First of all, I need to warn you.
I am not going to hold back in this article. It’s a truth sandwich that you NEED to eat in order to make it through this with your friendships in tact. And it might as well be a broccoli and kale sandwich, because you ARE NOT going to like reading this article, but it’s important.
So, suck it up buttercup.
We’re in for the long haul. And if you do what I lay out for you here, you will be fully equipped to maintain the friendships that you feel like you are losing.
And I am uniquely suited to write this article as I AM the girl who “stole” my ex’s friends.
Given, it wasn’t my intention to “steal” them. I needed support and normalcy just as much as my ex. I was hurting just as much.
We had made a decision to function as two separate entities, not a couple.
My responsibility was to myself, even if I did stil care about him… very much, which I did.
So, I have a unique perspective on this situation.
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I know what you are thinking and don’t look at me like that.
My ex was pretty peeved at me. In fact, now, a year and a half later he STILL looks at me like I kicked his dog every time we see each other.
Luckily I am possibly the most empathetic person on the planet so I can completely understand where he was, and is, coming from even though I was going through a world of hurt at the time too. I also understand that from your position you probably feel similarly towards me because of the position that you are in right now. I understand where YOU are coming from, too.
So, today I am going to try and give you a little insight into where she’s coming from.
My Personal Perspective
We went out for five months. During those months we spent nearly every day together and during that time he introduced me to his roommates, his friends, his kid, his parents. He had a cat and had just adopted a dog when we first started dating.
Then, he left me without warning for a girl he had a crush on before we ever met.
And just like that, I was on the outside.
- The dog who rested his head in my lap for hours each day while I studied…
- The cat who hated almost everyone but would let me hold her…
- The friends that I lost while I was hung up on him.
- The roommates I cooked for and had game nights with regularly…
- The kid I got attached to, and taught to jump rope, even though I can’t stand kids…
I felt completely alone.
So, when my friends… I mean his friends, who had become my friends… when he insisted I get to know them…
When they invited me to do things and told me they didn’t want to lose our friendship…
I couldn’t bring myself to say no. I felt, supported, instead of feeling like I was about to fall apart at any moment.
Now, there are women who treat “getting the friends in the divorce” like a weapon in an arsenal, kind of like when divorced parents put their kids in the middle as go-betweens. It’s unfair to the kids and unfair to the kids.
You see, in my situation my ex freaked out and started going off on his friends for hanging out with me and inviting me to do things. He started handing out ultimatums like it was Halloween and they were candy.
When I realized what he was doing, I started responding to their invites with as much understanding as I could when I told them two things:
That I understood the difficult situation they were in.
That, while I appreciated them including me, I didn’t want them to feel obligated to.
And you know what, even though I was completely prepared to lose each and every one of them, the majority of them chose to keep me in their lives despite my ex’s ultimatums and my blessing to leave me behind.
Now, I know if you are in a situation where you feel like your ex is stealing all of your friends, then you are likely glaring at me through your computer screen. Because you think your ex is doing this to hurt you.
Now, I won’t lie. Having his friends make a conscious decision to keep me in their lives made me feel good… no… GREAT! And yeah, it is understandable that it made him feel uncomfortable, just like you are feeling uncomfortable right now.
In the case that you made ultimatums for your friends in the old style, you know… “Her or me!” then you may find yourself feeling a bit alone and betrayed.
So, what I’m trying to say is that I understand and I am MORE than empathetic.
Take a step back though.
Ask yourself a question…
If your friends didn’t see this as an either.or situation, would they support you and your ex?
Are you making the decision for them by trying to tell them what they should do?
I’m telling you this right now, if my ex hadn’t told all of our friends that they weren’t allowed to talk to me, then they probably wouldn’t have even thought about it.
So, before you decide that your ex is out to get you, you should factor in your actions and how they played into this situation. Then you have to consider if your ex is ACTUALLY vindictive and hurtful or if are just allowing yourself to see her that way because it’s easier to be apart if you can hate her.
Because that is usually the case.
And then all that hurt you feel from the breakup works as an amplifier that makes those feelings of betrayal seem 200% bigger than they are.
Here are a few simple truths.
- They are your friends.
- They care.
- You brought this person into their lives.
- Choosing sides isn’t easy.
I mean, these are real people, with their own lives. You don’t know what intensity the level of the connection your ex made with your friends.
I mean, I was there for my ex’s friends on a level he never was, because of his hoorah military way of going about things. When they needed a sympathetic ear or advice, they started coming to me because they felt that they could trust me.
Don’t underestimate the fact that you had a connection with her and it broke, but theirs may not have.
And no matter what sense of loyalty you believe they should have, you can’t force them to choose. And the more you try to push it, the further away you push them. And you end up feeling alone that way.
No matter how tough you think you are, you need friends.
Just try and put yourself in their shoes and remember that their world doesn’t stop just because you went through a breakup.
What to Do About It
I know, you are probably wanting me to tell you some way to talk them into ditching your ex and be on “your side.”
But that isn’t the direction we are going with this. Just like getting an ex back. When you push, you drive them further away. The same goes with your friends.
No one likes ultimatums.
So, right now, you are feeling like you NEED to DO something. I get that.
Literally, every person who comes to this site and our sister site feels that way. Every person on the planet feels that way when they are faced with circumstances they have no control over.
