Bed, Bitch & Beyond: Love, (De)Friendship and Facebook

I had asked y'all to send me your burning relationship questions and quandaries, and in response I got this:

What's do I do about defriending my now-ex? Do I leave him in friend limbo, or should breaking up automatically equal defriending? I haven't even taken down the "in a relationship with" line because it's only been a week and I just can't deal with everyone knowing yet.

Ah, the double-edged sword of Facebook! So many of us use social networking for connecting and cataloguing and displaying our friendships and relationships--me included. It's great...until those relationships change. Then it can get sticky.

Here's my two cents:

When you have one of those disastrous "I hate you! I never want to see you again!" breakups, by all means, defriend. I had one of those a couple years back where we not only broke up, but the dude moved to Australia three weeks later. Buh-bye. I defriended him with extreme prejudice and never regretted it. Ironically, we had met through a Facebook group; the relationship both started and ended on Facebook.

On the other hand, I'm still friended with a couple of exes. The breakups weren't horrible but in their aftermath I considered defriending them, just to make a clean sweep. After a cooling-off period, I decided not to. I'm still on (infrequent) speaking terms with them, and I'm interested in knowing what they're up to. I suspect they are equally curious about me, so what's the harm? Why not let them see how happy my life is without them?

There are times, however, when that post-break up happiness--when you've obviously moved on, or he has--actually can lead to defriending. Case in point: a friend of mine went through a relatively amicable divorce. Her ex wound up in a serious relationship pretty quickly, but she was wandering in the wilderness, date-wise, for a year or so. She was still friendly with her ex and they stayed friended on Facebook. But as soon as she got a new boyfriend, and his picture and posts started appearing on her wall, her ex defriended her with no warning. A "WTF, dude?" e-mail to him produced this response: "I don't think we need to see everything that's happening in each others' lives." My friend explained this to me as: "When he could look at my page and tell himself I was a lonely cat lady, he didn't mind. But as soon as I was listed "in a relationship" he was outta there." Living well on Facebook turned out to be the best revenge. It also meant defriending.

The other problem here is "relationship status." This is one I choose to avoid altogether by never ever listing myself as single or in a relationship. I leave that space blank for two reasons:

1) If you are female and list yourself as "single", you will be deluged with a gazillion Facebook ads for diets, dating services and--by far the worst--ones shrieking "Why are you still single?" Because, of course, if women commit the crime of being Publicly Single, they must be sad, fat, no-hopers. I've been reliably informed that if you put "married", the mommy ads attack: fertility treatments, post-pregnancy weight loss plans and "too tired for sex?" self-help books. Because, of course, being married means you're a baby-hungry cow who doesn't want to fuck anymore. I don't know about you ladies, but I get more than enough misogynist badvertising without making myself a target on Facebook.

2) "Relationship status" raises WAY too many questions. When do you say you're "in a relationship?" After month? Two months? After you've had The Talk? Do you just go with plain old "in a relationship" or do you link to your significant other's profile? And once you're "in a relationship", how and when do you get out? After a fight? Do you discuss first? What a hassle. I just cannot be bothered. I'd rather focus on working out all the real issues in the relationship.

Despite the story of my friend whose Living Well revenge played out on Facebook, please don't think: "I'll keep him as a Friend so that he can see my new relationship status pop up on his News Feed!" Remember: if he knows your TMI, you'll know his. How are you going to feel if you see pictures of him on vacation with his new girlfriend? Or see his status updates pop up on yours News Feed? If it'll feel like a death of a thousand cuts, you may want to spare yourself the suffering and defriend him. After all, the first priority after a breakup is to take care of yourself. My advice is to pause. Consider. Sleep on it. If you still feel like defriending; do it. No regrets. At the end of the day, only you get to decide who to stay connected with and how to present your life to the world.

by Rachel Kahan
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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Before my boyfriend and I

Before my boyfriend and I started dating, he found himself in a sort of accidental relationship with a friend of mine. They hooked up at a party and the next thing he knew, he had a relationship request on facebook. It took him a month to figure out how to break the news to her that he was never interested in dating her in the first place.

We've never put our relationship status on facebook. I think it's the way to go. Your close friends will know when you're dating someone, and why should anyone else care? When people overshare on facebook, you end up with super-awkward situations, like the time I found out that a 35-year-old woman I'd volunteered with once had divorced her husband and was dating a guy my age (19 at the time). Just really awkward, especially when they'd make cutesy comments full of innuendo on each other's walls. (And for what it's worth, I'd think it was exactly the same amount of awkward with the genders reversed.)

I recommend as a counter to such behavior.

No Need to Post in Feed

I don't let my relationship updates post in my feed, so when I left my husband, nobody noticed (till my mom told them). But my ex wasn't so smart - he instantly was pounced with "omgwhathappenedimsosorry".

Same with my current BF. After a month of dating, I mentioned how I was still single on FB, and how guys were hitting on me and it was getting annoying. He said "but that's fun, you should stay single". Hint taken. A few months later, I just flat-out requested it on FB and he accepted. Again, my change didn't post to my feed, but his did. Instant bombardment with "omgthatssoexcitingtellmeeverything".

Sucks to be them!


It took me nine months or so to de-friend my ex on Facebook. We never posted that we were in a relationship (we both had always kept that out of the profile), but I would cry every time I saw something about him. It was a terrible break-up, once that happened as we were picking out an apartment in a new city so we could move and he could start law school. We kept in touch 'as friends' for maybe 6 months after the breakup until I got a scholarship into a better law school than him, and he stopped talking/texting/etc with me. Then the posts came from other friends and him about how awesome his new girlfriend was (she was alot younger than him or me) and I just couldn't take it. I went into a deep depression and was inconsolable for a month. So my friends were telling me, you have to stop this and de-friend him. We have mutual friends, I still hear all the gossip, but at least I don't have to see it every day. I have been (unhappily) single since he left me, so it's been difficult in several ways. Interestingly enough, he didn't tell his family we broke up, so I got a message from his sister (FB friend of mine) asking whether I was coming home with him for Christmas and I got to write, "um, he dumped me in July." Ugh. I would never post my relationship status. Incidentally, my brother did, and is linked to his girlfriend, whom he is now trying to figure out how to break up with.

I broke up with a guy three

I broke up with a guy three years ago this September. Since then, he sent me a FB friend invite every month and now he has decided to bombard my new husband with invites as well. We have denied him countless times (we don't want the drama) but I finally blocked him a week ago. It was a rush!

A different kind of awkward

What do I do when my girlfriend's estranged father tries to friend me? THEY'RE not Facebook friends, and he's clearly trying to make me a go-between. Don't want to seem rude, but please, I'm not about to put myself in such an uncomfortable position!

Deny, deny, deny! I don't

Deny, deny, deny! I don't think that when people add you as a friend you're under any obligation to accept, esp. if it's someone you don't like. I can't imagine why your girlfriend's father thinks this is a good idea, but you certainly don't need to go along with it.

The only possible benign explanation I can think of is that he just loves to friend everyone he's ever heard of or met--some people or like that. But I kind of doubt it.

My mother, incidentally, had something similar happen when my aunt--the sister of my father, from whom my mom has been divorced for 29 years--tried to friend her. Mom was all "WTF? Ignore!"

Becky Sharper

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