Last week, I had a drink with a good friend. We chatted about our lives, we laughed about funny times in our past, we made plans to get together again soon. Just like good friends do. But this particular friend is more than a friend — he’s my ex-husband.
This shouldn’t be such a strange thing, but for many people it is. Friends and relatives react in different ways, but the wonderment/bewilderment scale is always involved to some extent. Apparently, being friends with your ex-spouse isn’t the norm.
Admittedly, it hasn’t always been the norm for us. In fact, it’s taken us years — and a significant amount of work — to reach this point. Initially, it seemed like the least likely outcome for us. Hate is too strong a word, but there was definitely a hell of a lot of resentment, bitterness and blame. For months, we barely made eye contact when he came to pick up the kids. It was the polar opposite of friendship.
Our kids deserve a lot of credit for the state of our relationship now, insofar as if they didn’t exist, we would have completely separated ourselves from one another a long time ago. The fact that we will forever be tied together for the sake of the awesome little people we brought into this world together means we have no choice but to try to get along. But it’s more than that. We’re in a place where I can, hand on heart, call him a real friend.
In recent months, we’ve gone past the point where we were happy to be civil to one another and make a bit more of an effort for the sake of our children. We actually like spending time together. We understand each other more than we ever did when we were together. I know he has my back. He genuinely wants me to be happy. I didn’t feel like this when we were together.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, but sometimes the best friendships take work. We went for counseling — four years after we split. I recommend it to all estranged couples who need or want to be in each other’s lives in some way (whether it’s because of kids or something else). With the help of the right professional, we managed to understand each other a lot better. We both had some stuff to work through that had never been addressed. We had things to say to each other that should have been said a long time ago. It wasn’t easy, and it was emotional as hell for both of us. But it helped us reach a point where we saw each other in a different light. A brighter light that exposed more of our hearts and made us realize something we’d been missing for so long — we are both good people who loved each other deeply at one stage.
Of course, we don’t always see eye to eye. But that’s life. And the fact that we manage to work those issues out without causing any lasting damage is simply further proof that we are true friends, because true friends are able to overcome any bumps in the road — and often have a stronger bond as a result. Don’t get me wrong; I have no unrealistic expectations of this friendship. I know our relationship isn’t a typical friendship. We were once husband and wife. Lovers. We’re co-parents. He’s possibly the one person who has seen me at my worst. There may be times in our future when we don’t feel or act like friends. But I have faith that we’ll always to get back to that place because we both know how lucky we are to be in this pretty unique position.
Would we be friends if we weren’t co-parents? I’d like to think so. He’s much more to me than some guy I had kids with. I like him as a person. I know his heart. I value his opinion and want to see him achieve his goals. Most of all, I’m massively proud that we’ve both managed to beat the odds and turn our relationship around. Against all odds, we may just have one of the strongest friendships either of us has ever known.