It is human nature to want to control over our lives. It’s overwhelming sometimes.
But the lines blur a little when our lives intersect with other people. It’s easy to feel as if we should be able to control it all. We want to tell them what they should do.
There are a few things you need to learn in this situation:
- How to discern between disappointment and betrayal.
- How to be understanding of your friends’ situation despite how you are feeling.
- How to remain understanding when you want to overreact.
Disappointment .vs. Betrayal
Disappointment comes when you expect things. You expect your friends to stand by you no matter what. And when they don’t… it sucks… a lot. But even if you straight up saved their life, they don’t owe you their choices. They owe you gratitude.
Yeah, it would be nice if they would have your back. But they can still love you and be grateful for your friendship without making decisions based on your feelings over their own.
So, be honest with yourself.
Are you confusing being disappointed with being betrayed?
How to be Understanding
We are faced with thousands of decisions every day. But decisions like these.. being there for people that are in pain. That’s a decision you make because you are a good person. I’m guessing that you are friends with these people because they are good people and because they care.
I know you expect a friend to have your back, but they expect you to be understanding when they make a hard decision.
So, let’s talk about how you are going to do that.
Because for some people that is not an easy thing to do….
I’m guessing if you are reading this, you are not having an easy time understanding that decision.
We’ve talked about my perspective when I was the ex.
We’ve talked about your perspective as the one who is hurting.
There is one other perspective that matters here…
…your friends’ perspective
I haven’t only been the ex who held onto friends for support… I have been the friend that wants more than anything not to leave someone hurting and alone. I mean, for anyone who can empathize in any capacity, it is torture to watch people hurt, even complete strangers.
The thing is, most people have some level of empathy and it’s not something you can just shut off. It’s part of human nature.
It’s why bartenders and hairdressers keep listening to stranger’s problems and giving them advice. STRANGERS!
Imagine seeing someone you know and care about, even remotely, in pain.
It should be easy for you since you just went through a breakup.
Even if you were ticked off and hurting, it most likely wasn’t easy to watch your ex hurt. If you did No Contact you know how hard it is NOT to reach out.
When you are in between two people who are hurting, you don’t want to decide. between them. You want to be there… for both of them.
Once you realize this, you will stop seeing this as betrayal you will see this as them being a good friend… to both of you.
Accepting this is how you decide whether you punish them for it.
Then you factor everything I just said into how you react.
This is the hard part.
Have you ever seen a wounded dog?
They lash out and anyone who tries to get closer gets bitten or barked at.
Right now, you are wounded and hurt and your brain is doing this all the time…
But, generally speaking, most people don’t hurt the people they care about or cared about, on purpose. They are wounded and hurting too. Sometimes it just happens, but rarely on purpose.
Most exes don’t seek out help. It finds them. IT’s difficult for them to accept it.
Friends don’t choose to hurt their friends, not on purpose. It’s difficult for them to feel like they have.
When you give them ultimatums or overreact, they are going to do what is best for them. Because in the end, we all have to do what is best for us.
And if having your friends in your life is important then you have to learn to talk to them about how you are feeling.
And the way that you keep them is some variation of the following:
“I know that we have put you in an impossible situation and I can appreciate that, with as difficult as this is on me, it is difficult for you too. So, I want you to know that I understand being supportive of both of us. You are a good friend and I want to be a good friend to you too. So, I just want you know that I appreciate everything that you do… for both me and my ex.”
Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t expect them to be there for you if you can’t be there for them. By saying something to this effect, you are giving them support when they need it.
You need to figure out what you want.
If you push your friend to choose between you and your ex, she is much more likely to choose the person who isn’t forcing her to choose.
So, you need to decide a way to keep your friend without making them choose.
You explain it to them:
“I understand this isn’t easy for you, being in the middle. And I don’t want you to feel like a referee here. So, I think we should lay out ground rules to make this easier. Is that okay with you?”
All you have to do after that is decide what you are comfortable with.
Is it okay for your friends to talk about your ex around you? with you?
If you are, then you have to be okay with them talk about you to your ex to avoid a double standard.
Are you okay being invited to get-togethers that your ex will be at? Or would you like to avoid those situations?
You get the idea. You need to talk to your friends about what you are comfortable with and stick with it.
If you decide that you are okay with them talking about her around you, then you can’t get mad when they do or when they talk about you around your ex.
Set rules and stick to them.
Your feelings will get hurt eventually, even if you plan for EVERY situation. You need to be prepared for that and decide how you are going to tell them that you are uncomfortable, like a safe word or phrase that you can say that will let them know that you are uncomfortable without getting mad at them. Come up with a way to call a time out.
You just have to decide what is more important… venting about your hurt feelings or keeping your friendships alive?
So, What Have We Learned?
More importantly, what have you learned?
I am betting you have read through this entire article grumbling “What to you know? I have every right to be pissed. This situation is different.”
Everyone feels that way.
But these tactics… this information… will save you from the pain of a breakup AND the pain of losing your friends.
So, you need to take them and make them work for you instead of against you.
- Learn how to be understanding with your friends’ choices.
- Figure out a way to live with those choices.
- Lay out ground rules and decide what your priorities are.
It sucks and it will be difficult, but I believe that you can handle it. And guess what! You have access to a wonderful team of ExRecovery professionals that know all about dealing with the post-breakup situation.
So… decide you can handle this and do it!