The answers are convincingly and logically presented in Befriending Your Ex After Divorce: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids, and Yes, Your Ex, authored by Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Ph.D., She is a clinical psychologist who was motivated to write her book after accepting the losses and realities of her own divorce and becoming good friends with her former husband.
“Most divorced couples make some effort for the sake of their children,” notes Rabinor, “but they should also consider their own peace of mind and the impact on their extended families and mutual friends.”
She believes people should view divorce not only as a pathway to freedom from past relationship problems, but the beginning of a unique new type of friendship with someone they once loved.
“It requires seeing the big picture—embracing the needs of everyone involved—and taking the high road. Don’t assume you have to continue feeling and expressing anger to justify your divorce.”
Marriages fall apart for all kinds of seemingly unforgivable reasons, and new issues emerge such as finances, child visitation schedules, and new partners that can cause conflict and tension. Rabinor addresses all of the possible barriers to friendship with coping strategies, practical guidance, case studies, research from relationship experts, and exercises. Her sensible and easy-to-read book has separate chapters on developing core befriending skills, overcoming grief and anger, letting go, identifying and focusing on just the major problems, dealing with the pitfalls of combative attitudes, accepting an ex’s new love, celebrating holidays and traditional family events, and adjusting to new rituals.
Rabinor says befriending a former spouse takes time and involves these five C concepts:
· Communication. You let your ex know well in advance that you will be an hour late dropping off your son for an acceptable reason, such as his involvement in a school project.
· Compromise. Your ex wants you to share the cost of an expensive bicycle for a child. You say how much you can contribute and suggest a cheaper bike. Instead, he agrees to pay the difference.
· Compassion. Your ex is recovering from surgery. You make him a meal or shop for his groceries.
· Celebration. You plan a graduation party for your child and invite your ex and his new family.
· Collaboration. Your elderly mother has dementia. You investigate home care and nursing homes, and your ex helps you decide the best and most affordable solution.
Rabinor acknowledges that not all of her strategies and exercises apply to everyone, and that an authentic new friendship might not develop if dangerous behaviors don’t change, such as addictions or verbal and physical abuse. Nor does she take sides with the reader, who she asks to assess and take responsibility for his or her own behavior and to identify areas that need improvement.
“The only person you can really change is yourself. Do your part and treat your ex kindly, and if he or she refuses to reciprocate, continue to take the high road. You’ll eventually succeed, or at least have the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing the right thing.”
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