Whether or not remaining friends with an ex is a good or bad idea, depends upon the level of conflict and if kids are involved.
When it comes to parental separation and degree of conflict, we differentiate between low, moderate and high conflict.
Low conflict separated parents get along reasonably well, can plan together and rarely need outside supports to facilitate decision- making between them. These are the folks who really do have an amicable separation. Parents whose conflict is described as moderate, do experience some degree of conflict and will require some outside help to resolve issues between them. That outside help may include mediation, Collaborative Law and perhaps the initiation of a court process, although not likely the follow-through. Parents whose conflict is described as high, simply do not get along. They require extensive outside resources to manage their joint issues and their matters are often brought to the court. Their disputes may drag on for years.
Whether or not remaining friends with an ex is good or bad, depends upon the degree to which the kids are exposed to that conflict. As much as exposure to unremitting conflict between separated parents is bad for children, exposure to parents who can get along, as well as resolve conflict respectfully, provides a positive role model for children in terms of how to successfully manage relationships.
With or without kids, remaining friends can have other challenges. Those challenges may be seen when one person enters a new relationship. Not only may the former partner become jealous, but the new partner may be threatened by the ongoing nature of the relationship with one’s former partner. This may cause a distancing between yourself and your former partner to maintain the integrity of the new relationship.
When kids are involved though, that good relationship with one’s former partner tends to be in the children’s interest. It allows for ongoing communication, problem-solving and planning to meet the ever-emerging needs of the kids. In this situation, it may take emotional maturity and otherwise good boundaries so that the new partner doesn’t feel threatened, and may come to appreciate how this meets the needs of the children.
Indeed, to the extent separated parents can get along with each other and new partners, you only increase the number of caring relationships available to the kids. So, where this can work, it can be a good thing.