Breakups suck—it’s cliche but totally true. Getting over a relationship with someone you once loved (and maybe still do) can feel impossible, and it’s only with the help of the people who love us most, our best friends, that we’re able to heal our broken hearts and move on. But what if even our friends are negatively affected by the end of our relationship? New studies show that breakups can have that exact effect.
Research published in the journal Families, Relationships and Societies delved into 370 online forum conversations about relationships and divorce dating as far back as 2009 and found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who’d failed to maintain strong relationships with their friends while they were coupled up couldn’t necessarily count on those they’d neglected once they were single again. Because of this, the people going through breakups were often left feeling “isolated and betrayed,” making the trauma of their split that much worse.
The other element that seemed to come into play a lot was something known as “previously unacknowledged couple privilege,” meaning that when former friends didn’t immediately drop what they were doing to come to the aid of the person who’d just ended their relationship, that person was much more likely to be extremely upset by this because their expectations of their friends were way too high. After all, your friends will never cater to you the way a partner would, but many people who have recently experienced that close level of personal attention and support often subconsciously assume that they should receive it from platonic friends too, even if they’d abandoned those connections previously.
As the study explains, “The valorization of the sexual couple as the ideal relationship form coexists with idealized representations of friendship as providing high levels of emotional support during critical life transitions. Unlike partners, friends are expected to have a certain amount of intrinsic flexibility, to be available during emotional trials and to be of more significance in the lives of the unattached.”
Researchers also noticed that those who’d abandoned their friends while in a relationship were likely to brand those former connections as “fake” or “superficial” when they didn’t immediately jump in to help or comfort after a breakup.
The bottom line? Don’t ditch your friends for your relationship. After all, your partner should never be your whole life, and you’ll feel mighty lonely if you get dumped and you have no friends left to comfort you.
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