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. I think it is just FABULOUS that you and your ex have such a strong and mature friendship that you could make this work! And maybe you could give us your top tips for how you made it work!

    Why does it seem so weird to people? I think that in addition to all the reasons given above, relationships often get so bad before they finally end that there isn’t even a friendship left to salvage. Or sometimes romantic relationships end precisely because that deep connection is gone.

    But I also don’t think we have many spaces ( in US culture, at least) in which to learn how to end romantic relationships gracefully (or how to allow them to transform into other relationships). But maybe that’s generational. Or regional. (I’m proud of my background in the rural Midwest, but I definitely did NOT learn gracious and graceful conflict resolution growing up).

    • Well, first I should say that I of course could not convey a 5 year journey into one 500 word post. So please don’t think it was all unicorns and rainbows.

      As far as tips? You have to REALLY want it. Even if it’s just one of you and you have to be willing to fight for it.

      I won’t speak for Steve. For that’s his story to tell. But the first year was hell for me.

      I can still remember a shouting screaming crying match we had via phone where I was trying to tell him about something I thought was bad for him. And I was truly taken aback when he said “Dawn, you don’t have the right any more to tell me who I can and can not have in my life”.

      He was right.

      And it was hard.

      I had to stop my “Wife” mode and move into “Friend” mode. And it was not easy. But I felt very strongly about it. I did NOT want hate and bitterness between us.

      I am a Taurus. I am as stubborn as they come. So when I choose to accomplish something I USUALLY get it done. LOL.

      But it did take a lot of talk. Especially between Brian and I. I could write an entire book on tips…For real!

  2. I love this! Even though I am not besties with my ex-husband we get along pretty damn good. We can chat and discuss and laugh together… We still talk about Xmas gifts for our daughter. I know too many people who grew up in homes where awful terrible divorces took place, so there was no way it was going to happen for us. We kept all our initial bickering away from her and dealt with the emotions that followed. It was not an option for us to not remain friends and I’m glad it wasn’t. We even discuss our current relationships to a degree and I worry about him/his happiness all the time. I still care about him and want him to be happy even though I do not have any romantic feelings. And I do not regret one moment of our marriage… Even the not-so-good ending. Kudos to you and everyone else who is able to keep friendships alive after the breakup!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. This, so much. My ex and I went through a divorce that started out fairly acrimonious, but smoothed out in the months before it was finalised. I think part of that was because we agreed that we would start seeing other people while we were separated (our marriage was over long before we finally decided to get divorced). We had to remain on good terms both because of our pets to retain our house, and I made sure that the guy I dated was aware that this relationship was non-negotiable. He started out hating my ex because of why the divorce happened, but today we are all best friends – to the extent that I was a groomschick at my ex’s wedding, and his wife is not only one of the people I call almost daily, but will be officiating at our wedding. Should we die before them, they get custody of our pets, and vice versa, as we can’t imagine anyone else loving our menagerie as much as they would.

    It’s possible that part of what makes our friendship so strong is that we all feel very protective of him – he’s been deaf from birth and is going blind, so we watch out for him while trying not to smother him. He’s also my boyfriend’s very best friend, which sometimes seems odd more because he’s quite a jock and my boyfriend is not particularly sporty. That’s what feels weirdest to us – not who’s an ex and who isn’t.

    We didn’t have too much of an issue with people asking us how we remained friends, they seemed to accept that it’s just our way. But I have struggled with family and friends not wanting to invite my ex to gatherings because somehow they feel it’s betraying me. It’s also hard for me to simply give up friends when they get divorced – I am still friends with my pseudo-sister’s ex-husband and *I* feel like I’m betraying her (their divorce was really hard, though). And I am not friends with most of my other exes. Each situation should be judged on its own merits.

  4. Love this and you!

    My best friend is my husbands’ ex. We met through him. People thought it was weird, but her and I joke my husband’s sole reason for existence was to bring her and I together.

    With mutual respect and a recognition that love doesn’t have to turn into hate, this kind of thing can work wonderfully. I love that so many offbeat homies seem to have this kind of relationship!!

    • Brian also has an ex wife whom he shares two children with. She is NOT quite on board with the whole exes being friends thing. She is one of those “That’s just weird” people. And that’s okay.

