As singer Neil Sedaka famously taught us — as if we didn’t know it ourselves — breaking up is hard to do. And the end of a relationship is hard not just on the breaker-upper and broken-up-with, but on their BFFs. Your heart is hurting for your friend. You want to be supportive but you’re not sure how. Too, you might be seething with anger that someone could hurt your pal that way, but can’t express that emotion for fear of hijacking your friend’s grief.
We’ve gathered up some expert tips on how to survive your buddy’s breakup and be the best, most supportive BFF ever.
Remind Her That It’s OK to Grieve
Acknowledging and validating your friend’s feelings — grief, anger, sadness, maybe even shame or regret at having chosen a poor partner — is a great way to be supportive. In other words, resist the urge to tell her to “shake it off” or “get over it.”
If you send the message that her emotions aren’t valid, or that the process of grieving a failed relationship should conform to a certain time frame, you run the risk of pushing her away. She will try harder to hide her sadness from you, which could have an effect on the closeness you too share.
Let Her Know You’re There to Listen
As anyone who’s had their heart broken knows, the days and weeks — and even months and years — following a bad breakup can feel like the proverbial emotional rollercoaster. Your friend may vacillate between all of the aforementioned feelings. She may also experience moments when she’s glad to be quit of her ex, excited about finding someone new, and simply content to spend time with her family and friends.
“Grieving isn’t a linear process,” says Mark Rees, a divorce attorney in Jonesboro AL. “It can take a long time to come to terms with a failed relationship, and everyone’s path looks a little different.”
Your job as a supportive friend is to listen, without passing judgment, as she cycles through those stages. It can also be helpful to remind her that she won’t be on this ride forever. Sooner or later, the ground will feel steady beneath her feet once again.
Don’t Badmouth the Ex
This is a tough one, especially if you never liked the guy to begin with. It’s so tempting to rehash the relationship from your perspective and finally let loose with all those criticisms you’ve been keeping close to the vest. However, love and dating experts caution against this approach.
There are a few reasons that it’s not a bright idea to badmouth your buddy’s ex. First, it could erode her trust in you. Because you weren’t honest about your feelings, she might wonder what else you’re keeping from her. And if the two of them eventually get back together, you’ll have some serious egg on your face — and, again, risk alienating your bestie.
Steer Clear of Cliches
“There are plenty of other fish in the sea.” “If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be.” “It’s their loss.” “Everything happens for a reason.” Ugh! If there’s anything a newly dumped person doesn’t want to hear, it’s one of these cliches.
The main objection to spouting old chestnuts like these is that they minimize what your friend had with her sig-O. Saying that there are lots of other eligible guys or gals out there might be technically true, but you’d do better to acknowledge the loss your friend is feeling.
Refrain from Playing Matchmaker
By the same token, don’t attempt to fix your BFF up with your cute neighbor, your cousin, your coworker, or anyone else. Most of the time, rebound relationships aren’t a healthy way to cope with heartbreak. And shoving another potential partner in your friend’s face disrespects the fact that she’s hurting for a very valid reason.
If she wants you to play Cupid — and she seems to be ready to get out there into the dating world again, rather than desperate for distraction from her pain — then that’s another matter. But don’t offer your matchmaking services as a band-aid.
Lastly, Ask How You Can Be Helpful
In sticky interpersonal situations, being straightforward with your own feelings of helplessness can, paradoxically, be very helpful for your friend. Tell her that you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, but that you want to support her. Ask her what she needs — and then respect her requests.
And don’t be surprised if she needs a Schitt’s-Creek-and-pizza binge one day, a night out on the town dancing her cares away the next, and complete solitude for the remainder of the week.
Just be generous with the reminders that you’re there to help, whatever that may mean at any given time.
Final Thoughts on Breakups
In a perfect world, we’d all be happily paired off and no one would ever go through a breakup. That’s not possible, but it certainly cushions the blow to have a good friend by your side as you grieve the relationship and learn how to move on. If you can provide that support for your heartbroken BFF, you two will become even closer than ever.
Want to make sure your own relationship is as healthy as possible? Check out our two-part guide to sticking together as a happy couple.