My husband and I are friends with my ex

Guest post by Dawn
Photo by Garden State Hiker, used by Creative Commons license.
Photo illustration by Garden State Hiker, used by Creative Commons license.

I am never quite sure how to introduce Steve to others. So to make everyone else more comfortable I usually say “This is my friend, Steve.” It’s just easier that way. As the relationship moves forward — be it a coworker, new friend, neighbor, etc. — eventually they learn who Steve really is.

Steve is my ex-husband.

And Steve is still one of my best friends and still a very active member of my life. Because Brian is my current husband, and Steve is also one of his best friends.

And after five years of this we STILL hear how “weird” it all is.

The general public seems to really struggle with exes remaining friends. Society is NOT pro-exes being friends. Society wants a “bad guy” when there is a divorce. They can’t conceive of a marriage simply just not working. “SOMETHING must have happened! He must have been a jerk! She must have been a bitch!” You know… that sorta thing.

I spent 13 years of my life with Steve, and we had a pretty lovely marriage that I do not regret one day of. But life changes and so do people. Somewhere around year 12 it just stopped working for us.

Our separation was actually very in line with how we ran our marriage. Our marriage was always based on friendship and respect and we carried that into our divorce. He is a good man. I am a good woman. Neither of us was the bad guy. We simply stopped loving each other as a husband and wife should.

Remaining respectful worked for us. We shared debt. We still shared a home. We shared two much-loved dogs. We shared a friendship that eclipsed our marriage. We had a lot of logistics to handle and finalize. So we HAD to communicate and work together.

So this was our decision. To remain a part of each other’s lives.

And no one understood it but us. No matter how relentlessly, calmly and rationally we would explain it.

Then along came Brian. On the very first night we met I told him straight up that I still lived with my ex-husband, that we were very good friends, and we would remain good friends. I left it up to him whether he wanted to deal with that baggage or not, but Steve being in my life was a non-negotiable.

Brian chose to come along for the ride that is life with me. We have been together five years.

Brian likes Steve. And Steve likes Brian. I love them both. But differently. And that’s also REALLY hard for people to grasp.

My marriage to Steve ended, my love and respect for him as a person did not.

People assume there must STILL be feelings there between Steve and I. They assume that Brian must be extra super understanding to “allow” this. People assume there is jealousy. And most recently it was brought to my attention that there is an assumption that we all three are sleeping together. Or have at one point.

I think this all comes from other people trying to make things fit. Perhaps they can’t see themselves in this kind of situation, so they have to make the pieces fit into their worlds. And I get that. But I hate when they project their beliefs onto us. This works for us. It truly does.

These are TWO good men. They both have brought so much to my life. Why does society say I have to leave one behind in order to move on to the next one? Why do I have to hate one to love the other?

I say bah to you society!

Was it easy? No. Were there tears and frustrations? Absolutely. Changing your relationship is never easy. Doing it while living together is even tougher. Adding in another member, excruciating. But lots of tears. Lots of talks. Lots of honesty got us here.

Sometimes I truly get baffled as to why this relationship is so foreign. I mean, wouldn’t the world be a much better place if all exes could still be respectful and kind to each other? I’d like to think so.

I mean, you chose this person to be your partner. The father (or mother) of your children in some cases. I assume at one point you loved them unconditionally. So do people believe that divorce always have to end in hate? Why does the concept of ending a marriage but not ending the relationship freak so many out?

Not in our house! That’s just not our style.

So on any given weekend if you ask me what I did you will most likely hear that I hung out with my husband and my ex-husband. Or if it makes them feel better, “my friend Steve.” And I feel truly and honestly blessed to have both these men still be an active part of my life.

I think this relationship has made all three of us better people.

Comments on My husband and I are friends with my ex

  1. What a great story! I’m so happy that it works for you.

    I hope divorce is never an issue for me, but if it happens, I want your kind of divorce. Is that weird to say?

  2. yes yes yes! I cannot overstate how much I believe this. Not all relationships have to end with bitterness and hate. I’m still good friends with several of my exes, others I have casual acquaintance with over social media and some I haven’t really talked to since the relationship ended and it’s all ok and I still love all of them, just not in the same way that I love my husband.

