Breakups are hard, I know, I’ve experienced a few in my time. But when your friends, breakup, it is just as hard. When our friends break up with their partner we feel helpless. We want to cheer them up but we are not sure how to go about it.
It doesn’t matter whether the relationship was an abusive one or short-lived. All breakups can be devastating. But the most distressing are ones that come out of the blue, with no explanation or closure.
Breakups can leave us feeling distraught, overwhelmed, and grieving for a future that will never happen. So what can you do or say to someone who has just split up with their partner? How do you make sure you’re not making the situation worse?
If you want to help your friend it is important to remember that the person going through the breakup is going through a kind of bereavement process. They are dealing with the loss of their relationship. This can affect them in several different ways.
The most obvious way a breakup affects you is that their partner is no longer there. This creates a sense of loneliness and longing to be with that person again.
Some people feel like they have lost control or they feel panic when they cannot see their partner anymore. This might lead them to try and make contact just to hear their voice. Or they may hang out where they know they will see their ex
If your friend was living with their partner they might have had to move out or their partner may have left. This could mean a change in living circumstances. This is usually for the worse because of a decrease in income.
Your friend may have to either get a roommate to help pay bills or move into a neighborhood that’s not quite as nice as their previous one
Humans are biologically wired to pair up and live in social groups. In fact, in the past, our very survival depended on preserving these social bonds. That’s why it feels so alien to us when we break up with someone. It goes against our evolutionary nature.
As a result, our brains have evolved to trigger negative emotions in order to stop us from leaving these pairs and groups. Although in the current world we will still survive out in the cold if we are single, our brains have not caught up with this modern world
Relationships are like investments, especially ones that are long-term. We invest time, money, and feelings into them. We plan a future with this person and then relax, secure in the knowledge that we will grow old with them.
Then, suddenly, all of our investment is lost and no one can tell us why. Human beings find comfort in logical explanations. It helps us with closure. If we can just find out what went wrong it will explain and justify the loss of our investment.
So now we know how a breakup affects our friends, what things can we do to help a friend through a breakup? When those close to us experience a breakup friends often are not sure of what to do to help.
We know that loneliness is a major factor after a breakup. Going from having a partner living with you, or even just dating or phoning every day to nothing is a drastic change. It will leave a huge gap in your friend’s life.
If they don’t fill it with other things it will allow them time to stew over the minute details of the breakup. It will help if you can just be there for them and let them talk to you
You can get into the habit of making random phone calls or popping in unexpectedly to check up on your friend. How does your friend feel when genuinely ask? Make sure they know they can tell you honestly how they are feeling.
Knowing that they have someone they can talk to about anything at any time can be a huge relief
After a breakup, the last thing we want to do is go out. However, it is important not to stay in and dwell on everything that went wrong. We all know how good getting out in the fresh air is for our mental health.
Even if you just go for a walk in the sunshine, or do a bit of retail therapy. Get your friend up and moving and out of the house for half an hour
When we are down we deserve something special to cheer ourselves up. But it’s not just about treating ourselves, there’s actual evidence to show that our brains produce happy hormones when we indulge in the things we love.
So the best thing to do when your friend is feeling down and depressed is to take a good bottle of wine or a box of luxury chocolates around to them
Sometimes we can feel so down and depressed that we become tired and lethargic. We neglect basic household chores until it becomes too much for us.
A good friend will take on the housework because a clean house always makes us feel better
After a breakup, we don’t feel like looking after ourselves. We may forget to eat regular meals or just snack on junk food. A good friend can cook up some meals for the freezer.
Or you could even do some shopping for your friend and arrange for it to be delivered. Then all your friend has to do is heat up nutritious meals without any fuss
Just as your friend may be neglecting the house or their nutrition, they are probably not paying much attention to how they look. They might think there is no point in doing their hair or makeup now the love of their life is gone.