      I often joke with him that I bet she and I would truly be the best of friends though if we could get her on board. There is no animosity there. But there is no BFF either.

      Still, every now and then she will send a text or email to him and I smile to myself thinking, “I like that girl”.

      She is the mother of his children. My step children. I could never hate her and I would be really disappointed in him if he did.

      • I really love this sentiment, “I could never hate her and I would be really disappointed in him if he did.” I think that’s part of the core of how i assess people. I tend to avoid people who only have negative things to say about others (and especially their ex’s) because i’m fairly certain they would have negative things to say about me once our relationship (whatever variety it may be) hits the inevitable bumps.

        When i was dating, i actually looked for people who were able to maintain friendly/good relationships with at least one or two ex’s. It’s a barometer that pretty accurately (in my opinion) assesses someone’s ability to deeply connect with people as well as a glimpse into their willingness to do the hard work of being a true friend rather than just a fleeting lover.

        In addition to maintaining a good working relationship with my ex-husband, i’m still good/close friends with 2 other old lovers and honestly feel no animosity toward anyone i’ve ever dated. I’ve felt heart-broken when relationships end but underneath all the nuances of attraction, i’ve only ever dated people i authentically like, respect, and believe to be “good” people. My best advice is to choose wisely.

        • This is exactly how I try to live my life. Which is why it still surprises me when people are so shocked by my relationship with Steve. If they TRULY knew me they would know this is just how I am. I try to surround myself with GOOD people. Real honestly good people. And I fight like hell to keep them.

          Negative, angry, bitter people drain me. And I just don’t have the ability to logically understand why someone wants all that meanness in their heart. Life is too short. WAY too short.

          In the simplest terms I have right now, I married a good person. And I divorced a good person.

  5. This! A thousand times all of this!

    I’ve never understood how after a breakup of some magnitude (either time or experience) it’s like you’re “supposed” to act like the other person never existed or that the family you were once a part of needs to dissolve because __________. It’s of course fine and dandy for relationship dynamics to change -however all parties see fit for THEIR situation- but to just cut people off seems so silly to me. Life is too short and fragile, at least it has been my experience with losing friends at early ages, for me to actively just cut people out of it just because a romantic relationship didn’t work out.

    But in typical society I would be labeled the “crazy ex” for even having the above notions for maintaining a friendship or for being happy for my ex and his new wife and their family. It’s stupid. Ah well, it’s nice and refreshing to see some people out there can be mature, caring, loving, communicating adults 🙂

    All the best to you!

  6. I have been separated for nearly two years, and although my ex and I co-parent fairly successfully, there is a lot of tension and animosity and misunderstandings between us personally. I’ve tried and tried to foster a good relationship – when we split, I imagined that at SOME point we would be friends – good friends, hopefully, best friends, maybe. Definitely continue to do things together as a family. Perhaps even bring new partners into the fold. But we just haven’t been able to get there yet. It was my decision to separate; he would have chosen to stay together, so there are a lot of hurt feelings, which I understand, especially as I build a relationship with a new partner. Your story gives me hope that perhaps some day we will be able to reconcile and redefine our relationship and our family. Thank you!

    • I urge you to NOT give up and just keep leading by example. Once his heart heals I think the friendship will come.

      You being understanding of his hurt I think will go a long way. We were very careful in the early days. We didn’t want to hurt Steve any further. So we were careful to avoid being overly lovey dovey, we let HIM decide how much he wanted to do with us, etc…

      At the time it was very tiresome being so cautious, but looking back it was sooo worth it!

  7. So much of this!!! My ex boyfriend was a groomsman for my wedding. He has remained an important part of my and husband’s life and will always be.

  8. I love this!!!

    My mum migrated to Australia from the UK with her first husband and had two daughters. He brought his parents out to live in Oz too. Then he and my Mum split up.

    Mum then met my Dad and married him. And continued all the usual things she did for first husband’s parents, and my Dad took on duties too. Since I was two years old my Dad took me and them to the library every week. And since first husband works overseas a majority of the time, my Dad took on Dad role for my half sisters too. He still does. And first husband still comes to all our Xmas birthday etc things. Sometimes even with his new lady or wife. It’s always been funny and never ever awkward.

