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Can Couples Stay Friends After Divorce?

By Edited Aug 17, 2016 0 2
Just divorced
Credit: Jennifer Pahlka/Creative Commons License/Attribution-Share Alike

Divorces are often perceived to be hateful, anger-filled and full of resentment. Many bad feelings and emotions are often attributed to the idea of divorce.  These generalizations are not without reality. The reality is divorce can be ugly.

While it is true that many divorces do indeed meet the above visualizations, bringing a marriage to an end doesn't always have to result in bitter feelings. It is very possible for couples to stay friends after being divorced -- of course, this depends upon the situation.

Is Friendship Possible After Divorce?

For some ex-spouses friendship comes easier than others. Whether or not two former spouses can maintain a amicable relationship depends on the nature of how the relationship started and how the marriage came to an end. For instance, marriages built on a strong friendship, but didn’t work out for whatever reason, may have a higher probability of maintaining civil relations after the divorce than those who don't share a long history or one that included friendship. In some cases a divorced couple may even enjoy a stronger friendship once the pressures of everyday life are removed from the equation.

On the other hand, marriages that ended for reasons that were very hurtful, too wounding to consider maintaining contact, may have more difficulties ending amicable, never mind continuing the relationship as friends. Sometimes it is possible to get past the deep hurts cased by issues such as betrayal, dishonesty or irresponsibility and, over the course of time, the former couple is able to put the bad feelings behind and move forward with good vibes towards one another. This again, will depend upon the situation.

When Children are Involved

A very important factor many divorced couples need to consider when struggling with maintaining a friendship post-divorce are when children are involved. When a couple has kids, this creates a permanent and shared bond. If the children are young, the parents will need to work with one another in most cases for years to come.

Not only is there a bond, but since custody and visitation will need to be addressed, this likely entails some level of interaction, and contact will need to happen. It is much easier to work together as parents who are friends than ones who are foes constantly at one another's throats. Kids will also benefit from a parental friendship as they'll be able to better transition and get used to the idea of mom and dad not living together anymore; it is healthy for children to see parents interacting nicely with one another.

[Related reading: What Kids Need to Know About Divorce ]

Child on bridge
Credit: Author unknown. Source: Teaneck Creek Conservancy/Creative Commons License on Wikimedia Commons-Attribution

New Relationships

New relationships are another factor relating to maintaining a friendship post-divorce; the dynamics can change at any given time depending on how life evolves. For instance, if one or both spouses remarry, the new partner may not feel entirely comfortable hanging out with an ex, especially if they are excluded or do not feel welcomed into the friendship. Sometimes jealously will be involved, but often it may just be a matter of feeling awkward.

Additionally, if only one spouse moves on, the person who is not in a relationship may struggle. It can be especially difficult if one spouse left the other to start the new relationship with the new third party who has entered the equation.

Not Yet Healed

Whether or not friendship can occur after the divorce also might depend upon if one person has not yet healed from a broken heart and / or reality of divorce. There is no set path for healing, each journey will be different for each person. It is common that people never get over the breakup and this can definitely impact whether or not a friendship is possible. Seth Meyers, Psy.D., suggests people often don't fall out of love, but the love is masked by the feelings associated with the reasons for the breakup.1 This can often interfere with an ability to remain friends.

Whether or not couples can stay friends after being divorced will depend on individual circumstances and whether or not the two people are want and/or are willing to maintain a friendship. For some it is simpler and less painful to just part ways and not have anything else to do with one another, while others may have difficulty letting go completely and prefer to redraw boundaries and build a new relationship based on a platonic one. Others may have to force an amicable relationship because it is what is best for the kids.

Bottom line, friendship after divorce is not easy for most people, but in some cases it is entirely possible. Divorced couples even sometimes find the relationship even better once they no longer have to share daily interaction with one another.



Nov 2, 2014 5:53pm
My sister and her husband are in the middle of a divorce and I really don´t think a friendship is going to be possible at least from my sister´s aspect. Her husband really hurt her.
Nov 3, 2014 3:33pm
I'm so sorry to hear your sister is going through a hurtful divorce. Many times friendship is not possible...sometimes time allows it to happen, but there are definitely times it does not. I've seen this in my own family.
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  1. Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is "Stay Friends After Divorce: Why, Coping, & Moving On." Psychology Today. 27/10/2014 <Web >

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