Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson explores exes who continue to love each other after a breakup or divorce; sibling type exes’ love; new loves and ex loves; what to do about your love mate’s love of an ex; divorcing marriage but not each other; enemies of exes love; and ends with a discussion of a basic law of love which may apply to exes.
Exes Who Continue Loving Each OtherWhat do you think about exes (ex-spouse, ex-mate, etc.) who actively love one another after they have divorced or broken up? Here are a few quotes to consider. “My ex and her new guy are going on a double date with me and my new wife”. Can that double date go well? “I’m inviting both of my former husbands to my family Christmas dinner. It just wouldn’t seem right not to.” What might be the best and worst of that dinner, as you see it? Now, think about this one, “my ex-wife and I still date each other but also date others. We have sex, we also go on short trips together, sometimes with the kids. We love each other a lot but we know we cannot be married to one another. We tried that twice. This works far better.” The people who said these things live in the belief that post-divorce love can be quite real, successful and ongoing. So, what do you suppose it takes to accomplish that? Here are some things to look at.
Sibling Exes’ LoveSome who married discover they have grown to have a love for each other more like close siblings or cousins, instead of like spouses. When this happens they may compatibly end the legal marriage, and revamp their relationship into looking a lot like adult brothers and sisters who go through life lovingly, being a part of each other’s life. They usually see and treat their exes as part of their ongoing established family. This, of course, is especially good if children are involved. This is not such an unusual outcome for couples who have conjoint, well counseled divorces. If their ex gets married they usually gladly attend the marriage and get to know their exe’s new spouse, just like a sibling might.
New Loves and Ex Loves ?What’s the best thing for you to do with a new love and an ex? New love partners, of course, may feel very threatened by an ex. That can be especially true if a new love partner has low, healthy self-love, or if they have a habit of seeing others as their enemy or rival. In that case giving lots of reassurance can be very helpful. If there is really bad jealousy, resentfulness, etc., going to good couples counseling together can help fix the problem. There is a general rule to consider. Usually it’s a good idea for two people in a new love relationship to try to love, or at least like, each other’s loved and liked family and friends. That can include exes. Certainly, that is especially useful when there are children involved.
What About Your Wife/Husband/Love Mate’s Love Of An Ex?Hear Larry’s lament. “My wife told me she still loves her ex, though she loves me more and in a very different way than she loves him. What am I to do with that? Should I insist she never see or talk to him again? Should I threaten to break up with my wife and destroy our family? Should I hate him and try to drive him off; or tell him to never have anything to do with her? Or should I accept him and try to make friends with him? If I do that I’ll probably need a lot of reassurance from my wife that she will not go back to him? And we will need to work to make sure my wife and I have such a strong, good love that there’s no chance of there being any real threat? Or should I just ignore the whole thing?”
All these reactions are what some people do when faced with this kind of issue. Generally the more loving and inclusive the response, the better the results. It is true that some exes do indeed try to get a former love mate back. Openly talking about that with your love mate, and jointly deciding on how to handle it can be very important. With a joint couples approach to what is perceived as a threat by one, usually gets the best results for all.
Divorcing Marriage, But Not Each OtherThere are a surprising number of people who discover they have an incompatibility with marriage itself. Joni and Johnny put it this way, “We lived together for three years doing great, and then we got legally married and everything went off the cliff and we crashed. It’s like both of us stepped on a landmine together the day we got married and it blew us apart.” On examination, both discovered that because of the way they saw their parents do marriage with anger, frustration, depression, constant conflict, agony and much suffering, getting legally married triggered subconscious programs in both their heads causing them to do marriage just like their parents did. Legal divorce cured that, and made successfully living together possible again.
For most couples with this kind of problem it is not nearly as dramatic and clear-cut as it was for Joni and Johnny. A lot of couples slowly drift into a destructive pattern, triggered by getting married or living married. Some, with the help of good couples counselors, manage to re-program their way of reacting to marriage itself and do much better. For others divorce seems to be necessary.
Then there are those people who just do not do well living a married lifestyle, but they don’t want to lose the person they have strong, spouse-type love for. Some of these couples have been known to remarry each other several times trying to make standard marriage work. Others arrive at a ‘custom tailored, alternate lifestyle’ allowing them to keep relating to one another in an ongoing, love-filled way but it doesn’t look like standard marriage. This often involves a divorce and at least a portion of their life being lived more like a single person.
Enemies of Exes LoveIn a healthy divorce workshop I once led, I asked the participants who they thought were the biggest enemies of healthy post-divorce relating between exes. The overwhelming response was, “lawyers”, or more exactly “divorce lawyers”. In our adversarial-oriented justice system, the focus is often on ‘win’ and ‘defeat the other side’, no matter what. If that is the mindset, it can mean lifelong psychological and relational damage to all concerned, except of course for the lawyers. Divorce lawyers don’t have to live with the after effects of embattled divorce. There are a growing number of family practice attorneys who work for cooperative, mutually healthy outcomes. They often assist mediation and collaborative processes in order to avoid the all-too-common destructiveness which can occur in the best of adversarial divorce processes.
For a long time our culture has seemed to teach that divorce means you have to become enemies, or at least strangers to someone you may still have love for. A common advice given to the divorcing goes something like this: “When you divorce you have to divorce your spouse’s family, and then divide your friends, and cut off contact with all those more connected to your ex spouse.” However, there are a great many people who rebel against that teaching. More and more of them are succeeding in keeping alive their love relationship with all family and friends, as well as their ex-spouse.
Do you think this idea might be true? There are those that say it is mostly the people who don’t have real love for each other who have bad divorces. It does seem to be true that if you want good post-divorce relating with your ex, try to start with a compatible divorce. However, if you have a terrible divorce that does not mean you can’t work to ‘mend bridges’ and heal wounds after the divorce. Post-divorce counseling, especially when children are involved, and co-parent guidance counseling can be especially helpful.
Be wary of friends and family, acquaintances too, who want to see divorced people at war with each other. Some people are very against exes getting along, perhaps because they don’t get along well with their own ex, or they fear people succeeding at divorced living, so they subtly play a sort of ‘divide and conquer’ game.
A Basic Law of Love?Do you think that when you have strong, real love for someone, you can shut it off because there is a breakup or divorce? Do you think that because of the conflicts and agony that lead up to a breakup or divorce, you can really come to hate, or act to harm the ex you were so sure you really loved? Or can you become truly indifferent about a person you had real love for? Can the love that you have for someone which motivated you to aid, nurture and protect them change, motivating you to want to harm, deprive and destroy them? Can healthy, real love work that way? Some think it can, but most of those who study love deeply disagree. What do you think?
Sometimes we have to become inactive or separate to a person we have love for. However, that does not mean that ‘way down to the depths of our heart’ we don’t still have love for them. If it becomes dangerous, destructive or otherwise unworkable to actively relate with an ex, your love may best become dormant but still present in your heart. You may occasionally meditatively tap into that love but not let it lead to any overt action. Inwardly, you may hope and pray for their well-being but that’s about all.
The Scriptures of several religions which proclaim and promote love, teach that real love is forever. They put forward the concept that once you truly love someone you will have love for them throughout your life, and perhaps beyond. That ‘love never ceases’ is a law of love according to many great, spiritual teachers. What do you think?
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question
If you felt seriously rejected or betrayed by someone you love, could you (with healthy self-love) protect yourself from further destructive hurt, but still have love for that person?