    I think this worked due to a few things. My dad is super super chilled out. He’s like a greyhound – you put him in the room and everyone just relaxes. First husband is also very relaxed and happy for my Dad to be around his kids and grand kids. My sisters and I are pretty chilled too. My Mum is not, but somehow she has learnt that none of us care if we are really blood related or just ex step siblings or something like that. So she just goes along with it.

    My real grandparents were thousands of miles away, so I just borrowed my sisters’ instead. It worked out fine! They borrowed my Dad.

    There have been some pretty funny moments where mum might make a joke with first husbands new lady. His Cuban wife is trying to migrate to Oz with her son and that is crazy complicated. So my sisters are learning Spanish and my Mum is helping send diplomatic documents to him when he is in Cuba.

    I don’t know if I could do what my parents did, but I’ve never been in a long long relationship or had children involved. It does give me a bit of hope!

    I love my family 🙂

  9. My MIL has the wedding announcement from my husband’s first marriage up on her wall, next to a newspaper photo of him & me & the story of how we met. People who have been in her apartment think it’s weird. I tell them I’m friends with hiss ex, S., on FB, though we’ve never met in person; we have quite a bit in common, which shouldn’t be too surprising to people. And my MIL is still friendly with S., even 20 years after the divorce & living across the continent; when she was still living in a condo a few yrs ago, S. & her sister came to visit for a week. I’m sure, were we to meet face to face, we’d get along famously.

    I know it’s not the same at all as the situation you’re presenting, but it seems to me another example of our soap opera-/romance novel-driven ideas of how relationships should be–full of jealousy & distrust to add a bit a drama. And that doesn’t work for me. I’m just not the jealous type (and neither is he), and our relationship is better for it.

  10. Oh my god thank you for writing this.

    My partnership recently turned from a life-partnership to…not so much, and he’s still my best friend and most the other people in my life are being kind of weird about it. So I’m glad I’m not the only one who decided to take this path. I’m really, really happy to see that it is possible and it can work and that you can reach a point where it’s not awkward anymore, at least for the people involved.

    This gives me hope. Thank you.

  11. i keep thinking about how much easier my childhood would have been if my parents had stayed friends like this. LOL

    really though, this is great. i think if divorce is going to happen, it’d be nice for there to be a lot more of this. i think often, if the feelings during a divorce aren’t entirely mutual, there’s a lot of resentment and hurt that can burn bridges, and let’s face it, a lot of people aren’t very good at communication and being open. that’s not to say that people can’t strive for this and try to better themselves though.

    it’s not really like this that much, but i have trouble explaining to people how it is that i can still love my late husband with all of my heart and not be short-changing my fiance. i love them both with all of my heart, and no, they don’t share. it’s weird.

  12. I have a somewhat similar situation. My ex boyfriend introduced me to my husband and the three of us are all very close friends. We hang out two to three times a weeek.

  13. I can relate to this! My ex-boyfriend is one of my best friends, and he’s going to be my bridesman in my wedding. He and my fiance get along great, and my ex was even gracious enough to drive the U-Haul for 8 hours round-trip, and staying the night out of town, in helping my fiance move his stuff back to our hometown when we moved in together. We’ve remained super close, and we’re always there for each other, but we learned that we bring out the worst in each other as a couple, so there is no going back to that. We’re just happy being besties!

  14. Thank you so, so much for this post. I haven’t read through all the comments yet so I apologize if someone has already said something similar and I should have just added this on to a thread, but I NEED to thank you. Me and my now-ex-fiancÊe want to be friends now so badly and we were terrified we were fooling ourselves and there’s a reason that doesn’t happen. She actually suggested I come here to see if anyone has talked about this particular offbeat setup. I really can’t thank you enough for letting the world know that it is possible. Seriously. Teary eyed thank you.

  15. wonderful story! i never understood why it isn’t the norm! i have a similar thing going on, my ex husband and his ex are like sisters. she has always been great with my kids and was with him 17 yrs . we have fun together. and all the kids and us act like a big family. my ex freaks out thinking we spend loads of time taking about him- Nope! not quite the same idea as the article but just our own version!

