Breaking up: Have the damn couch, but the friends are MINE!

Breaking up after a serious or long term relationship is always mucky. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee – it’s a crappy time, and no surprise that you feel like you’re up to your arse in MUCK.

Putting aside the ‘sad muck’ or the emotions of grievance, heartache and loss… (that is if you are actually feeling any of those emotions; as it seems there are plenty of breakups where one party is delighted and relieved to be outa’ there)… there is oh SO MUCH more MUCK that has to be dealt with.

There’s the money muck. Shared finances, shared property and other investments, who bought what, who had what BEFORE they entered the relationship… it’s all just a small portion of the muck. Thankfully there are third parties that can be hired to help you get through this muck. Like accountants and lawyers and underworld crime figures from Carlton, Victoria.

And actually now that I think about it… there are third parties that can help you through the sad muck as well. Like councillors and therapists and 1 litre bottles of Tanqueray 10 Gin… or in my case: slow jams by George Michael and Nutella.

But when it comes to separating the nitty gritty of your LIVES TOGETHER: the YEARS you spent as a couple, making and building friendships and pass times together…. There’s no legislation. There’s no third party. There are no set rules. And THAT is the biggest piece of mongrel-coated-muck you will encounter during the break-up period.

I went out with a guy for about 6 years. We were never married but it was assumed that we would be – by his family and all of ‘our’ friends. When I broke up with him the first time, I didn’t expect to lose my entire life. I didn’t know it meant I couldn’t go to our favourite restaurants anymore because that was his stomping ground – his territory. He was a regular there before he met me, and so I had to stay away.

I also found that I missed his family. They had become a second family to me but I felt that if my ex was to take me seriously, I had to avoid ‘hanging’ with the fam’ on weekends. Even if he wasn’t going to be there. Just wrong.

And then… there were the friends. Now this is where it gets really tricky. Obviously his family are his family. I couldn’t make a claim to them no matter how much I loved being around them. But many of the friends were OURS. So how do you know which friends you’re allowed access to, and which ones you should avoid out of respect. And if you’re a friend of a couple that have broken up (which I have also been), how do you know if it’s disloyal or unfair for you to be catching up.

The online Jerry Seinfeld dictionary (of which there are a few, and which I find to be bursting with useful terms), clearly states that Break-up By Association is what happens when a man and woman break up, and the man’s friends no longer associate with the woman. It’s a common phenom, but one that so many ‘friends’ keep getting wrong.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the last couple of days, and have broken it down to what I think is the ONLY fair and legitimate conclusion. Unfortunately, in most instances IT IS about PICKING SIDES. But that’s life.

You can’t vote for labour AND liberal at election time. You can’t have Optus AND Telstra as your network provider. You can’t work for Ford AND secretly drive a Holden. And if you do then you have no loyalty and you’ve probably backstabbed your way through life.

Anyone who thinks alternatively to my very thought out and well balanced point of view, can go suck it. Because karma’s a bitch, and if you’re not sucking it now, you will be later.

My theory concludes that there are 2 types of friends. Both types have a unique set of rules when it comes to remaining friends with your ex-partner after break ups.

Type 1: The long time (life-long) friends.

If you have had a friend since school, or uni, or your first job – and you’ve been friends with that person throughout various flings/lovers/relationships, then that friend is YOURS! No matter how much your partner loved them, or they loved him/her… too stinking bad! The fact is: they were your friend BEFORE you entered the relationship, and they SHOULD be your friend afterwards.

And yes, this means that your friend should likewise respect the fact that although they loved your partner, they should probably stop calling him/her to catch up for dinner.

You don’t see Brad Pitt and Courtney Cox chatting on the red carpet do you? And actually now that I think of it, you probably won’t see images like this one anymore either. You know why?

Because there are no catch ups with exes of long time friends. If you are the friend then obviously seeing them out and having a friendly chat for ten minutes is fine. I do also think there’s a brief cool off period following the break up where you are at liberty to sympathise/discuss with them the break up and express your deepest sadness that they are over. But the cool off period is brief.

Don’t go making long term plans. Inviting them to your house for a BBQ or away with you on holidays or to your birthday party is just plain RUDE! To you – I say your loyalty should remain to your lifelong friend. PICK A SIDE, not you’re a-hole.

There ARE exceptions to this rule. Just say your lifelong friend turns out to be a paedophile and goes to jail. Obviously his partner would be devastated, as would you. Being on their side is not only acceptable, but suggested.

Same goes for if your lifelong BFF was cheating on her partner… with your husband, or an entire NRL football team. Check yourself for herpes and say goodbye to that BFF forever.

Ie. When one person in the relationship has been a turd, as the friend you are completely justified to be friends with the non-turdy party – even if you’ve known them less time.

There’s also another exception which applies when you and your ex are still being friends and hanging out or sleeping together…without officially being together. I would also like to say “Hello stupid??” however everyone has their own unique way of breaking up, and in this instance, if you are the life-long friend, then remaining in contact with both parties is ok, since they are remaining in contact themselves.

Example 1: My husband has a lifelong friend who is a mate from school. He and his girlfriend had been together for 9 YEARS. I met this friend while he and his girlfriend were together. After 2 years of knowing them as a couple they broke up. His choice. She was heartbroken.