    I get that sometimes there really is a bad guy, or someone is a right asshat about how they go about bringing up a split or whatever .But I wish more people would understand that there doesn’t have to be a bad guy and the relationship has simply changed into something that doesn’t support the original framework.

    • honestly, i want to support this but it is so hard to understand on my behalf. how can you be sure that there is no sexual tension or attraction between the ex? my bf is friends with his ex and i just don’t understand as much as i’d like to. i figure there must be some kind of flame that still exists. it scares me every day. my bf communicates everything with me and i’m sure there is nothing to be afraid of. but i don’t trust it and i want to. how can you be sure that it really is “over” between them? how can you be sure there will be no potential hook ups or one night stands? how do you know? and how do you get past it?

      i thoroughly do believe in maturity in all relationships as i’ve treated everyone i’ve been involved with kindly. i just don’t know how to think maturely in this way in this particular situation.

  3. I applaud all of you for having such awesome relationships!

    My parents get along much better now than they did when they were married. When they first separated, they made a point of still doing all holidays together, partially for me, partially because they still like one another and it was tradition. Now that my dad is remarried things have shifted a bit because she has a large family. But my mom has come to a Thanksgiving that they hosted, they go out with mutual friends together, we have lovely birthday celebrations for myself and my husband, and we all get along well. My parents also had a house together and 40 years of life together to untangle. It was complicated and involved a lot of work so I am thankful that they managed it with such grace and that my dad’s wife did also. There is no bad guy there.

    • I LOVE this. Had we had children I would like to think they would appreciate getting to love both their parents and not feeling torn. I have seen far too many of my friends go through bitter divorces with children and I can not get it to make sense in my head.

    • My parents were this way as well. They divorced when I was three, and had both remarried by my fifth birthday. We didn’t do holidays together, but they were very understanding and worked things out. People find it weird when I tell them that my mom has invited my dad to her son-with-her-second-husband’s birthday party almost every year, or that my dad usually calls my mom on Mother’s Day to thank her for raising me so well. I for one am just grateful. When I turned sixteen, both my dads spent hours upon hours (together!) tuning up my car. And at my college graduation, I went out to eat with all four parents and some friends, and one friend remarked later about how they all sat together and joked around with each other. They probably wouldn’t be in each others’ lives if not for me, honestly, but I’m so glad they decided early on that I was more important than any problems they had in their past.

  4. “we had a pretty lovely marriage that I do not regret one day of”

    I think this is key. I have a close friend group and several people within it – myself included – have dated multiple other people in the group (and some ended up married). We all hang out on the regular. Sometimes several times per week. When one ex and I broke up he said, “I don’t have any regrets about this relationship.” I think that’s a huge contributing factor to the not-awkwardness. We were friends before dating, we’re friends after, and no regrets in between. Which is awesome, because I can’t imagine my life without all of these wonderful people in it. πŸ™‚

    (Incidentally, the one ex I’m no longer friends with is the one where I have regrets in that relationship.)

    • I agree. Steve and I had a very strong friendship based marriage and I literally grew up with him. I was 20 when we met and that seems soooo young to me now. He was older, very smart and much more worldly than me. He taught me so much that I can not fathom losing that chunk of my life behind forever. I could never regret all he taught me about life, love and even myself.

  5. Good for all of you and I agree the world would be a much better place if exes could remain respectful and friendly with each other.
    My cousin and her husband are still friends with her ex-husband, I’ve gone to her and current husband’s home and all three of them will be hanging out having coffee, it is fantastic and far too rare.

  6. I love this post. I’m super-close friends with all of my exes (but one: that’s on him). My group of friends don’t think twice about this. But newbies… wow, shit gets weird when they find out one of my best friends is not only a dude, but is also my ex.

    When I met that guy I married, that friend and I had recently broken up, and I totally gave him the “my relationship with this guy is non-negotiable, if that’s going to be a problem, we’re not going to work” speech. Luckily his response was, “I’m sure we’re going to be great friends.” And they are. SCORE!

