What To Do When A Friend Isn't There For You During A Breakup (AKA The Worst Situation Ever)
Ask this breakup coach why breakups suck and I could go on and on. It doesn't matter who initiates it, or if it's mutually agreed upon; when a relationship ends, tears are often shed by both parties. And given that newly single folks are often told not to reach out to their exes for comfort, it makes perfect sense when the tears won't stop flowing.
That's why friends are so important during a breakup. Not only do they laugh when we laugh, but they wipe our tears when we cry. Silver linings are hard to come by during breakups, but the encouragement of a good friend often tops the list. Simply put, without a reliable support network, true healing is a long shot. Very few people can deal with heartbreak in a vacuum.
So what happens if a friend you thought you could count on during a breakup is nowhere to be found? Unfortunately, when a good friend isn't there for you during a hard time, it can feel like betrayal. Dealing with that, in addition to the pain of your breakup, can be overwhelming. And when you feel overwhelmed, it's hard to figure out what to do to feel better.
That said, here are a few steps to take if you find yourself pining for a friend's attention after a breakup. I thought of these ideas so you don't have to — you have enough on your plate right now.
1. Take A Quick Inventory Of Your Friend's Life Circumstances
About a week after my first major breakup, my best friend told me she was pregnant. While I was trying to put the pieces of my life back together, she was trying to figure out how she was going to raise another human being. Neither one of us could meet each other's needs and we gradually grew apart. I was devastated, until one day it hit me: Her life was no longer conducive to getting drunk and complaining about guys. And I needed to accept that.
Human beings are self-centered. We can't help it; it's in our DNA. We are wired to look out for ourselves first. During times of major stress, our lives don't always leave enough room for us to care for others in the ways they would like.
With that in mind, think about the current demands on your friend's life. Did she just start a new job or recently get engaged? In general, folks who are experiencing transition are often swamped and focused on their own life struggles. For instance, you're probably not jumping at the chance to help plan a wedding right now. That's because your need to mend your heart feels little more important.
If you think about it long enough, you might better understand why your friend has been MIA lately. More than likely, despite her numerous responsibilities, she still wants to be there for you. If so, you might be able to see her as busy instead of inconsiderate. That might not make her absence any easier to deal with, but understanding is the key to re-connection.
2. Figure Out What You Need — From Her And From Others
It's normal to feel needy after your world falls apart. The folks who love you most won't mind; they'll just help you put it back together again. You probably expected your friend to be one of those people, which is why you're so hurt right now. It's disappointing when expectations aren't met.
I recommend thinking about what you need in order to feel safe and loved again. Maybe you need to hang out with your friend once a week, text her when you feel tempted to contact your ex, and have her distract you when your anniversary rolls around. You might also need to start going to the gym again, help with rearranging your apartment, and a new wardrobe.
This particular friend might be the only person you want to help you do all of those things, but it's important that you consider whether that's a reasonable desire. If she's super busy, there may be other people in your world who can help you meet your needs. Therapists and coaches exist for a reason. And don't forget, you might be able to meet some of your own needs, after you've gotten over the initial shock.
3. Talk To Her
I understand this step might be really hard for you. Gently confronting a friend requires vulnerability, and vulnerability isn't easy. Putting yourself out there is probably the opposite of the safety you're likely craving.
But again, understanding is the key to re-connection. And if your friend has no understanding of how you're feeling, you can give up any hope of connecting with her. Additionally, keeping your disappointment to yourself can quickly turn into bitterness, if you're not careful.
Here are some things you can say to start the conversation:
"I miss you. What's been going on?"
"I'll be honest, I've been going through some hard stuff and I'm a little disappointed that we haven't hung out more."
"I think I really need someone to check in with me more often. Do you think you could do that a few times a week?"
"Are we okay? I ask because I haven't heard from you a lot lately and with me being so sad, that's been hard for me."
I also strongly recommend talking face-to-face or on the phone, as opposed to emailing or texting. Tone can be easily misconstrued via email and text and it will only drive you crazy if your friend doesn't respond as quickly as you'd like.
4. Know When It's Time To Focus Your Energy Elsewhere
Going back to my previous point, sometimes humans are selfish. If your friend continues to blow you off, despite your attempts at reaching out, your energy might be best focused elsewhere. You can only give someone the benefit of the doubt for so long. You deserve friends who can be bothered to support you.
Maybe she's dealing with something deeper than a busy schedule. Or maybe you've offended her in some way and she's not fessing up. Whatever her deal is, complaining about her is nothing but a waste of your energy. You've got a life to live and a heart to heal. And quite honestly, her disappearance has resulted in a second heartbreak. Prolonged bitterness will do nothing to make that better.
Which brings me to my last point...
5. Try To Let It Go
The key word here is "try." You and I both know you're basically Superwoman, but when it comes to matters of heartache, even Superwoman gets a pass. No one expects you to get over this overnight; you're in a fragile state right now. Your relationship just ended and your friend bailed on you during your time of need. That's definitely not cool.
But still, you've got to try. Checking out her Facebook everyday and complaining about her to other friends might feel tempting in the moment, but those things aren't helping your cause in the longterm. Any time spent being angry with her is time being taken away from you. And right now, you desperately need your own time and attention.
So for now, let it go. Yes, it's tough to say goodbye, especially to someone you never thought you'd have to take some space from. But as you adjust, you'll find the energy to dive into other, more supportive friendships. Eventually, you'll feel proud of yourself for setting boundaries, even when it hurts. And this experience will certainly teach you how to act towards your friends during their times of need.
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