Ask iris: "How do I break up with my boyfriend but keep our friend group intact?"
"I've been dating this guy for two years. He's a nice person and I have nothing against him, but the connection just isn't there anymore. I want to break it off, but the issue is that he's part of my very close and small friend group. He talks more with my roommate than I do. I know if we broke up, he would be mad at me. It would make things awkward and I don't feel like I could move on from the relationship happily. But the fact is, I'm unhappy and I don't want to suffer anymore."
Signed, Ms. Over-It
Dear Ms. Over-It
Plenty of people have been in your shoes. It feels all too natural to date someone in your friend group. You already know them, have a solid foundation, and don’t need to meet their friends because they’re already yours. That’s a win-win-win situation.
The problem is when things go sour. It’s probably one of the most complicated and awkward situations to be in. I understand your worry—but the fact is, the breakup will come eventually. You’re not going to live the rest of your life in this limbo. Unless you plan on letting the worry you have about what your friends think pressure you into staying in this relationship forever, you eventually have to end things with your boyfriend. So the question is: how do you navigate ending your relationship with as little damage done to both your boyfriend and yourself?
Well, first things first, you need to have an honest conversation with him. Explain to your boyfriend that you value his friendship, but things just aren’t what they used to be. If you’re lucky, he will agree with you. But if he doesn’t, that’s out of your control. Sometimes people become attached to relationships, even if they don't work.
You may want to sit your roommate down and tell them how you feel. Explain that you're no longer happy with your boyfriend because you two have lost your connection. Make sure to focus on your emotions rather than his character flaws. Explain to your roommate that you would appreciate it if, for a bit of time, your boyfriend didn’t come over to your apartment so you can have space to heal.
After you break up with him, it's important to maintain space from your now ex-boyfriend. That means you might need to avoid the friend group for a bit. Focus on activities that don’t involve hanging out with those friends. What are your hobbies? Who are your other friends? Maybe you can reach out to someone you've lost touch with. Put your energy into other facets of your life while you and your ex adjust to the change.
If, in the meantime, you hear that your ex is talking crap about you or trying to get back at you, confide in the person you're closest to in the friend group. Explain how your ex's actions make you feel. Don’t talk crap about him back. If your friend is really your friend, they’ll care that you’re struggling through this transition and maybe stand up to your ex when he’s rude.
When the time comes for you to see your ex again, remember that the situation is only as awkward as you make it. You can decide to stand as far away from him as possible, awkwardly sneaking glances and feeling like you’re dying inside. Or you can approach the ex, acknowledge the tension, and tell him you hope he enjoys his night.
Breakups happen all the time. Your friends and boyfriend can’t expect that things will never change. You’re all adults and should be able to handle this situation appropriately. Sure, your ex may be mad at first, but with time, he’ll calm down and move on with his life.
All I know is, you’re not going to live the rest of your life in a relationship that makes you unhappy. It’s best to rip the bandage off now, rather than draw out the whole situation.