Post-breakup Boundaries

I received this anonymous post which reflected a question I’ve actually been thinking about: who ‘owns’ a space after a breakup? The Muslim community is so small that if both parties are active in the community, it can be almost impossible to avoid each other. I’ve seen couples negotiate this in a very professional and dignified manner, but I wonder if they’re secretly dying inside every time they see the person at some community event. If the split was particularly messy, it may be easier just to avoid places you know they might be. But unfortunately, there’s no place you can retreat to where the Muslim grapevine doesn’t extend to, as the author of this piece found out the hard way!

*Disclaimer: author’s identity has been concealed.

If any of you are avid Gossip Girl fans (guilty as charged), then you no doubt recall the numerous break ups of Blair Waldrorf and Chuck Bass.

Now, life might not be as dramatic as the fictional take on the Upper East Side of Manhattan but one particular scene did stick out to me as one way too familiar; the Waldorf Bass Peace Treaty.

Play from 0:13

Break ups are a messy affair – even for Muslims. You can label it an amicable parting all you like, but whether your relationship ended in tears and heartbreak or a rueful smile accompanying slumped shoulders there is one thing to which every break up has common claim.

Major. Awkwardness.

“Let’s stay friends!” some parting couples say, in an attempt to diminish hard feelings.

But what happens when you see your “friend” with a new partner? Even if you’d truly moved on, it’s not the greatest situation to find yourself in.

And so we draw lines. Boundaries, if you like. We mark our territories. The suburb he was from? Never step foot in it again without a burqa. Her favourite café? You suddenly develop an allergy to their coffee that you swear will make your beard hairs fall on entry.

But what happens when people start to prod those boundaries? In a tight knit community, it can be hard to avoid an ex who moved in the same circles. Inevitably, you will find each other coming out of exile to coincidentally attend the same event… and there are only so many corners you can hide in for an entire evening.

Especially if you accidentally both choose the same corner to lurk in. Ensue awkwardness.

Or perhaps some well meaning old friends who haven’t heard of your break up will ask you loudly at a social gathering for mutual friends, “So… When’s the wedding?!”

Hello beetroot face, it’s been a while.

Is coexistence possible?

Is coexistence possible?

But the very worst encroachment that I’ve not witnessed – or rather, experienced – to date was this:

Too soon after a messy break up of my own, my close friends ran into my former in-laws. Being familiar with each other, they said their hellos and had a quick catch-up chat.

And then the mother of all shattering statements was dropped.

“My new sister-in-law is the sweetest! We HAVE to introduce you to her soon – you will love her… Let’s set up a date!”

Now hold on just one second there, please! Pick up the red paint and splash a boundary line RIGHT. THERE.

Friends are the ultimate no-go-zone. Suburbian exile is tolerable. Café zoning is bearable. But the tug-of-war on friends just makes you radiate the kind of desperate dislike that has you screaming inside, “Take anything, take it ALL! Just don’t take my friends…”

Okay maybe that was a tad too melodramatic. But what’s a heartbreak without the drama?

So tell us, friends. What’s your take on territory lines? Are they worth the pain, or would you rather risk the run-in with the ex over putting yourself into exile?

10 responses to “Post-breakup Boundaries

  1. Solution – move out of Bankstown/Lakemba/*insert suburb of choice. But that also means saying bye-bye to Flames and other hangouts lol. You’d be surprised at how many halal restaurants are in the city or up north!

    In all seriousness though, it would be SO awkward for close friends to suddenly get all chummy with The Ex-Files. It’s just easier to keep a wide berth and focus on building your own life, in your own space, at your own time. Visceral reminders are just icky. Make new, happier memories. The world is a wide, wonderful place. Blaze your own trail!

  2. (Wait – you of all people would not be surprised at how many restaurants are in the city or up north lol)

    • Haha I think the real problem is when it comes to Islamic events. For example, if you both go to Al Ghazzali classes for instance, who gets to keep going there post-breakup? Who owns which ‘circle’ in the Muslim community? That’s when things get really tricky! The Muslim community is so small in terms of active members, so if a breakup occurs within that small pool things can get quite awkward!

  3. Ahh I see….well I think the one with the thicker skin, wins! Or the one with the greatest ability to ignore. Or maybe a combination of both.

    • I suppose it really depends on how 2 things: how serious the relationship was, and how bad the break-up was. If you were only just getting to know someone and it doesn’t work out, it can be perfectly fine to see them around. But if you were engaged to someone and then it doesn’t work out in a messy, protracted fashion, it can be absolute hell to contemplate seeing them around.

  4. Very true. Or *gasp* if you’ve been married with kids, and then split up. Now that’s what I call serious. But it happens. The marital status of both parties also makes a difference – if both of you have moved on, then it’s easier to make it a non-issue…but if only one party has moved on, it’s harder for the unattached (or un-moved on) party. Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean getting married to someone else. It’s a state of mind. But I think remarrying helps.

    • I didn’t even go into that because that is a massive topic all of its own and one I’m not sure I’m qualified to speak about at all, given that I am neither married nor am I a mother! It’s difficult for me to even imagine the complications arising from the break-down of those relationships.

  5. Its such as you read my mind! You seem to understand so much approximately this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I feel that you can do with some percent to power the message house a little bit, however other than that, that is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

  6. Fortunately, my ex moved to another state. At least, I think he did because he left me with no explanation, no goodbye, nothing. So called well meaning mutual frends and family insist on posting updates about him and his new wife on social media. I makes me feel as if they are condoning his behavior instead of supporting me. As far as boundaries a Sister have me the best advice just this morning…
    “Because there are so many mutual people and intertwining involved, YOU are going to have to be the one to disengage everyone. No social media, no accepting phone calls from his OR your family if it concerns him, no allowing anyone to even speak his name around you! A total disconnect! If not it will be a constant reminder of his betrayal and your pain!”

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