Once upon a time he may have been your knight in shining armor. But now that armor is tarnished. Or, if you didn’t view him quite that romantically, at least he was Mr. Wonderful. But, as they say, that was then and this is now.
“Now” may be only a few short years after the beginning of the marriage (or perhaps this is not your legal husband but rather a Significant Other or serious boyfriend we are talking about), but is more likely a lot further on into the relationship). So here you are breaking up with the man you thought was so wonderful. In fact, you could still list the qualities he had that attracted you to him, and if you were to be honest, you’d have to agree that he still has most, if not all of them.
But maybe he has other qualities that offset the good ones. Or maybe he’s changed in certain other respects. Or maybe he fell out of love with you, and he was the one to leave…or perhaps he cheated on you, or has developed a problem with alcohol or substance abuse or gambling that makes staying with him intolerable.
Whatever the problem, the relationship is no longer working for one or the other of you, or for both.
But has he really changed totally? If he’s no longer someone you want to be married to or involved with…or someone who wants to stay married to or involved with you…does that totally disqualify him from having a good—even a friendly—relationship with you?
To begin with, especially if this was your husband, the chances are good that you have one or more kids together. And even if this was a relationship entered into only in recent years, and there are no kids, there are other things you have in common that might tie you together. Friends. Perhaps a club membership. Possibly even business interests.
But the single thing most likely to tie you together—if you’ll let it—is all the great stuff you enjoyed about him in the first place. Unless he’s radically changed, or unless he turned out to be abusive or otherwise unacceptable, or unless he was the one who wanted Out and he didn’t do it nicely, he’s still the funny, intelligent, reliable, companionable, [fill in the blanks with the applicable adjectives] guy you fell for in the first place. And if you enjoyed his company then, why not enjoy his company now?
Yes, you can stay friends with your ex. Especially when you have the benefit of added maturity, of being 40something or 50something or 60something, and not a raw kid.
I’ve been married only once and didn’t succeed at staying friendly with my ex-husband only because his second wife wouldn’t allow it. But I’ve stayed friends with all but one of the serious boyfriends or Significant Others who’ve been in my life since then. I truly believe that if a man is special enough to be worth having some type of serious relationship with, he should be worth staying friends with afterward.
In fact, an ex-boyfriend and I wrote a book together—well after the breakup—and when he was back in town a couple of weeks ago, traveling with his current girlfriend, I invited the two of them to lunch with my Significant Other and me. A good time was had by all. Another former lover is now my best friend (yes, a guy), and he and I have also written a number of books together. Am I remarkable? I don’t think so. Often when I tell people that I believe in staying friends with your exes, I hear, “Oh, me too! I’m very good friends with my ex-boyfriend/S.O./husband.”
There are certain rules to observe, of course:
• No rehashing or making snide comments about the bad parts of the past, or about the breakup.
• No criticizing each other’s current romantic partner, if any.
• No nasty jabs of any kind.
• Remember this is someone you once cared about—so be a caring friend.
If the break-up was civilized and respectful, and if the man hadn’t turned into a monster or done something totally unforgivable, why not stay friends with him afterward? You enjoyed his company then. You can still enjoy his company now.
If you don’t, you’re only depriving yourself.
Cynthia MacGregor is the author of 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books, not to mention ghostwritten books, articles, and many other kinds of writing. She also does freelance editing. In addition, she is the proprietor of a website for single parents and the producer and host of Solo Parenting, a TV show for single parents airing in the West Palm Beach viewing area. Busy and happy, she says, "There is no one in the world I'd want to trade lives with."