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Who gets custody of the friends? Online narratives of changes in friendship networks following relationship breakdown

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This article explores online narratives of the loss or change of friendships following an intimate partner relationship breakdown. Drawing on internet forum discussions, we explore individuals’ transitions from coupled to single, and the multiple ways in which this affects their friendship ties. Forum users struggled to reconcile friends’ abandonment or distance with cultural representations of friendship as providing intense emotional support during critical life transitions. Users also reflect on the impact of their recent singlehood on friendships established and maintained while coupled, with relationship breakdown illuminating previously unacknowledged couple privilege. We argue that the loss of friendships exacerbated and became part of the break-up experience, illustrating the embedded nature of relationships (Smart, 2007). Relationship breakdown is perceived as acting as an ‘ordeal’ for friendship, revealing the depth and quality of existing ties, as users reflect on their own neglect of friendships while they were coupled.
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Keywords: couples; divorce; friendship; personal life; relationship breakdown; singlehood; social networks

Affiliations: 1: Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives, University of Manchester, UK 2: Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Appeared or available online: July 3, 2018

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