As a fellow female and former president of the “I’m A Lonely Loser Who Can’t Keep A Boyfriend Club,” I wanted so much to be there for her entirely. Despite the fact that he was going out to clubs, meeting new girls, moving on… he was also still seeing her as ‘friends’ on a regular basis and chatting almost daily. So when it came to deciding if we should invite BOTH of them to OUR wedding, we said yes. She was still very much part of our ‘social circle’ because her ex (my husband’s friend) kept her there.

Example 2: My previously mentioned ex boyfriend had made a friend just one month before meeting me. Over the course of our 6 year relationship, they became BEST mates. They travelled together, saw each other every weekend, and went to each other’s family gigs. The thing is, while they were bonding, so was I. His mate became like a brother to me.

After breaking up the first time, I will admit to calling him a few times. Mainly to see how my ex was going. After the second break up he moved to London to live and maybe on his birthday, I’d send him an email. Following the FINAL breakup, I discovered he and I were both going to be in the same town for New Year’s. We agreed to catch up. It was all a bit strange. The common denominator (my ex) was so far out of the picture that we found there wasn’t much to discuss.

Then my ex called him from Rome to wish him a Happy New Year. Awkward. THEN my ex put his fiancée on the phone to which his friend said, “Hello beautiful!” It was like a punch in the gut. That used to be me he would greet like that. Wow, did I feel like an intruder! Twenty minutes late I was in a cab on my way to anywhere else.

I realised it was wrong for me to want to catch up with my ex’s best mate. It was HIS mate, his friend, even though we’d known each other roughly the same amount of time. Since that night I have never seen him or spoken to him again. As it should be.

Type 2: The new friends.

This one is tricky. What about if the friend is someone you’ve met and befriended only since being a couple? As the new friend, in this instance it’s harder to choose sides because there were no loyalties or bonds of friendship prior to meeting the couple. As with lifelong friends, there are sometimes factors (like the turd factor) that help you decide. Other times I think it’s ok to stay in touch with both parties, but over time you will probably find yourself seeing more of or getting long better with only one of them.

Example. My husband and I met a couple who were engaged to be married. We caught up on a fairly regular basis and because of my work at the time; I found that I was also dealing with them separately for different events they were organising. We were invited to their wedding.

The day we were supposed to go to their place for a BBQ, we got a text from the female party telling us that the male party had come home at 6am and admitted he’d been cheating on her. He told her such things as “I can’t help it – I’m like the Ben Cousins of this town.”

That was 2 years ago, and while professionally, I was still required to speak to and be pleasant with both of them… Guess who my husband and I are still friends with, and guess who we think is an idiot?

So I think that should cover most break-up scenarios. Please comment and let me know if you are a friend of a recently split couple, and are still not sure who of the 2 friends you should avoid having dinner with this weekend. Not only will I direct your loyalty to where it should be, I think your scenario may add substantial research and evidence to my thesis on this very MUCKY and un-legislated aspect of breaking up.

And finally, if you are reading this from your iPhone while you have your feet up in Queensland for the week, or worse – you’re reading it from your ex-husbands best man’s computer while he and his family are away –because you’re house sitting for them… because you failed to understand simple break up protocol by continuing to stay in touch, and his mate failed to follow protocol because he’s a scum sucking jackass?

Well may you all live fatly ever after. And here is some more information for you, your ex-husband’s best mate, and his wife: The day will come when I WILL BE BURNING THAT TREE TO A CRISP AND SETTING THE ASHES FREE…. towards Kho Phangan in the gulf of the Thailand river – with all the floating dead pigs and cows and ferrel third world diseases.



  1. Sian Bell · November 24, 2010

    Hey Cindy, great piece.
    What about when friends break up and it’s the women’s fault and she has custody of the kids who are your kids friends and you never liked her in the first place but were nice to her anyway ‘coz you’re a nice person and you try to be pleasant ‘coz somehow her kids are really sweet and you like them as much as your kids do but whenever she visits -she always visits ‘coz you have the pool- she constantly asks you about her ex and bad mouths him- yes, in front of the kids- and you know she’s the type that if you say what you want- you know what you want to say- them she’ll cut off the kids contact. What would you do then??????
    Cheers, Sian. xx

  2. cyclonecindy · November 24, 2010

    Hey Sian.

    Wow, kids bring a whole new dimension to the rules don’t they??

    So I gather you don’t really want to be friends with this woman cause she’s the turdy one. But she got the kids and the kids are great!

    What I’ve realised about having a child is that we bend over backwards, into a handstand, and then commence to do triple back handsprings for our kids. We really will do almost anything.

    Including putting up with their gruesome parents….

    In this instance I guess you know where you real loyalty lies – to the children and their dad. Nothing wrong with having her over for a while so the kids can hang with yours – but not all day if she’s nasty. And I’d be BLATANTLY ignoring those negative comments. Change the subject and maybe she’ll get the msg.

    Does the dad get the kids? Can you arrange to catch up when he has them?
    Children bring a whole new brand of muck when it comes to break ups that I’m inexperienced with, because I’m sure the kids have been through enough without losing their best freinds too.

    Bit of an awful situation… good luck. xo

    • Sian Bell · November 25, 2010

      Good points. I’ll deffinately pass along your ideas. It’s actually a friend from my mothers group who has this problem but I will add your advice to my own. It seems to be that even including pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding kids seem to get harder as they get older. Can’t wait for the boyfriend stage! Cheers, Sian.

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