Post-separation friendships are becoming more common. All too frequently though, they are met with disbelief or a level of scepticism – ‘this would never work for me’. Maybe it wouldn’t but it likely could have.
Perhaps the most dominant myth is that if you could be friends after separation, you could have stayed together. The reality, however, is that relationships end for a vast number of reasons.
I was listening to the famed researcher, Brene Brown recently when she was talking about her research and what it meant to feel belonging’. It made me reflect on how this impacts separating couples.
Brene points out that belonging (family and intimate connections) are part of our DNA. This is where most people start their relationships or at least form the strongest part of them. When, or if, that is lost, the opposite which is felt is a sense of ‘fitting in’. Of trying to be who your partner wants you to be and not being true to yourself. When fitting in becomes the accepted version of you, it’s usually the beginning of the end.
If there was one single learning in personal development post-separation, it’s this: Learn to love who you are and let go of the rest. Let go of judgment. Let go of fitting in. And don’t accept anything into your life which is not helping you to move in a positive forward direction.
So how do you get there? There are some common traits which you will find in couples who can maintain a friendship with their former partners.
They embrace change
You separated for a reason; whatever that was. What has to now happen is that move on freely and happily with your life. The two of you chose this new path so you could create a better life for yourselves.
In pre-mediation work, I hear from clients their frustrations about what their former partner did or didn’t do, that caused the relationship to breakdown. While this conversation plays an important and necessary part of the mediation process, it also needs to eventually become something of the past and not remain in your present.
An often forgotten part of that process is accepting the new status quo. This is about accepting all the new challenges ahead of you and taking responsibility for your new personal path. If you can do this, you will prevent the blame game and bitterness which vexes so many couples after separation
The dynamic has now changed and amicable post-separation couples can embrace this as a positive, new step forward.
They undertake self-development work
Self-development work is very much an individual journey and may involve a whole variety of modalities. Counselling, coaching, meditation or even a new healthy daily or weekly practice such as yoga or going to the gym. It may even be a new, healthier diet regime.
Whatever it is, it’s important that you choose this for yourself as part of who you are – not who you were once fitting in to be. This is your time to shine and to find the path in life for yourself.
You and your former partner will be happy to watch each other grow into the new, happier or healthier version of you. Your children will benefit from this too.
They embrace new relationships
Separating couples who are capable of an amicable separation will be happy when their former partner moves on. Just because it didn’t work for the two of you doesn’t mean you can’t each try again. And you should!
Part of this process is, of course, accepting that your children will have new significant other people in their lives. Despite popular opinion, this isn’t as much about who that person is, but rather is about your self-confidence and relationship with your children.
They seek solutions, not conflict
Probably the biggest myth of amicable separations is that it’s easy. It’s not. It takes work. And lots of it. However, separating couples dedicated to this path will choose to seek solutions that work for everyone, not another battle or argument to win. “
Being solution-focused comes with a skillset of asking genuine and open questions. It’s an approach of ‘how can we resolve this?’ not ‘how can I get what I want?’.
Solutions don’t always come easily. They can require you to be flexible and to let go of specific outcomes. Usually, in separating couples they require a child-focused approach and to include their interests as well as your own. Sometimes they take trial and error or seeking external help or advice. The underlying sentiment must always be to find a resolution.
This is a period of growth. Of change. And new beginnings. It will bring you resilience, peace of mind and the capacity to self-reflect.
If you’re one of the people doing the heavy-lifting to make a post-separation relationship healthy, thank you! I congratulate you and your co-parent. Please keep speaking up about your experiences – warts and all! Those of us who have traveled the path before you know it’s not always easy. It’s most frequently unscripted. The rule book doesn’t yet exist. But with passive persistence, we know you will get there.