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Ask Ainsley: My ex and I share the same friend group. How do I navigate our breakup?

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Dear Ainsley,

I recently broke up with my partner, but we are in the same friend group so I’m forced to see them around my friends all the time. How can I properly deal with the break up while staying friends with my ex in order to avoid causing tension in my friend group?

Sincerely,

Post-breakup Problems


Dear PBP,

Know that you are not alone in this dilemma; many people have been in a similar situation to yours. Breaking up with someone is already very stressful, and the aftermath becomes even more distressing when you share mutual friends. First and foremost, it is undeniably admirable that you are trying your best to maintain the friendship. However, know that having mutual friends alone isn’t a good reason to stay in contact with your ex and that if the friendship doesn’t end up working out, it’s not your fault, and your friends won’t blame you for it. With that said, there may be some ways in which you can maintain a good relationship with your ex for the sake of both your feelings and the dynamic of your friend group.


Before diving back into a friendship, consider taking some time to yourself, maybe by learning a new hobby or delving more deeply into your studies. Reach out to other friends or spend more time with family—temporarily distance yourself from your ex and associated reminders. Finding something new to do with the time you once spent with your partner will keep your mind off of them. During your time apart, however, it is important that you do spend a bit of time thinking about how you feel in the situation and how you want to go about managing your feelings when you are ready to reconnect with your ex and your friend group.

When you feel ready to re-open lines of communication, start by establishing clear and understood ground rules with your ex. No matter what agreements you make, ensure that they are representative of your needs. For example, make it a rule that neither of you can hook up with any other members of your friend group. And if one of you does develop feelings for a mutual friend, make a rule for how to handle this in order to avoid any unnecessary anxiety and resentment. Similarly, make an effort not to brag or talk about your dating lives in front of each other, even in group settings with other friends, as doing so could hurt your ex. It is also important for you and your ex to set boundaries regarding your relationship, in order to spare feelings and help facilitate a clean break. This may mean you make a rule against “booty-calling” each other or spending too much time alone together.

Depending on how the breakup occurred, it’s normal that you may get into disagreements in the future. However, remember that this is your fight—and not your friends’ fight—so you and your ex need to settle it privately. If you do argue and it gets overwhelming, do not feel like you need to force a friendship. In this case, it’s important that you learn to agree to disagree and be civil to each other around your friend group. No matter what, be sure to eliminate any disagreements around mutual friends, so they do not get caught up in the middle of it. Don’t make friends feel like they have to choose sides, and try not to badmouth your ex in front of your friends—not only will this lead to more fighting between you two, but could lead to fights within your greater friend group as well.

Above all, remember to be honest with yourself about your intentions and your emotions. Being near an ex after a breakup can be difficult and inspire complicated emotions, but feeling like you have to be around an ex constantly because they are in your friend group can cause tremendous discomfort, especially at the onset of the break up. Put yourself first, take time to heal, and try to accept that most situations will feel awkward, at least for a while. The change in dynamics of your friend group may cause you to feel a bit isolated, so remember to reach out to trusted friends or family for support. Staying connected and social will help you get over your ex more quickly, and in turn, get dynamics in your friend group back to normal.

Sending love and support,

Ainsley

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