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Dealing with mutual friends after a breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 24, 2011 08:05 AM

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Q: Hi Meredith,

I just broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years. It was mostly mutual and we agree that we need some serious time apart. The problem is that we have the same group of friends. My best girlfriend has become his best friend as well. My boyfriend and I broke up about almost a year ago, then got back together, and finally broke up again. While we were apart before, I had a lot of trouble dealing with my friend hanging around him all the time and not being more supportive of me. Whenever I cry on her shoulder, now or then, she is fully supportive of me, saying how wrong he was and how he didn't treat me right and he doesn't know how to compromise. Then she turns around and is his best friend.

They spend a lot of time together, alone and with a group. I admit that I am completely jealous, and though I know that there is absolutely nothing romantic going on at all, I hate that they are so close. I feel like I can't trust her as a best friend who tells me he's the jerk while she remains best friends with him. My friends feel like I can't ask them to choose between us -- we are all friends -- however I feel like she owes more to me since I was the one dumped (the first breakup at least), we've been friends longer, and we're both females. She feels that she is an equal friend to both of us and that means hanging out with whoever calls her first and that sort of thing.

She is having a party at her house and claims that it's inappropriate of me to ask her not to invite him. It's only been two weeks since we broke up, and I went away both weekends to give everyone space. I now want to spend time with my friends and not have him around since he had that opportunity the last two weeks. My friends think I'm asking too much, my family thinks I'm right to expect her to be more on my side. I want an impartial opinion.

– Lonely, Massachusetts


A: Two of my best friends happen to date. They met through me. I knew the guy first, but I've become just as close with his girlfriend. And if they ever break up (they won't), I think I will have a nervous breakdown. I can't imagine how I'd balance the relationships.

For that reason, I empathize with your friend. But frankly, I think I'd do a better job managing the situation than she is right now. Your best friend should be going out of her way to make things easier for both of you right now. She should be your guide. She should be thinking, "I'm only going to invite one of them to the party, and I'll make the other person feel good about not going." She should be splitting her time without making everyone feel awkward about it.

But she's not good at this. And I'm not convinced that she's going to get any better at finessing her commitments. For that reason, my advice is to lean on other friends who are closer to you than him. Maybe call on acquaintances who are outside of this group. Seek out friends who only know you, or members of this shared group who are willing to hang out with you alone.

Your best friend just isn't the right shoulder to cry on at the moment. That's awful, but that's how these things go sometimes. Your friendship with her is evolving based on this breakup. I'm sure she's conflicted about it, too. She has to know that after all of this, she might be a friend, not your best friend.

So yes, my impartial opinion is that she's not handling this quite right, but it doesn't matter. You need to do what's best for you, which is to find safe friendships that don't make this breakup worse. Instead of sitting around and resenting her, try to use that energy to call on new faces. (And those new faces, by the way, might be the key to meeting someone when you're ready to date again.)

Readers? Is the friend handling this right? Should there be more loyalty because they were friends first (and because she's female)? How should the LW cope with the jealousy? Help.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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