Getty Images

Can the friendship you had before the marriage survive the divorce?

Dana Dodson
Feb, 11, 2016

The night before I moved out, I sat next to my soon-to-be ex-husband as he edited a short film, giving him suggestions and encouragement. I then went back to packing up my things and I had a moment, a crisis of faith. Was it normal for a couple to work together on a project the night before the wife was moving out? Shouldn’t we be arguing or at least walking around simmering in emotions? If we could sit together and work on a project, why were we divorcing? Why was I moving out? Could this marriage be saved?

I gave it some thought as I continued to pack and I realized that I don’t have a lot of true friends in my inner circle. Divorcing for me is about much more than losing my spouse. I’m losing my best friend.

Darren and I have been married for ten years. Last summer, after a rough patch that we just couldn’t recover from, we made the difficult decision to divorce. For several months, we lived together in our home (sleeping in separate bedrooms) while we laid out a strategy for how things would be handled in terms of assets and custody for our two daughters. Through it all, we were civil, eventually becoming even friendly. By the time I’d found an apartment and began packing—we were friends, as friendly as we had been when we first met.

The truth is that this marriage can’t be saved. But I’m truly hoping that this friendship can.

Darren and I met when we both worked at the same magazine in the late ‘90s. Though we were both dating other people, we clicked instantly and hung out together at work and after work almost every night. It was just a matter of time before we were both single and began dating. We moved in together a year later and got married four years after that. Through every step in our lives together, Darren has been more than my romantic partner. In my career as a writer, I’ve rarely handed in a project without running it past him first. We’ve always supported each other in our creative endeavors and I’ve leaned on him as a friend for over fifteen years.

A Crash Course In Divorce: What to Know, What to Do

My friends caution me. They say that I may feel this way now, when we haven’t yet filed for divorce and it’s only been a short time since we’ve physically separated. I’ve been told that it’s just not likely that we’ll continue to be friendly and support each other. But I’m not buying that. Every marriage is different. Why can’t every divorce be different? Darren and I have an eight year old who will be splitting her time evenly between the two of us—one week with mom and then one week with dad. And every Wednesday we plan to have dinner together—the three of us—and use this as a time to show our daughter that her parents still care for each other and can be civil to each other even during this transitional time.

It’s important to me that Darren and I hold on to what made our relationship special—even if it wasn’t quite enough to keep us together as husband and wife. Is it possible that we could end up becoming close friends after our divorce is finalized? If he starts dating someone else, will I still want to call him and ask him to read something I’ve written? If I’m dating someone else, will he still invite me over to get my thoughts on his work?

There’s no book to explain this. There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint that couples can use to sort out how their divorce will play out. Every couple has to follow their own rules and write their own story.

I don’t know what’s in store for Darren and me. All I know for sure is that in my new life as a single woman, I want him to be a part of my inner circle, as he has been from day one. It’s too soon to know what the future will bring, (it’s literally been just days since we officially parted ways), so maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses and the ugliness of divorce will soon rear its head. But honestly? I don’t think that will be part of our narrative. What Darren and I had was very special. And even as we move on to a new chapter in our lives, I believe we’ll still have a part to play in each other’s story.

Am I deluding myself? Is it rational to think Darren and I can one day be good friends, as we were before we started dating?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.