Regardless of reasons, I wanted to spend some time "thinking aloud" about one of the weirder complications of any break-up - how to handle your friends. For those who have been in this unfortunate situation, the you know exactly what I mean. For those who haven't, well, I sincerely hope that you never have to go through this sort of thing.
And to state the obvious, the images within the post are those sourced through Creative Commons are more illustrative of friendships in general and not indicative of my actual friends.
Ron, Gordon and Fausto hanging out by Fausto Fernos / feastoffun.com via Flickr
Friends are always important in our lives, regardless of gender. Cue references to quotes like "no man is an island" and the whole discussion on how humans are social creatures. And this is probably more true among gay circles since our decision to come out (or at least accept who we are) inevitably alienates some friends, thus making your gay-friendly friends all the more important, moreso your core gay friends that make up your primary support structure in your gay life.
When you decide to get involved with someone, the two of you start to share your social circles, thus blurring the lines and creating a new larger social structure. On the other hand, there's no actual way to define how to resolve these larger social constructs once the two of you decide to move on in different directions. And there lies the pickle.
Looking back at my personal blog posts during that time, early on I ran headlong into the complications of this need to separate social groups into something that worked for the new reality of my state of non-commitment.
While I doubt that my case is exactly the same as everyone's, I'm sure there are common themes we all encounter. On an intellectual level, we know friends are living, breathing and more importantly thinking human beings who can make decisions on their own. Thus your friendship with this or that person remains something that you manage on an individual level with that person and not necessarily always within the context of your ex-boyfriend or whatever you want to call him.
It doesn't make things easier though.
Amsterdam by Nowhere Man / nowhereman via Flickr.
In the period after a break-up, it seems inevitable that people opt to "take sides", as bad as that term is. You can choose to cope with this in any manner you choose to. For example, I opted to remain passive and left it to each individual to decide whether or not they wanted to hear my side. In other cases, people feel the need to make their side immediately known almost to the point of trying to solicit votes for a political election. Another alternative involves a middle ground of carefully reviewing each friendship, figuring out which ones are more important to you and thus they become the ones you feel comfortable opening up to and discussing your situation with. There's no right or wrong in this sort of situation - the only main guideline is to always keep in mind that people will view things as they will.
As I documented on my personal blog around that time as well, changes in social status have a ripple effect on your network for friends, especially in this age of instant access to information via social media. How your friends choose to deal with you also relates to their own experiences and how they interpret or view your break-up. We see this all the time in cases where friends end up commenting about how there can't be hope for finding love anymore since break-ups happen even to long-term couples and so on and so forth. While it's really bad form to make a break-up of someone else about your personal situation, it's bound to happen and it's something you need to factor into your social interactions.
In the days, weeks and months to follow after a break-up, friends eventually make up their minds with who they want to stick around with. You should not feel overly bad when a friend "chooses" your ex over you. That's just silly and you know it. In truth, people will gravitate to the person that they relate to more, and those feelings and impressions are an offshoot of how involved you've really been with these people you want to call friends. So think about it for a moment - how often have you talked to this person away from your partner being in a picture? If you haven't had that much individual interaction with the person, you can't really expect them to be friendly with you, now can you?
JayT, ZillaFag, Mattblender, Gay Trucker by Wanda Wisdom
And it's not even about who was friends "first" or other nonsense notions like that. It's about the quality of your friendship with that person in general, something that you need to evaluate without the distractions of your ex and whatever issues the two of you may have had in order to lead to the separation. More often than not, the friends who stick by you are the ones that you've really been investing time and effort with and are still the ones you should continue to support and treat right. The those that drift away or clearly end their friendships with you as a result of the event, well, they've made their choice and the potential returns of running after them are next to nil.
And in the end, it's hard to change people's minds about things. It's not about logical arguments or who was "right" or "wrong" in your personal circumstances with your ex. It's hard to determine why each person decides to do one thing over another. Remember, when people view your change in relationship, they view things from their own context and the sum of their life experiences. Thus it's not just about "the facts" of the matter - people view events through the lens of their own experiences and emotional state. Thus some people will react more negatively than others given they aren't really thinking about you but instead are thinking back to some past hurt or relationship trauma of their own.
Friends are important, yes. Relationships are important, yes. But the intermingling of the two can get pretty complicated when you break-up with someone. If anything, try to view things with an open mind and a heart ready to get hurt a bit. Friends will stick around and others will leave. Some will support you and others will try to play both sides to make nice. Friends aren't mutually exclusive and you can't expect them to always have to choose you over him and vice versa. If you've been putting in the work and have been investing time and emotional currency in your friendships, then you'll get rewarded. If you haven't, then don't complain when things don't go your way.
And eventually, it helps to learn to accept when a friendship may be over. Mute or unfriend this person from your Facebook account before you end up posting something stupid in irrational "retaliation." And of course be prepared to periodically clean up your social contact lists since sometimes you may be just holding on to nothing and wishing for something you may not actually deserve to come back around.
What do you think? I'm curious to hear other views on how you've dealt with the "division of friendship assets" after a break-up, whether you were in the relationship or just one of those friends watching from the sidelines. How'd you get through this sort of thing?