  7. YES! My ex boyfriend is not only my BFF, but is now one of my husband’s best friends. He was a groomsman in our wedding! We still share custody of our dog, and meet for TV night/dinner/doggy exchange every week. It still boggles the mind that people don’t get it, but you put it perfectly. Thanks for this!

    • One of my exes officiated ours! Heh. Though, he was a high school ex, and is out as gay now, so I guess that probably makes him a little less threatening… but I’m super glad they’re friends. I don’t see or talk to all of my exes regularly, but I’m at least on good terms with them all, and that’s kinda important to me… I don’t understand liking someone SO MUCH and then just erasing it completely just because you didn’t work as a romantic unit.

  8. I’m the newbie in a “my ex is my best friend” relationship. Well… newbie is relative- we’ve been together 4 years, living together for 2. I’ve been through a million emotions about this, but I really relate to being on the receiving end of everyone else’s emotions and assumptions. It was hard enough for me to accept that my boyfriend no longer had “those” types of feelings for his ex (maybe made harder by certain behaviors), and MUCH harder to trust that she no longer had “those” feelings for him. But dealing with everyone else trusting the situation was the worst. I’m happy that your Ex and your Current are buds, and I think the fact that your divorce was a mutual agreement probably facilitated acceptance for your BFF only relationship.

    • I am very worried about this in the future. I think it’s just naturally harder for women then men to deal with this. I hope that when Steve gets a girlfriend that she is not too worried or freaked out by it all but I do acknowledge how difficult it could be for her and also for you. Hang in there!

      • I actually think it will be easier for Steve’s potential gf, as you have “moved on” in a pretty visible way. I wish I was able to be friendlier with my bf’s ex, as I really think that would help, but we just don’t have much in common (other than my bf). I was presented with the “my ex is my friend (and roommate)” at the start, and I was game because he is a tremendous person. Sounds like Steve is too, so I’m sure you will find yourselves in this situation at some point. πŸ™‚ I’m sure you acknowledging that it can be tough from the start will actually make it easier for her.

  9. My husbands ex-fiance stood at our wedding. They made amends and became friends again long before I came into the picture. In fact when we met, he was living with her. But what would I have to be jealous of? He didn’t want to be with her.
    Anyway, her and I became friends as well, and when my hub was trying to figure out who he wanted to stand at our wedding, I suggested her. It only made sense, she’s one of his best friends and it was important to have her there standing with him.
    Some people thought it was strange. Sometimes I got comments on how wonderful I was not to be threatened by that (and while I ALWAYS love hearing that I’m wonderful, I was never “threatened” by their relationship).

  10. I’m so impressed by people who can do this. I only had one super serious relationship before my husband, and it ended in what can only be described as an avalanche of drama and horror. My husband is similar with his most-recent ex. He is cordial with one of his other exes, and they occasionally catch up on each other’s lives, but that’s about it. So I’ve never been in a situation where this was even a possibility, which makes it difficult for me to totally “get.” I love knowing that it’s possible, though!

    As for the naysayers, it may be that a lot of people (like me) have had bad experiences themselves, and can’t imagine being in your situation without it going horribly wrong. I imagine that I would think it was “weird” at first just because it was so foreign to my own experiences, and then realize it totally worked for you guys once I got to know everybody better.

    Power to all three of you! πŸ™‚

  11. My ex-husband read at my wedding this June. He read from Plato’s Symposium on the origin of love. Both he and his partner join us for Christmas brunch every year. He hangs out with my husband, sometimes even convincing him to get a man-pedicure. He doesn’t fit neatly into a category and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  12. My parents got divorced and are now best friends. He hangs with her and her boyfriend all the time. From the kid’s perspective, I’ll tell you, IT’S AWESOME! It’s incredibly awesome to not have to split time/holidays, to still be able to call my mom for gift ideas for my dad, to be able to invite them both to everything, for everyone to model grown up, adult, mature handling of heartbreak and break ups.

    Also, this is not one bit weird in the queer community. It’s the norm. Something to noodle.

