"Cause my friends are your friends, and your friends are my friends. The more we get together, the happier we'll be," Yes, that is a Raffi quote and I'm only half sorry about it. "The More We Get Together" pretty much sums up my social life. I love to get together with friends, and it makes me happy to have friends. I love friendship and people and love! But I will cut the ponies and rainbows to note one situation in which I don't want to keep hanging out forever: after a breakup. Is keeping mutual friends after a breakup possible, or total fiction?
Let's all take off our "mature and empathetic people" hats for a moment: When you break up with a partner, you might not want their friends to be your friends, or your friends to be their friends. At least I don't. Nope, I just want to be salty and have everybody pick a side, and that side should be mine. It's hard to stay composed and mature at the end of a relationship — especially if one party acted terribly and that contributed to the end of the partnership — but it's necessary.
When you're losing your special person, the last thing you want is to lose all of the other special people in your life. Friendships are important during a breakup. I spoke to clinical psychologist and host of "The Web Radio Show" Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. about how to navigate the murkiest of adult situations like a sweet, Raffi-listening child would. Here's what he shared.
First, Take The Emotions Out Of It
Yes, you should feel all of your feelings during a breakup, but you don't necessarily have to let everyone know all of your feelings during a breakup. When it comes to your mutual friends, you should actually keep most of your feelings to yourself. Why not set some rules regarding how you communicate with you and your partner's mutual friends in order to keep things mature?
Rule one: "You do not get to dictate who keeps friends in a friend circle after a break up," says Dr. Klapow. He's right — it's not up to you. Even if your ex did cheated on you or made out with your mom or did whatever egregious thing a person could do to you, you don't get to draw the battle lines. We're all autonomous, and your friends can do what they want.
Rule number two: "[Don't] play dirty in trying to keep friends," adds Dr. Klapow. "It will come back to haunt you. Manipulating your friends, trying to win them over or trying to make your ex look bad may solve a problem in the short run, may feel good immediately but ultimately speaks to the lack of maturity, and care you have for the friends the two of you established." Choose the high road, as hard as it is. (And find some outside friends or a therapist who you can sh*t-talk your ex to.)
Then, Be Candid With Your Friends
If you can stick to Dr. Klapow's guidelines and keep it civil when talking about your ex to mutual friends, then you can make it through this tough time without losing your entire social circle. Really! "Simply convey to friends that you are breaking up," says Dr. Klapow. Sounds easy, right? But acknowledging the fact of the breakup to your friends in a mature way will help them understand where you are at.
Explain "that there will be changes and you both value their friendship," adds Dr. Klapow. "And that you understand that they may not feel comfortable trying to maintain the same relationship they had with you when you were a couple." Let your friends help you shape what your friendship will look like post-break up — chances are that they want to maintain friendships with you and your ex.
No one wants to get in the middle of a messy breakup, so tell your that you understand that they are in a strange position and then be patient. When your friends are ready to reach out to you, if you maintain a mature attitude and stay respectful about your ex, a rekindling of friendship is almost guaranteed to happen. This situation sucks, but you will get through it. Unfortunately it takes time... and a lot of forced maturity.