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October 2, 2018

Can You Really Count on Your Friends After a Breakup?

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After a breakup, we often turn to our friends to support, but new research suggests that our breakups can adversely affect friendships as well. Jess sat down with Jeff and Liem to discuss these findings today on The Morning Show.

1. What did this study find?

Researchers examined 370 posts from online forum discussions related to relationships and divorce to assess the way breakups affect friendships. They found that our friends may be less supportive than we need/expect after a breakup; this may be related to the fact that we don’t maintain friendships when we’re in a relationship, but expect our friends to step up and offer support when we’re in need.

2. How does being in a relationship affect your friendships and vice versa?

Some research suggests that your friend circle shrinks when you couple up; one study found that we lose two friends when we meet a new partner.

But…

Maintaining social ties with friends and family is good for you as an individual and good for your relationship, as friendships offer a range of health and personal benefits. Those with strong social ties report lower levels of distress, greater levels of happiness and life satisfaction, higher rates of recovery from illness, and greater financial stability.

3. How can you balance friendships with an intimate relationship?

This is a highly personal decision. Some people become best friends with their partner and others maintain their closest relationships despite being partnered. It’s important to remind yourself that one person cannot fulfill all of your needs

One study found that having a good friend offers happiness benefits equivalent to a $150,000 cash bonus. Those who have a friend at work are more professionally satisfied. These health and practical benefits can translate to greater satisfaction and lower stress levels in your relationship.

Relationship anarchists believe that no relationship should automatically take priority over another’s. It doesn’t matter whether you’re intimate or sexual — all relationships matter. Even if you’re not a relationship anarchist, it’s worth taking a look at this theory to consider why we prioritize intimate relationships above all others and what other arrangements might look like.

4. What if your partner and friends don’t get along?

Research suggests that your friends affect how long your relationship lasts. They may be able to weigh in on compatibility and one study found that their disapproval of a partner is positively correlated with the likelihood of your breaking up; so if your friends and partner don’t get along, you may need to speak up to the party (or parties) that are causing the tension or rift.

You don’t have to play mediator, but you may want to look for ways to communicate to both parties (your friend and your partner) that you value the relationship and that other relationships are not a threat. That is, consider your role in why they don’t get along.

5. What should you do if you’re guilty of ditching your friends in favour of a partner? How do you repair these friendships?

If you have let your friendships slide in prioritizing your intimate relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends with a vulnerable mea culpa. It’s okay to say that you screwed up and regret it. “I know I haven’t been in touch and I’m sorry. I’d like to see more of you and really value our friendship” will almost always be met with an empathetic response. Of course, if you’re reconnecting with an old friend who might feel as though you ditched them in the past, you may have to delve into a deeper conversation about hurt feelings and vulnerabilities as you rebuild the friendship.