Sammy Nickalls
November 09, 2015 7:38 am

Breaking up can be awful on its own. But when you’re breaking up with someone you’ve been with for a long time, you’re bound to have shared friends, and it can be incredibly difficult to navigate such a complicated situation when you’re already in the midst of such emotional turmoil. You don’t want to lose your friends, but you also don’t want to make your friends feel uncomfortable. . . and at the same time, you need the support of your friends during this difficult period in your life.

Don’t worry: you’re totally not alone. Post-break-up mutual friendship can seem like an emotional minefield, but if navigated carefully, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you can do to make things easier on both you and your friends.

Don’t give out ultimatums

Your mutual friends are friends with both of you. It’s not fair to expect them to choose one of you over the other, no matter the situation. If your ex did something majorly wrong, your friends may decide to stop talking to your ex on their own, but trying to force them to drop the friendship with him / her is not fair, and it will just drive them away.

Acknowledge that you’re going to be feeling some incredibly uncomfortable feelings

Unfortunately, keeping your mutual friends can hurt. That’s why a lot of people just drop all mutual friends after the break-up so they don’t have to deal with the emotions. In fact, it’s possible your ex will do that, too.

However, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that your mutual friends are incredibly important to you. They’re worth some work, and they’re worth some weird feelings. But there will be times when you know your mutual friends are hanging out with your ex, and it will feel crappy, but you’ve just got to take a deep breath and realize that they love you, too—and that you’re doing the right thing.

If—and ONLY if —it’s an option, mention it to your ex.

This isn’t an option for everyone. Maybe talking to your ex would make everything much, much worse, especially if you broke it off. But if it’s a viable possibility in your situation, tell your ex, “I’d really like if neither of us lost our mutual friends, and we don’t want to make it awkward for them. Let’s be mature about it and agree to keep things civil.” This way, you both will be on the same page, and neither of you will feel like you have to “win” your friends.

Be totally open with your friends at the onset.

Tell them you and your S.O. broke it off. Don’t get into specifics, and don’t point any fingers, or it will seem like you’re trying to pit them against your ex. Just say that it didn’t work out, and that it’s better this way. Then tell them, “I understand that you’re friends with both of us. I really don’t want this to be weird, and I’d really like for both of us to remain friends with you.” Then, ask them in return to remain totally open with you.

For example, if they’re having a New Year’s party, and they want to invite both of you, make it clear that you won’t be angry with them if they do. That doesn’t mean you have to show up—take whatever space you need. But by making your friends know that you’re going to be OK, you’re signaling that you really can be friends with an ex’s friend.

If you need to, kindly tell your friends that you’d prefer they don’t talk about your ex

If you’re very open with your friends about the situation, they may think you’re over your ex, or that hearing about your ex doesn’t bother you. They may speak candidly to you about your ex. If it hurts you, kindly ask them not to tell you anything unnecessary about your ex until you’ve had time to heal.

Above all: stay above the drama

Breakups are dramatic, but when you get mutual friends involved, people can try to take sides on their own. Recognize that you don’t need to partake in it. You don’t need to be a part of anything you don’t want to be, and if your ex—or even a friend—tries to make things dramatic, keep a cool head. The friends that matter will remember just how mature you were about the entire situation. You are SO above this, and soon, things will calm down. Hang in there. You’ve got it.

[Image via FOX]

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