So a day spent at a spa where they are pampered and made to feel beautiful can be a real boost to their self-esteem
It’s easy to assume that we know what our friends need, but of course, we are not mind readers. Asking your friend what you can do or if there’s anything they need puts the ball in their court.
If they know you are genuine they won’t hesitate to let you know
It might be tempting to start telling your friend of all things you hated about their ex but don’t. For a start, if they ever get back together you are going to have to do some serious backtracking.
Second, your friend was and probably still is, deeply in love with this person. They are going to be hurt if you start slagging their ex off to their face
It is easy to fall back on clichéd remarks such as "There are plenty more fish in the sea" or "You were too good for him anyway". How do these remarks help anyone?
They just trivialize a person’s feelings and they show that you are not interested in helping your friend. If you can’t think of something original or insightful to say keep your mouth shut
We all get over emotional situations at our own pace. So, unless your friend has been dealing with the breakup of a two-week relationship for over a year I would suggest not telling them to get over it.
If this is genuinely how you feel perhaps ask one of their family members to help instead
Just because a relationship fails doesn’t mean a person is a failure. It simply means that those two people were not suited to be together. Yes, it’s upsetting and horrible when it ends.
However, it is not a reflection on either person. Let your friend know that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
You don’t have to keep going over to check on your friend, you can always invite them over to your house. In fact, a change of scene might be really good for them.
Not only does it get them out of the house but it gives them the opportunity to come over and talk whenever they want
Although it is a good thing that you are helping your friend, it is important to recognize that you also have your own life. Therefore, you should set boundaries and time limits for helping your friend.
For instance, you cannot be talking on the phone for hours every night listening to the same stories. You cannot go over to their place every day and cook and clean. You do have your own responsibilities. Your friend is not your total responsibility. Get other friends or their family to pitch in
Have you ever started talking to someone about a problem and they have immediately jumped in with an example of their own? I don’t know about you but it really irritates me.
This is your friend’s time to offload so don’t be tempted to bring the conversation back to yourself
You have heard of the saying 'smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone'? It’s easy to want to be around our friends when they are happy and adding something positive to our lives.
It’s less easy when they are down and depressed and needy. If you really want to know how to help a friend through a breakup then don’t turn your back on them now. This is the one time you should step up and help
Sometimes when our friends are emotional and distressed they want to take drastic action. People who are hurting often want to lash out at those who have hurt them.
Your friend might want to go and trash their partner’s new squeeze’s car. Or they might want to leave screaming drunk voicemails on their ex’s phone. Don’t let them
All too often we try to negate our feelings with antidepressants or blunt them with alcohol or drugs. But sadness at a breakup is completely normal and a part of healing and moving on.
After all, if we don’t experience breakups how do we ever learn that we can cope with them in the future? So let your friend know that it is okay to cry and be sad.
In the immediate aftermath, allow your friend to talk about the breakup and to grieve for it. Comfort them and be their shoulder to cry on. It is important to give them time to come to terms with their loss. In the long-term, you can start encouraging them to move on.
At first, your friend will probably just want to talk so your job is to listen. You can’t ‘fix’ this so don’t offer solutions and don’t ever badmouth the ex. Let them know that you are there for them and what they are feeling is natural and it will pass.
Acknowledge their pain and suffering but don’t tell them that you know what they are going through. Let them know you are there for them at any time or place. Tell them that there is no time limit or one way to grieve and you will be with them every step of the way.
The five stages of a breakup are the same as experiencing a grieving process: denial – we can’t believe the relationship is over, anger – anger at the situation you are in, bargaining – trying to find possible ways to get the relationship back on track, depression – feeling sad and hopeless at the situation and finally – acceptance that the relationship is over.
Ask them what sort of things they like to do and then make it happen. Don’t assume you know what will cheer someone up. It might be something simple like getting out of the house or staying in and having a cozy chat.
Have you ever helped a friend through a breakup? What do you think of my suggestions? If you liked them please do share them.