Helping a friend through heartbreak is the worst, especially when your romantic past looks a little something like Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine. Maybe you’ve casually dated, or you’re one of the rare few who have been in just the one relationship for a long time. Either way, when a friend goes through a messy break up, you’re not really in a position to give advice on break ups since you haven’t really been through one. Regardless, you pony up and fake your way through it, as if you totally know what they’re going through, and have been there, done that.
Step 1: Flounder Just A Bit
Umm what? What happened? What did they say? Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Ask all the questions imaginable, while you stall and gather all your thoughts into something resembling wisdom.
Step 2: Let Them Talk
A lot of times, the heartbroken just needs to talk it out and vent about their feelings while you can skate by on helpful nodding and “They didn’t!”s. Follow Jamie Lee Curtis’s advice in Freaky Friday and repeat “And how do you feel about that” until they start catching on to what you’re doing.
Step 3: Be Vague About Your Experiences
Whatever you do, DO NOT try and tie in your own past experiences as a way to relate to what they’re going through. It’s a pretty safe bet that they’re not going to respond well to “I understand what you’re feeling, when my favorite coffee shop closed, I felt so alone and abandoned for weeks.” They’re probably also not going to relate to your devastating break up with that guy from Tinder who you went on three dates with and then amicably ghosted on.
Step 4: Draw Upon What You Do Know
AKA television, movies, books, etc. They’re the closest you’ve come to actually experiencing anything close to a serious relationship, and it might make them laugh a little. This is a classic Bridget Jones scenario. Daniel Cleaver just broke up with you, and you just need to find your Mark Darcy. BOOM. They’re laughing, and you sounded semi-wise on the subject.
Step 5: Just Be There
Ultimately, they came to you because they needed a friend, not a relationship guru. Be sad with them. Laugh with them. Go out to that bar downtown and find them a decent rebound if that’s what they want. Be the friend that’s struggling to understand the break up just as much as they are, because none of us really know what we’re doing, so let’s stumble through and figure it out together.