Breakups are difficult for a stack of reasons. It's hard enough for the two involved to navigate the waters afterwards – to know whether to cut contact completely or to try and remain 'friends', deciding on who gets to keep the dog and who gets to keep frequenting the favourite local coffee shop, yada yada.
But breakups can also be tricky for the friends and families involved. When your friends split with their partners, does this mean you have to sever ties with them too? Especially when they've been dating a while, and when their partner has become almost as much a part of your life as your friend is?
A friend of mine, Grace is at the centre of this dilemma at the moment. After splitting with her long-term boyfriend of four years, she's finding that some of her best friends are still keen to hang out with him, something that's hard for her to deal with when she can barely stand to see him right now. This is compounded by the fact that he acquired a new girlfriend shortly after the breakup. So soon afterwards, in fact, that it appears he may have known or possibly even been seeing the new girl while he was still with my friend. The other week, for the first time, Grace's friends invited her ex – and his new girlfriend – to the same party that Grace was invited to. To her credit, she attended, and handled it well, but it's a bitter pill to swallow. In Grace's mind, you should leave a relationship with what you came in with, which means losing any new friends you made through your partner. It seems fair enough to a point, but is it a reasonable expectation in this day and age?
Another friend, Sarina was telling me how she got a bit of a shock on Facebook the other day when she saw that one of her ex's friends had deleted her. She admitted that they weren't that close to begin with - in fact, she hardly knew the guy, he lives overseas and she'd only met him once - but he'd always been friendly towards her on Facebook, and now, it seemed that as soon as he'd caught wind of the fact that she was no longer with Lucas, he'd decided she was no longer a friend of his either. Grace might argue that this is the way it should be, but Sarina felt a little miffed by the culling – after all, she was still friends with her ex on Facebook, and she hadn't done anything to Lucas' friend.
Facebook has complicated the etiquette of relationship post-mortems. Even if you delete your ex on social media, chances are you haven't, and won't, delete all his friends and relatives. This can create something of a minefield when scrolling down your newsfeed, inadvertently seeing photos of your ex, and occasionally discovering information about him that you'd really rather not be privy to. Requesting that posts from specific people not show up in your newsfeed is one way to go about it, but it's tiresome and suggests that perhaps you'd be better off doing as Sarina's ex's friend did and just deleting the associated people altogether – perhaps with brief message explaining why. "No hard feelings, but I just need to cease contact for the time being. All the best."
Another friend, who became very close to the sister of her boyfriend when they dated for three years, initially found it very hard to let go of their friendship. For one thing, they were great mates, and secondly, she admitted to using her ex's sister as a means of keeping tabs on him after they broke up. Eventually though, the source of information became a source of pain. She now says she's had to stop talking to the sister altogether, as to do so was a constant reminder of her ex.
I was in a sticky situation a while ago when my friend Penny's ex-boyfriend Dave wrote an email to all of her friends asking for advice on how to win Penny back and wanting our opinions on where he went wrong. It was awkward, and heartbreaking – there was no getting Penny back for Dave, and I felt that the least I could do was to offer him a kindly worded but not particularly enlightening reply. I don't think it was appropriate of him to send that email to us, but he was (clearly) desperate, and I felt sorry for the guy. My loyalty lies with my friend, obviously, but as with most things, there are shades of grey when it comes to staying friends with your friends' exes, and with your ex's friends.
What's your stance on friends and exes after a break-up? Would you delete an ex's friends on Facebook? Let us know in the comments.