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No one’s relationship or marriage is the same. With that said, it can be understood that no one’s breakup is the same. But when does it all even out? If you’ve had an especially messy divorce, then it feels like you’ve had a funeral for your best friend. After one of you has already mourned the relationship, the other may still be grieving the demise. Then what? Well, according to psychologists, it’s up to either of you to start the process of moving on, no matter how painful it may be.

Once you start dating though, that’s a whole other can of worms. Will you date people with kids or without? Are you prepared to have more children with someone other than your ex? And if your kids are talking and things get somewhat serious with the new love interest, better believe, they will let the news slip to your ex. In some situations, the separation is a mutual agreement — if you’re lucky enough to be in one of these situations, then friendship shouldn’t be too far behind. If not, you may have to roll with the punches and take each day as it comes.

The ex factor is never easy to ignore. Some days there may be an inkling of your old friend left in your ex. You may be able to talk for hours one night about everything from the kids to your last outing, but it’s important to remember that you broke up for a reason and essentially by the time you talk again, he/she will have reminded you of exactly what that reason was.  Light a candle if you need to, put on some Stevie Wonder if you have it and take a deep breath, it’ll be okay. It may appear that others have achieved the goal of maintaining a solid friendship after breaking up, but unless you have their phones or houses tapped you have no idea what it took for them to arrive at a mutual agreement. Avoid comparing your situation to anyone else’s.

Recognize that maybe, just maybe, you can have a piece of your friend back one day — especially if you have children together. But you have to be open to the notion that the person you once knew, may be gone, pretty much indefinitely, especially if they’re being hurtful or selfishly vindictive. You have to let go and take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids. If your ex picks fights, belittles or demeans you, it can’t affect your day-to-day life. Understand that it comes from a place of hurt but don’t excuse it. Defend yourself if necessary or simply cut them off completely until they are sensible enough to have a civil conversation.

As far as the children are concerned, they are bound to ask about the ex or hint to their wishes of reconciliation. No one knows your kids better than you do, so based on their level of maturity you may be able to explain what’s going on without scaring them to death or traumatizing them against relationships in the future. Just because this ex is a difficult one doesn’t mean that eventual happiness isn’t in your future or theirs. Leave the option of friendship open in your heart even if it doesn’t seem possible at the moment.

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