Sometimes friends become lovers and it’s not unusual to date someone from your social group or for a couple’s social groups to merge if they’ve been together for some time, but what happens when you break up? The chances are that if the break up was reasonably amicable you’ll both still get invited to social functions held by your friends.
There’s no reason why you and your ex can’t remain friends but there are a few things to consider when making the step from being in a relationship to being friends or acquaintances.
What’s past is past
It’s important that you know whether you genuinely want to be friends with your ex or whether you’re secretly hoping that there’ll be a chance for the two of you to get back together. Whether or not it was your decision to end the relationship, don’t use social situations as a chance to resurrect something that’s over – it’s not fair to use your friends as a way of keeping in touch with your ex.
It’s important that you’re honest with yourself about how you feel. You don’t want to go to a social function thinking you’re ok with the break up only to find yourself in an emotional mess by the end of the evening. This can be exacerbated by alcohol which often magnifies feelings and makes people act uncharacteristically e.g. confronting the ex in front of everyone. Giving yourself time to heal from the break-up before you face your ex can help to avoid unexpected emotional reactions.
Opt out of more intimate gatherings
It’s much easier to be in the same room as an ex if there are lots of other people there than if it’s an intimate gathering. You don’t need a cast-iron rule for whether or not you attend events where your ex is likely to be, take each invitation as it comes and see how you feel on the day. Once someone is an ex you need to be prepared. There’s always a chance that they could show up with a new partner on their arm, so play the tape forward and see how you feel.
Until you actually speak to your ex, knowing they are in the same room or at the same event will probably distract you from enjoying yourself. The best rule of thumb is to keep it brief and be civil. Say hi, ask them how they are, smile and be polite even if your head is screaming all the things you wish you could say to them – this is not the time or place. If there are burning issues that still need resolution then being civil to them at a social gathering can help pave the way to you being in contact at a later date.
If they are rude or hurtful towards you, don’t rise to the bait – they are only going to make themselves look foolish in front of your friends. If they are still hurting from the break-up they should have taken responsibility for their own feelings and not come along to somewhere where they knew you were likely to be. It isn’t your responsibility to care-take other people’s feelings but it is important to be sensitive and not flaunt a new relationship in front of an ex who is struggling to come to terms with the break-up.
Retain your dignity
However tempting it might be to flirt with someone else, act out or get revenge by making rude or disparaging comments about your ex, resist the urge. It might feel satisfying at the time but you’ll probably be left with an emotional hangover from feeling like you belittled yourself in front of your friends. Rise above it and if you feel you can’t do that – leave, and try again when you are more healed.
Don’t put your friends in the middle
The worst mistake people make when they have the same friends as their ex is using those friendships to talk about the break-up. This puts people in a difficult position if they are fond of you both and they could feel stuck in the middle. Don’t try and turn mutual friends against your ex. Never ask them to take sides in a dispute or use them as spies to keep you informed of your ex’s feelings or situation. You are likely to lose friends at a time when you need them most – draw support instead from people who are not connected with your ex.