  16. My ex-husband and I had this for a while. He used to hang out with me and my now-fiancee. I thought we had a mutual respect and understanding, until I realized he was still lying to me. I wish we could have continued our friendship like you did. We had a complete breakdown in our communication during our marriage, which carried over into our friendship and ultimately ended with us disliking each other. People would say that it was “weird” that I would still hang out with him and he would be okay with me living with someone else. When we did part ways, people actually said to me that it was “better” for it to happen that way because it wasn’t “right” that we were still friends. Had the breakdown not occurred, we would still probably be really good friends and he would be an important part of my life. Kudos to you guys for making it work.

  17. thank you! i was married for 14 years and have been divorced for 7. My ex is one of my best friends but my boyfriend doesn’t understand. you expressed exactly why i continue a caring relationship with my ex… also, we have a 13 year old daughter together. everybody wins.

  18. I think it is absolutely awesome that so many people have been able to continue a relationship with their ex, even if it is now in a different capacity.

    I am separated and about to get divorced, my situation is very different to most of the posters so far. I am not negative or bitter, I truly believe things happen for a reason. I think a key is that it seems to have been a mutual decision that the relationship wasn’t working. It seems that, even if it was hard work, that communication was occurring. My situation is still raw for me but the ending of my marriage was not mutual, nor was there respect or communication. I wish him all the best in the rest of his life and want nothing but happiness for him. But for me, I no longer wish to have him in my life. Someone above posted that it showed maturity to still remain friends and I agree whole heartedly, but I’m not sure if that implies that I am immature for wanting something different for the rest of my life. I want positivity in my life, I am done with negativity and that is what I wish to do to keep me on this path. I also saw someone say that I must’ve chosen a husband incorrectly, that has turned out to be the case. I don’t know why but as I said, I believe things happen for a reason. We were in each other’s lives for a reason for the 8.5 years that we were together. He ended our relationship 3 times. I tried something different each time. I worked out what was best for my life and unfortunately that chapter is closed.
    I love how open minded everyone is in the offbeat realm but don’t forget that there are people out there who don’t fit your own norm either and every situation is different.

  19. Love this! I’m best friends with my ex as well. My husband and him are friends and we all enjoy spending time together. As I write this my ex and his girlfriend are babysitting my son so that my husband and I can be at his Xmas party. There’s no reason love had to end, it just evolves.

  20. I am happy that others have happy relationships with exes too! Not any of my exes, but my husband and I are both close with his ex fiance — so close in fact that we were both in her wedding this year, and she (and her husband) were in ours! It IS possible as long as everyone involved can be mature 🙂

  21. I’m in a similar boat — my ex and I were “officially” a couple for over five years and unofficially together for another 2. He was the DJ at my wedding, and my ex girlfriend was a bridesmaid. I am super close to both of them and this has never been an issue with my husby.

    The funny thing is, my ex boyfriend and I had an UGLY breakup. We threw things. I did some shit I am not proud of. My ex still apologizes for how he treated me sometimes. We didn’t speak for months. But we got our shit together and I am so glad. It’s been so cool to watch each other grow up (we were high school and college sweethearts, now 30) and see how adulthood has changed us.
    A lot of people don’t get it, but this makes us happy!

  22. I completely understand! It happens to me in a smaller way, with an ex-boyfriend. My new boyfriend hasn’t met him yet, but he tries to understand and that’s enough for me for now.
    I’m really glad I found this. Until now even I was really confused and many times I got scared thinking that maybe I had feelings for him still, even knowing in the bottom that I really do NOT. It was really nice for me to hear that there are more stories like mine.

  23. This could not be more accurate of my own current situation. I live with my ex-husband (though this is soon to be changing as I will be moving in with my partner). I would say the only difference is we have a son together, and to be honest as stated in these comments, it is MUCH better for our son to see his mommy and daddy not only getting on with each other as they always have, but his daddy getting on with my partner as well. I was raised in a divorced family which was extremely bitter and volatile, and took a lot of my childhood innocence away because of it. I never wanted that for my son and as a team, me, my ex husband and new partner all get on amazingly as a family TOGETHER. People have, and no doubt will continue to be, unbelievably judgemental, and we too have suffered absurd comments such as ‘they must be in a three way relationship’. It is ridiculous how narrow minded a lot of people are. However luckily non of us care what others think, and love the fact that our life is so enriched with each other. We feel sorry for the haters, if anything. Thanks for your amazing post, glad to see we’re not the only ones who don’t see the point in hating ex’s.

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