    • Yep, that’s pretty much my family too. My folks got divorced when I was in college, and while it took a couple years, they’re pals now and I spent most holidays with my dad, my mom, and my mom’s wife.

    • This is my family too. My parents got divorced after being married for 25 years and then decided they just couldn’t be married anymore. They’re both in other relationships and happy and that’s what matters. They’re also still friends, talk to each other on a fairly regular basis, and can be invited to everything. They had a great time at my brother’s wedding earlier this year (And even sat at the SAME TABLE with their respective SO’s) and knowing that I can put them together at mine is even better. πŸ™‚

    • My parents divorced when I was two, and later my dad married my mom’s best friend — and they stayed best friends, and co-workers. It was *awesome*. My step-dad was also chill, so I had four parents, and we would hang out together and do family things. (It has been commented that this trained me to be poly; at the very least, it doesn’t usually occur to me that it is particularly weird for my kids to have three parents.)

  13. This article is very relevent to me. I am still best friends with my ex boyfriend, him and I were together for 7.5 years. I will always love him unconditionally and consider him part of my family. I told my fiance that no matter what my ex will be apart of my life and he thinks that is just fine. Him and my ex are friends.

    When I first broke up with my ex my family was confused as to why I stayed friends with him, but now they just accept it and even ask how he is doing since they know I talk to him a lot.

    My ex will be the one walking me down the aisle during my wedding as well. I just can’t see anyone else doing that but him.

  14. WOW. Thanks for the positive response! I am the author of this story.

    Of course, the readers of Offbeat Home are bound to be a little more non traditional. Still, it’s great to see we are not alone.

    Just to add a few things that might not be clear in my post.

    Steve and I lived together as roommates for about a year post divorce. This was 2008 right at the start of the great financial downfall and we didn’t want to lose our home and go bankrupt. It took us a few years but by doing this we saved the condo which he now owns and I was able to buy my own home. We do not still live together. That MIGHT be weird even for us. LOL.

    Second, Steve and I never had children. We struggled with infertility for 10 years and it just never happened. So we don’t have that “reason” TO still be friends. This seems to be one of the big reasons our friends and family struggled early on. They couldn’t figure out WHY we needed to still be friends. We had no reason to stay connected.

    And finally, I think it’s important to note that Steve does not have a girlfriend currently. I imagine should he get into a new serious relationship things could be uncomfortable for her as a reader above stated. I think being the newbie into our triangle would be very difficult. I hope that when that happens the young lady is open minded enough to let us help her get comfortable with the friendship we all three share.

    • I take it that you haven’t tried helping your ex find some companionship of the permanent sort.
      That can always get a little sticky. It would be nice if he found one among your common circle of friends who “get” the relationship.

      I personally think how you and your ex split up makes perfect sense. Time goes on and situations and people change. Just because you didn’t work out as a married couple doesn’t mean you didn’t still work as people. It’s just so good to actually hear about people who split up with a level of maturity!

      My cousin is with a man who’s parents divorced. His mom and dad still hang out together on occasion, and even went on vacation with their new spouses together, winding up having a lot of fun.

      There are too few friends in the world. I personally don’t want to lose one, just because we didn’t work as a couple.

  15. I think one of the reasons why people assume there’s a “bad guy” is because our society portrays unhappy marriages as the norm (watch sitcoms) and churches tend to teach that divorce is only permissible if there is abuse or infidelity. So based on those teachings, leaving a marriage because it’s not right for the couple anymore is “taking the easy way out.” We’re basically supposed to stay in a marriage that isn’t working until we’re ready to kill the person we once loved. Then you add in the viewer’s experiences with bad breakups and you get the classic, “That’s not possible!” response.

    Reading your post, I’ll admit I thought there are some unresolved feelings there too, but not because of your living situation. Your attitude in this article falls under the phrase, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” So if you’re concerned with how people view your home life, you may do better at convincing them if you stop trying to convince them. Instead of saying, “It works for us” over and over, just show them that it works. Though I’m guessing you’re probably less “No, really, it works. I promise. It totally works” in real life. A few hundred words can only convey so much.

