Written by Writer’s Corps member Robin Lang
Hollywood likes to portray the role of friends after a breakup as the people who show up, maybe for a night with some ice cream or chocolate. This has made for some memorable movie moments and plots (Think: Tiffany Haddish’s character spiking drinks in Girls Trip or how Jason Siegel’s character takes a vacation in Hawaii in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.) But in reality, the role of a friend after a breakup looks much different.
Seven Ways to Support a Friend During a Breakup:
Be there to listen. Give them space to talk/vent. Be there without making comparisons or assumptions of what they should do or what they need. Try being an active listener who shares space just by being there and letting them talk.
Ask them what they need. Ask them what they need because everyone and every situation is different. Be careful not to make commitments you can’t keep but asking what they need is a way to show you care and are there to help.
Help make a safety plan if needed. If the relationship was abusive, it is paramount to make a safety plan. You can read more about safety planning here.
Remind them of their strengths. Breakups can really do a number on someone’s sense of self. Help them rebuild or maintain self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy that may have been lost in a breakup by reminding them of all the strengths they have.
Join them for new activities or new hobbies. Exploring new activities and hobbies is a great way to really experience how much opportunity is out there as well as a great way to build self-esteem.
Don’t push. Don’t push silver linings, don’t push them into dating or hooking up, don’t push them to recover. Breakups are a grieving process that need to happen on their own course.
Help them consider professional help if necessary. A breakup can be a serious life event that can trigger severe emotional distress. Professional help can be an invaluable support system for preventing, coping, and/or healing from any long-lasting effects.
Say This, Not That
Here are some examples of things you can say:
- “I’m here for you.”
- “Know that you’re loved and not alone.”
- “Wanna hang out tonight or what are your plans this weekend?”
- “Whatever you need, I want you to know you can tell me.”
- “If you feel like texting your ex, you can text me instead.”
- “I believe in the person you’ve been, the person you are, and the person you’re becoming.”
- “Your feelings are valid.”
- “I’m proud of you.”
Here are some examples of things not to say:
- “I never liked them anyways.” Their ex may still be a significant and meaningful person to them and it may only hurt to learn that you didn’t like them.
- “I really liked them.” This could add value to someone who is already seen as an invaluable loss.
- “You were out of their league.” You might be trying to promote their self-esteem, but this could reinforce the pain of the rejection.
- “You should be happy they’re gone.” This doesn’t give permission to grieve and feel sad for what has been lost.
- “You’ll find someone better.” Healing should not depend on finding someone else. Additionally, they’ll need time before they are ready to find someone else.
- “It could be worse.” It could always be worse, but this diminishes the validity of their experience and feelings.
- “You’ve got to stop dating the same type of person.” This places the blame for their pain they’re experiencing.
- “The sooner you move on, the better off you’ll be.” Time in between relationships is important for reflection and personal growth. Let your friend take that time.
- “Get on Hinge.” It’s important to not push, rush, or force any part of their process. It is okay if they’re not ready to date again. Trying to date might complicate their feelings.
- “We should get drinks.” Many people turn to alcohol after a breakup to numb or avoid feeling. And this will only delay and complicate healing by leaving emotions unresolved. Additionally, breakups can cause short and long-term mental health issues and alcohol heightens the risk of long-term depression.
Breakups can be a challenging and difficult process. And supporting and loving your friends during this time is essential. Showing up for our friends can create a deep connection. However, it’s important to support our friends in ways that give them space to process their emotions while promoting their healing and personal growth.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an unhealthy or abusive relationship, check out our real-time resources, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you’re in imminent danger, please call 911.