources out there that I can pull from to give them some guidance. Well, quite a few internet searches and phone to calls later, and my conclusion now is that there is not much out there readily available to help divorced couples retain some level of friendship.
And I get it, the idea of divorce and friendship are at odds with each other. After the time, energy and pain of ending the marriage, building or maintaining a friendship with your ex may not be a thought easy to come by. However, as this couple felt, getting to a place of civility with an ex-spouse can become a place of healing for you, your future relationships and especially your children.
So, it is your own place of inner peace that is the ultimate destination. It often proves hard to move forward in a new relationship or in raising your children until you can remove the bitterness of emotions toward your ex-husband or wife. So here are some things to consider when trying to establish a friendship with an ex-spouse:
Honesty. There are at least two people you need to be honest with about your intentions. Yourself and your ex. Don’t come with a hidden agenda. If there is another motive for establishing a friendship be honest with yourself.
The challenge is, we don’t always know why we do what we do. One of my favorite passages of Scripture helped me realize how much we don’t know about why we do what we do; All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but The Lord weighs the motives (Proverbs 16:2). So, part of our honesty has to be to first spiritually connect with and allow God to show you the honesty of your motives.
Talk. One way to avoid mixed signals is to just tell your ex-spouse your intentions. Once you are clear within your own heart and mind, tell your ex what and why you want to work toward a place of mutual friendship.
Set Boundaries. With a clear mind for what is and is not going on there are some interactions that just don’t need to happen. Remember, whatever the impetus for wanting to establish a friendship, the goal is to come to a place of reconciliation for yourself with your past. I call it “Soul Care”. So, unless the goal is to start dating there is no need to go on a date! Avoid behaviors or conversations that further damage your soul.
Water Under the Bridge. The reality of divorce is that things did not go according to plan. That may be the only mutual perspective you both share. Don’t relive the past or you might quickly find that you both once again agree that there were significant issues in the marriage. That point is already proven. The place you now seek is personal peace with a person you may have to interact with. Therefore, there is little need to wrestle the problems of the past.
Perspective. The most freeing understanding available to you is that the past does not have to control you. Don’t allow the anger, bitterness and the reality of the past to dictate your future. You can find pleasantness in your heart while being honest about the past.
A man named Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his own family. What they did to him set off a series of bitter realities for Joseph. Yet, God carried him through everything he faced. To the reality of his past he attached this perspective in Genesis 45:8,…so it was not you who sent me here, but God. Joseph’s view was that you did it but really God did it.
It is a perspective that accepts what happened but doesn’t leave room to blame the person because ultimately God is in control. In actuality God did it, and “it” will serve for your good. They did it or maybe you did it, but ultimately God had and has a plan for you. So don’t blame him or her for where things are. Let’s take control of our future as we learn to smile at the past. We can neither gain nor lose more than God allows. It happened, but God did it – for a purpose either understood or not. Settle the score with the past by allowing peace to reside in you today.
BMWK: Do you think it’s possible to friends with your ex-spouse?