    I think it’s great that this situation makes you all happier. My husband is still friends with his ex (she was his Best Woman at our wedding). I love having her in our lives.

    • “Reading your post, I’ll admit I thought there are some unresolved feelings there too, but not because of your living situation. ”

      And that right there is the precise reason I wrote the article.

      It’s been six years and every new person I meet asks me questions about this relationship with my ex because they can’t understand it.

      It’s exhausting trying to open peoples minds.

    • Cassie, I agreed very strongly with the beginning paragraph that you wrote. But that rest of it seems like a stretch, considering how you’ve never met the writer of this piece. Sometimes people fall out of love. But there was a reason they fell in love with each other to begin with, and if those people can separate the hurt that always follows a break up from the things they share, I think that is beautiful.

      Good for you guys, Dawn. I hope your friendship never changes! <3

  16. Thanks for sharing this! I had two exes at my wedding (one boyfriend, one girlfriend) and my ex-boyfriend’s twin brother was in the wedding party. My take on it is that friendship doesn’t have to end when a relationship does. These are the people who have ABSOLUTELY seen me at my very best and my very worst and who want to be there to love an support me for life’s big moments. Deep emotional connections don’t end just because you stop sleeping with someone.

    • THIS. Exactly! We always try to label love and put it under these neat and tidy categories. And we would be a much happier society, in my opinion, if we just let it be what it needs to be.

  17. My first husband was my closest friend for a year and a half before we ever dated. W were eventually married for 9 years and had 4 kids together. When we divorced, it was AWFUL! I had to move an hour way to have enough distance from the drama. 5 years later I am remarried to my high school sweetheart and we are all friends!! Last Saturday we went for dinner and drinks together. I love my husband but I missed my friend!!! Just because we couldn’t make our marriage work doesn’t mean either of us are bad people. We are great people, just not great together!!

  18. My ex of 3 years was at our wedding and I’ve been great friends with him ever since we broke up. It was a mutual breakup and we both decided we were better off as friends. My husband had no problem with it and I really dislike how all of the wedding tips and advice make it seem like it is horrible to invite an ex to your wedding. The ex right before I met my husband was definitely not invited, but that’s another story involving a restraining order lol. I know in some situations with bad breakups and situations where an ex still cares deeply about the invidual on a romantic level it would probably be a good idea to skip the invite. But in my case I actually called him and discussed it with him and told him I would love to have him there, but if he felt uncomfortable it was ultimately his decision. He laughed and said he would love to be there and wouldn’t miss it for the world. We are still great friends. Thank you for going against the norm. We had a blast at the wedding and my husband even danced with his new girlfriend and I danced with my ex. It wasn’t awkward and neither of us saw it as weird that he was there. It was a great experience and I wish more people could see this side of it.

  19. This is such a lovely story!! I think it’s fantastic you’ve managed to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with someone who is evidently a special part of your life! I had hoped to do the same with my ex partner, who is the father of my child. We managed it, until new partner’s came along. Things got very ugly for a while, and although we are on fairly friendly terms now, it’s a shame that it couldn’t have always been the case. I take my hat off to you all for managing to manoeuvre your way through what is a potentially icky situation!! I really, truly believe it’s possible to remain on friendly terms with your ex partner, especially if you were friends beforehand, or share a friendship circle. We had hoped that would be the case with my parter’s ex, however she is very territorial when it comes to friendships, and for some reason really had her claws into me from day one. The drama that came from any attempts to include her ended up with us giving up. It’s not always possible to remain friends, especially if one still holds a torch for their ex. But like I said, this is a lovely story, and thanks for sharing – it’s restored a little of my faith πŸ˜›

  20. My ex-husband and i are very close. In fact, i own a duplex and he’s my tenant. When we decided to end our relationship, we kept living together for additional two years. Then he moved-in next door.

    We co-parent and it just made the most sense to co-parent in the same physical building. When our son was little and would get upset with my rules, he’d say, “I don’t like your rules….i’m going to my papa’s house” and walk out my front door and in his dad’s front door. It made our lives easier to share the responsibility of parenting.

