The end of a long-term relationship is a hard road: unwinding and unravelling what was formerly twinned and mingled takes time. Rending asunder (as no man should let, the Bible says, which is probably why women end up doing it all), you go through a lot of packing tape. And tissues. After 15 years, you haven’t just amassed an amazing collection of lidless plastic pottles and guarantees for devices that broke long ago, you share a tonne of friends. Friends he brought to the relationship, friends you brought, friends you made along the way, and just like matrimonial property, they’ll be divided too. “You keep Dave, I’ll keep Tammy…” Guest lists become super-awkward, sides get taken – even if neither of you is an ass hat − however, coffee klatch collateral is the least of it.
The truly weird stuff starts happening not long after you break up. First, you discover just how many colossal numpties you know, and (spoiler alert) that some of them never liked you anyway. People you’ve been friends with for years will say the most astonishingly stupid things. “You’ll be on the Tinder,” they’ll declare, seeming to believe you’ll bounce back when you can hardly put lipstick on, look like an unmade bed and have convinced yourself you’ll never have sex again in your life.
Now you are single and the protective cloak of coupledom formerly shielding you from the slings and arrows of outrageous perverts has fallen from your shoulders, other women’s husbands will offer you more than a shoulder to cry on and accidentally pocket dial you while in the car with their wives. Friends will decide, despite your clear penchant for hot blonde men, they can fix you up with their strange uncle Pete who has brown teeth and no hair and a million conspiracy theories. Hey, you’re single, you should just be grateful for the attention.
Smug marrieds will shun you, thinking divorce is contagious (actually, Brad and Angelina were perfectly OK before my relationship broke up) and because they think their husbands are pocket dialling you, you round-heeled slapper.
If you are mad enough to accept an invitation to a party at a time when you should be avoiding all social obligations because you cry at the drop of a hat and this makes your eyes all puffy, guests possessing the emotional intelligence of an uncooked potato, will ask ‘How are you?’ in tones reserved for news of terminal illness. This is a lot like the reporter who asks the homeowner how they’re feeling as they stand in front of the smoking ruin of their house. Unsurprisingly, “Just peachy” isn’t the answer. Then there are the friends you have to comfort, reassure love still exists. “But I held you up as an example of a great relationship, how could you do this to me?” Um…sorry?
Rubberneckers, gossip hounds and the secretly-pleased-to-see-you-miserable-because-your-non-stop-loved-up-happiness-was-getting-on-their-tits will lust after the juicy details, pop over with a bunch of rhubarb, a ‘How are you?’ and an expectant pause. Don’t give them anything. Provide absolutely zero salacious details. It will KILL them.
You’ll need some wins, because studies show we lose 8 friends when a long-term relationship ends. Three of those are most likely to have been friends of your ex first, so fairly painless. The others will hurt though, but you can avoid significant losses by not trash-talking or making your friends pledge allegiance: “He’s dead to me. Dead, I say.” They don’t want to act as a go-between either. In international relations this is called ‘shuttle diplomacy,’ in real life it’s called ‘starting shit.’ Yes, it might always have been ‘uteruses before duderuses,’ however it ain’t easy being Switzerland, and your girlfriends will still like your ex. So they should: you wouldn’t have fallen for him if wasn’t completely awesome.
Another Twilight Zone thing is receiving more kindness from complete strangers: Facebook friends you’ve never met, exes not seen for years (anyone really, outside the inner circle of pain), than your real friends. The reason for this is that it’s quite tiresome, listening to hours of venting and being embarrassed by you dissolving into tears at the pub and after a month or two or four, your friends will justifiably feel like throwing in the towel. Which is why you need to be the best-est friend there is. Bring wine. Be jolly (within reason, there’s nothing scarier than brittle hilarity). Ask them if they’ve lost weight. Tell them their hair looks lovely. Because you’re going to need all the friends you can get.