Unfortunately, human beings aren’t vinyl collections, which means they’re not only far more difficult to dust, you also can’t exactly divvy them up the way you would your Beatles albums. Which is why, when you break up with a person, one of the more complicated questions can be, can we still hang out with each other’s friends?
Now, obviously it’s important to base your answer to the above question on how amicable your split with your ex was. In other words, if things finished on friendly terms, there’s a good chance that squandering a solid friendship just because you’re no longer with your ex is unnecessary. At least that’s what Reena, a 32-year-old distribution director, seems to think. “If the friends in question are made uncomfortable by the situation, or if there was a genuine friendship that you didn’t want to abandon because of a breakup, it seems silly to do so,” she told Inside Hook. “I have personally fostered a close relationship with one of my ex’s friends. It was nice to have someone to talk through the breakup with who knew us together and apart.”
But the more likely scenario, sadly — the one in which you can’t help but associate everything with your former significant other, including the friends you shared — is inherently more complicated. This is the thinking behind relationship expert Jennifer B. Rhodes’ advice, which suggests that it’s important to distance yourself as far from your ex as you can for some time, including the people they’re friends with. “Spend time with people who can support you and not your ex,” Rhodes told Elite Daily. The problem with spending time with your ex’s friends, she explains, is that it ultimately won’t help you heal. It’s a sentiment that Fran Greene, author of Dating Again With Courage And Confidence, agrees with. “Your cravings and obsessions with your ex will lessen if you are not surrounded by the memories of the ‘good times’ you had with your ex’s network of friends,” she told Elite Daily in the same article.
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman confirms that in spite of how much we’d like to think that an ex actually is like a vinyl collection, they’re really not. “Friends aren’t property,” she says. “Everyone gets to choose who they associate with and as long as the friendship doesn’t include ex-bashing, gossip, carrying tales back-and-forth, and above all is respectful to the other ex, it would be difficult and childish to say ‘he/she is my friend and not yours.’” Additionally, Gottsman says that cutting off your ex’s friends completely can have indirect reverberations. “Cutting all ties could affect family relationships, including kids and close family members as well,” she explains. “It’s always better to get along with kindness than behave in an angry or jealous manner.”
Which, sure, kindness is always the preferred default setting. But breakups can be ruthless. “In the circumstance where one person hurt the other resulting in the breaking up of the relationship (i.e., long-term cheating or abusive behavior) by no means do I think true friends would want to be friends with that person, nor should they,” Kate, a 40-year-old woman working in sales, tells Inside Hook.
For that reason, you should feel well within your right to explain to your friends how hurtful it feels for them to stay friendly with someone who was so shitty toward you. “Hopefully they’ll take this to heart and realize your ex isn’t worth the pain it causes you,” reports StayTeen.org. “And if you’re truly feeling betrayed by a friend, you’ve spoken with them about it openly, and things still aren’t changing… then perhaps that’s a friendship that needs some distance.”
But of course if you have kids who are friends with the kids of your ex’s friends then you may have to bite the bullet — y’know, for the kids. “If you have kids and they play together — it gets sticky,” Nicole, a 45-year-old dermatologist told Inside Hook. “You have to remain cordial for the sake of little ones for certain.”
Perhaps the most agreeable advice on this subject comes by way of the aforementioned StayTeen.org article, which suggests that if you start to become friends and get close with your ex’s friend during or after your breakup, you may want to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: “What the hell are you doing, man?” “As messed up as it seems, sometimes your friends will get close to your ex as you’re going through the break up!,” per StayTeen.org. “Maybe your ex reached out to your friend for advice or help about you, or even as a way to try to stay connected with you and know what’s going on in your life.”
If this happens to you, you should feel completely within your right to set strict guardrails for said friend hanging out with your ex now that you’re broken up. “If you’re in this situation, give your friend clear guidelines about what info you’re okay with them sharing and what you’re not,” per the same StayTeen.org report. “It’s also completely fine for you to say that you don’t want them talking about you when they do talk — it’s fine if they want to be friendly, but you need to be left out of it.”
So, y’know, in the same vein that people tend to say, “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” when you’re going through a breakup, I say, there are plenty of people who aren’t your ex’s friends and who are just looking for a friend.