    We’ve kept having “family dinner” together once a week. It gives us all a chance to discuss schedules and make appropriate plans and agreements. My son is 15 and we’ve been living side-by-side for 11 years.

    My current husband felt “nervous” about the arrangement prior to meeting my ex. I think he was afraid we still had romantic feelings for one another or something like that. I made it clear to him that my relationship with my ex-husband was non-negotiable. Whatever anxiety or discomfort my current husband felt about it was entirely his own issue to work on.

    It usually surprises me that people are somehow “shocked” that i would maintain a good relationship with my ex. It makes me wonder why someone would choose to co-parent (or even partner) with someone who’s able to elicit venom.

    I know a lot of people who maintain good relationships with their ex’s. I actually believe it’s becoming the norm. Maybe that’s my optimistic hope as a gen-Xer who grew up in a hostile divorced family. I also lived at an intentional community so my peer group may be a little skewed.

    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I love when two people who loved each other so much at one time have a child and then put that child’s needs above theirs post divorce.

      I was a child of divorce too and maybe that is why I fought so hard to maintain a friendship with Steve. Even though we didn’t have kids.

      I grew up seeing the damage anger and bitterness can do to people. Especially children. Who usually automatically love BOTH parents.

      Maybe us gen x-ers CAN change things. One divorce or break up at a time!

    • You and your ex husband were in a wonderfully unique position! You could co-parent your child with much more stability than if he or you had up and relocated across town. Your son has grown knowing that both of his parents are right there.

      A family dinner to coordinate schedules and issues was also a great idea. If you can get along with your former spouse at all, this just makes sense. I have seen people trying to keep up with just notes and calendars. It just doesn’t work, especially with how busy kids and their parents are these days. If co-parenting exes could do this just once or twice a month even, it would be a big help.

      I do hope your ex reminded your son that the rules were the rules, and changing houses didn’t change them.

      If I were to marry a divorced woman, I would hope that she and her ex could work together as you have. I think it would be a deal breaker for me if she were in the middle of a seething hatred for him. How you handle past relationships is a good indicator of how future ones will go.

  21. I was still living with my exboyfriend when I met my now husband. I told him the night of our first date, and it was never an issue. A week before our wedding my ex moved in with us, since he lost his apartment. Again, never an issue. Now we’ve all been living together for 2 and a half years and it’s not weird at all. We’re roommates, nothing strange about that, he just happens to be my ex. No big deal. I was with my ex for 8 years, and lived with him for longer than that. People may think it’s strange, but it’s worked for us.

  22. One of me ex’s offciated my wedding, and one of my other ex’s was in my wedding, I wouldn’t have had it any other way My husband is also friends with both of these men. My husband was married before, and I was supposed to be in his first wedding. We always joke about how “strange” it seems to other people. The ex that was in my wedding even came to live with my husband and I for a month while he moved back from out of state until he found a place to live.

  23. This brought tears to my eyes. My ex-boyfriend and I are still best friends. We lived together for one year (with another roommate as well, our other best friend) after we broke up. I am now engaged and my ex will be in my wedding party as a ‘bridesdude.’ People do NOT understand it, but we love each other and have been close friends for longer than we dated. He was by my side at my father’s death bed and I helped raise his little brothers. We are so close and I value him so much and am struggling because there is such a lack of examples of how to do what we are doing so I really appreciated this post — thank you. xx Laura

  24. Preach!

    My ex-b/f is still my best friend. He is still friends with his ex-wife (because of the kids) and her new b/f. My hubby and I hang out with my ex- on a regular basis…and his fiancΓ©. I’ve been helping her dress shop.

    Is it a messed up world? A crazy web of relationships? Hell yeah. But each individual relationship had a strong foundation and the bonds are still there even after the people drew apart. My theory? Don’t be a d-bag or witch and it’s not hard to part ways without losing the friendship. YMMV, but it’s not so strange a world for me.

    • Not to mention, my best-friend-ex-b/f made the cakes for my wedding, another ex- was the best man, an ex-lover was the videographer, and there were ex-s of several other varieties (of both me and my husband) in attendance. Normal day in our little world!

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