Ask Erin: Help! My Friends Are Still Friends With My Ex

Breakups are hard, even under the best of circumstances. Messy breakups that involve court proceedings are even harder.

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions, about anything at all.

Q.

I moved to a small town from a big city with my partner. After living together for two years, I was blindsided. My partner informed me that our relationship of nine years was over.

In addition, my ex went after spousal support, half of the house (which I owned), and the proceeds from two books I wrote. While I was attending a conference, my ex moved out and even took our three cats, despite a verbal agreement to leave them with me. We went to court to settle our legal issues. It was nasty.

I am friends with a couple who were so supportive through the whole ordeal. A few months ago, they invited both my ex and me to a party they were having. I had made it clear that I don’t want to socialize with my ex who caused me so much turmoil. I declined to attend and I was upset that they would be so disloyal and invite both of us, despite the fact they knew how I felt. My friends hanging out with my ex has been a recent thing, although I’ve been tight with them for the last four years. Thoughts?

A. 

Breakups are hard, even under the best of circumstances. Messy breakups that involve court proceedings are even harder. I’ve been through divorce and it sucks. There’s no way around that.

I have been on both sides of this situation. And I get where you’re coming from.

It sounds like they were well aware of what you went through in dissolving the relationship and supported you through it.

However, after a breakup, it can be tricky for your friends to navigate this, particularly if they had any relationship with your ex, regardless of how superficial or purely social that relationship was. They may think that enough time has passed that you would be OK with being in a social situation together. Clearly, they let you know ahead of time and let you decide whether or not you wanted to be there.

First things first: Although you assume they know how you felt, I think it’s only fair to you and to them to let them know that you’re not comfortable being around the ex.

Do so calmly, without blame, and continue your friendship with them; for as you said, they have been supportive. You can’t control what they do or whom they spend their time with, but you can make boundaries to take care of yourself and your feelings.

I know it feels like a slight to you, but I believe you will be much happier if you are able to let it go and keep your relationship with them separate from whatever relationship they have with your ex.

After all, you were with that person for nine years, so they must have some redeeming qualities and those qualities may be what keeps your friends interested in the friendship. It may not feel like you will ever be able to be in the same room together again.

But, I promise you, that with time, you will be able to do so. There is such a relief that comes with being able to face our enemies squarely and without animosity.

Therapy, time, and space are what you need. There are so many people (including exes, mistresses of exes, etc.) whom I dread ever running into. To be able to know in my heart that there is not one living person who could make me cross the street in avoidance is a beautiful thing. It’s freedom.

I would take the focus off what your friends do about the situation, and focus on healing and moving on. It’s what’s best for you.

If you have a question for me about dating, relationships, marriage, divorce, The New York Dolls, dwarf rabbits, or anything at all, email me at rarelywrongerin@gmail.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo

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