Emily Postmodern: How To Handle Yourself When Your Friends Break Up

I stole one of my favorite people in the world from an ex. They were friends first, but when we met, I knew that she was it. We immediately bonded over a love of whiskey, the United States Postal Service, and indie pop — reinforcing my idea that if this fella had such a great friend he must be THE ONE. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. So when the (now obviously inevitable) break-up happened, the aforementioned stolen bestie provided me with whiskey to cry into and a great balance of commiseration and distraction. She didn’t abruptly end her friendship with my ex either, but gracefully navigated the tricky situation she found herself in and both friendships survived the split. When a good friend is heartbroken you want to be able to hang out, drink wine, and talk shit about the person who just hurt their feelings. But what do you do when the subject of the shit talk is also your good friend?

At best, it feels like you’re being forced to pick between two people you care about and at worst it feels like you’re being two-faced and insincere. The circumstances of the break up may clearly dictate appropriate behavior in the period after the split, however if you find yourself at a loss about what to do please consider the following points as their (and your) relationship status changes from My Best Couple Friends to My Two Best Friends who are a Couple No Longer. It is really about them, but it might feel like it’s your break up too!

Do you have to pick sides? The short answer to this is of course not. The uncomfortable truth is that you might just have to. Was the split amicable or acrimonious? If the couple had been growing apart for some time and have collectively decided to go their separate ways you’ve probably heard about it from both of them already, lent your sympathetic ears, done your best to remain neutral and give considerate and fair advice when asked and it shouldn’t be too hard to continue to do this as they move forward as former partners. If the split has come as a shock to one member of the relationship (and possibly to you as well) it is going to be a lot more difficult to know what to do next. While it is clearly your friends’ heartbreak to own, it is still reasonable to feel a little torn up about it yourself. And if one member of the couple has revealed themselves to actually be an awful person, prompting the breakup and causing you to no longer want to be their friend, it is okay to be a little sad for yourself too about the loss of that relationship.

Make your boundaries clear though no matter what the situation is. Let them know how comfortable you are discussing the other person(A good answer: you aren’t). Let them know that they can’t expect you to be the transmitter of upsetting info or the courier of belongings that may need to be returned to the rightful owner. Don’t let them act passive aggressively through you. Try to make sure that if you have invited them both to a social gathering everyone has been given fair warning and the ability to gracefully opt out if they don’t feel up to socializing with the ex. And if you start to notice one person continually saying no to social engagements and you think this might be the root cause, reach out to them to plan one on one hang time. Whatever you do don’t cheat on one friend with the other. If you want to continue both friendships you need to honest with everyone from the get go. No one likes to learn that their BFF is still hanging out with the ex via Instagram or Facebook. If you find yourself asking people not to post to social media because you think it might be hurtful, it probably will be. Don’t sneak around.

Like most guidelines about social niceties, the bottom line is you want to be thoughtful and respectful. If you feel uncomfortable or like your friends are putting you in an unfair position don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself! Make it clear to all parties involved that you won’t stand for them disrespecting each other to you and they just have to turn to their non-mutual friends for the cathartic shit talking, but remember that they are going through a rough time and they might slip up occasionally. While time does generally heal most wounds, you don’t want to be pouring salt in them by acting as if nothing has happened.