How to Avoid a Breakup War

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“I broke up with my boyfriend, and everything is exactly the way it was before, and we’re both totally friends now!” When was the last time you heard a friend say that? I’ll take a wild guess and say, probably never.

The old adage “breaking up is hard to do” rings even truer in a college environment. Calling it quits in a relationship is bad enough – nobody wants to be the one to admit that something they’ve cherished and worked hard at has come to an end. But add the never-ending stream of opinions from friends and roommates, to the awkward encounters with your ex on campus, and a simple breakup can quickly become an all-encompassing emotional beast. Even worse, if you and your ex share friends, a breakup can cause an all-out not-so-civil war within your social group.

Molly Harrison from the University of Rhode Island has had experience with breaking up in close quarters. “In my case,” Harrison said, “the guy slowly started taking over my friend group while we were dating and later roomed with a bunch of our guy friends after we broke up, so I was forced to see him often.”

So what do you do when your breakup is in close proximity to you? Here are a few helpful tips.

Try to avoid him or her as much as possible, at least in the beginning.

Seeing an ex frequently soon after a breakup is counterproductive to the healing process. Harrison experienced this with her ex-boyfriend. “I tried to make it seem like I was mature enough to put everything behind us and be friends, but not be overly interested,” she said. This idea seems healthy in theory, but it often has the opposite effect of what’s intended. “There’s a pretty fine line,” Harrison admitted, “and it did get confused a few times.”

Spend time with other friend groups.

The question of who gets the friends can make a college breakup even messier. Harrison admits that she faced this issue after breaking up with her boyfriend. “In order to avoid awkwardness,” she said, “I tried to divide my time more evenly between different groups so I wasn’t around him all the time, and whenever I had to be around him, I tried to be as cordial as possible and strike up conversations.”

Take the high road.

In Harrison's case, she found that being polite, but not overly friendly, was an effective way to keep the drama out of their friend group. ‘There were times where he was unfair about me hanging out with ‘his’ friends,” Harrison admitted, “but you really just have to be the better person and let things go.”

 Obviously, maintaining a distance is the easiest way to get over someone quickly. But as Harrison's story reveals, distance is not always a viable option. When it comes to keeping your mutual friends, the best strategy is to steer clear of your ex when possible, to be cordial when you have to see him or her, and to recognize that not everything will be easy or perfect right away. “Obviously, some alliances will be drawn,” Harrison confessed, “but if you're nice, honest, and make sure not to be overbearing, it can be a smooth transition.” At the end of the day, your real friends will stick with you through the storm and hopefully someone better will be waiting right around the corner.   

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