Some asshole just broke your best friends heart. Now you’re wading in the water of her tears scrambling for some way to dry off. But she’s drowning, and so are you. You feel like crying alongside her because you don’t know what to say to make her feel better. You don’t know what she needs, and neither does she. In the wake of a bad breakup, it’s you who is there to help feel the empty gap of attention that she’s no longer getting. And it’s not easy. In fact, it takes a toll on your own emotions. You ask other friends, your parents, or maybe your siblings what to do, what to say.
I’ve had those friends. I’m in recovery from being cheated on, and I know what it was like for them to go through that experience with me. Not only did he break my heart, he also broke theirs. But I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful people who have helped me, and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned these past few months. So for you friends out there who feel helpless in a similar situation, I want to give you 10 few pieces of advice based on my own experience to help you help someone else.
- Try not to put down the ex too much too soon. There is a reason she picked him to date, and you want to avoid making her feel stupid for choosing him in the first place. You may or may not have experienced it yet, but love is incredibly powerful. It doesn’t just disappear the second someone hurts you. The most important thing to realize is that your friend is going to come to terms with what happened on her own time. When the heartbreak is fresh, you will be tempted to make her feel better by saying things like “you’re too good for him,” “he doesn’t deserve you,” “he’s a horrible person,” “I knew he was bad,” etc. Do your best to avoid saying these when the wound is fresh. Although you may believe them to be true, it’s too soon for her to hear those things. She will decide these when she is ready. Instead, tell her that she’ll be okay without him.
- Check in with her. Breakups can be very debilitating. Some lose their appetite, some face extreme depression, and others can trek down a path of self-destruction. It’s very difficult to go from feeling so loved to feeling so unloved. You don’t have to hang out with her constantly or be available all the time, but it’s important to let her know that you love and care about her. I’ve learned that the best medicine is talking. Reassure your friend that you’re there to listen, even if she doesn’t want you to respond.
- Allow her to mope, but within reason. I always tell friends or family who are struggling with something that I will allow them to mope for a few days without intervening. Don’t force her to go out drinking the night after because that’s a recipe for disaster. Give her a few days to lay low and watch movies and feel sorry for herself before you force her into doing things that she feels too sad to do. Once the appropriate moping window has passed, that’s when you can drag her by her feet out of bed.
- Make sure she doesn’t feel alone. As I said earlier, it’s painful going from feeling so loved and cared for to feeling so unloved. Whether you tell her you’re there or her or spend time with her, make her feel like she isn’t in this alone, and that you are going to help her get through it. Encourage her to make plans with friends.
- Plan something fun. If she is bored, especially during the first few weeks, she will most likely dwell. Suggest going out to dinner, getting dessert, going out to see a movie, or plan a party with friends. When you’re down, it’s harder to look forward to things. Give her something to look forward to so the future seems a little less dim to her.
- Cut her some slack. During the first week or so after the breakup, she is going to be very sensitive to what you or other people say. She might overanalyze things, and she will definitely feel a lot less secure than normal. Be mindful that her mood is not going to be ideal, and that it can change without warning. It’s possible she isn’t going to take everything people say to her well, and she might deflect her anger. Know that it’s a product of insecurity and pain, and it should fade. If she responds with short texts or asks not to be bothered, it doesn’t mean she is ungrateful. It means that she doesn’t have the energy to thank you. Don’t let her get away with it, but don’t attack her for attacking you.
- Don’t pity her too much. When everyone around you is coddling you and telling you how sorry they are, it’s often impossible not to feel sorry for yourself. Instead of telling her how much she doesn’t deserve it or how sorry you are that she’s going through such a hard time, tell her how strong she is. Tell her that she is going to be fine. Don’t make her feel like a charity case by acting differently around her or sugarcoating the truth. If you tiptoe around her feelings too much, she will notice and might feel badly about herself.
- Be as supportive as possible. While that sounds obvious, there’s a lot more to it. You aren’t going to agree with every choice she makes, especially when they are guided by her emotions. She needs to make decisions regarding the relationship on her own. You are allowed to guide her, but you should never tell her what to do. At the end of the day, it’s her life, and she needs to figure it out for herself. Let her know that you’ll support her no matter what, within reason of course. Be on her side.
- At the same time, don’t hold back your own opinions. If you think she is being too blinded by her emotions and feelings, don’t be a pleaser. Make sure you let her know, because you will regret saying nothing. Without telling her what to do, be honest about your concerns. Sometimes people need a little push in the right direction without being told they have to go that way.
- Ask her what you can do to help. It’s one of the most obvious piece of advice, but it’s extremely important. Don’t text her everyday asking if you can do anything to help her, but every so often ask how she is, and if there’s anything you can do to help make her feel better. Knowing that someone is willing to help goes a long way.
I would like to add that all situations are different, and that I am speaking based on my own experiences. I’m only 20 years old and don’t know everything. I would love to hear opinions of those who feel strongly that a piece of advice I gave isn’t good. If it weren’t for my friends, I wouldn’t be in as good a place as I am not, and I’m deeply grateful for their support. Even during times where you might feel useless, just being there goes a very long way. You learn to love your closest friends unconditionally, whether or not they are acting as they normally do. Keep in mind, experiences like these show you who your true friends are.