How To Help Your Best Friend Through A Breakup, According To Experts
I think to say that breakups are the worst, just might be an understatement. No matter how the relationship came to an end or how long the couple was together, it hurts like hell. While not all breakups feel the same, they definitely take their toll, emotionally, mentally, and, if you don't take care of yourself, physically. Breakups aren't just devastating, but debilitating, interfering with even your day-to-day activities.
The only thing worse than experiencing your own breakup is watching your best friend go through a breakup of their own. Because you know exactly what it's like, exactly how it feels, exactly what they're going through, and you also know there's not a damn thing you can possibly do or say to make the pain go away. Although, of course, that doesn't stop you from offering the cliché advice — it just takes time, it's their loss, you're an effing catch, and so on — that everyone offers, and that your friend probably offered you during your last breakup, too.
Because breakups are so difficult and, as a best friend, it's your job to step up to the plate and do whatever you can to ease their anguish, here are seven ways to help your best friend through a breakup.
1. Let Your Friend Decide What She Wants To Do
As the best friend, one of the most important tasks you have at a time like this is to both distract your friend and entertain them. But, you need to do it on their terms. The last thing you want to do is force your friend to do something, just to get them out of the house and moving, only to have it backfire. Instead, ask them what would help take their mind off things and let them decide.
"You should follow your friend’s lead," relationship therapist, Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Does she want to go out and party and talk to new [people]? Or does she want to burrow under the covers and watch Netflix? Whichever it is, let her call the shots."
2. Do Your Best To Keep Them Off Social Media
"If someone is struggling through a breakup and fixated on their ex, staying actively engaged in the relationship through social media will make it harder to move forward and the recovery will take longer," Dr. Cortney Warren, clinical psychologist and contributing EXpert for EXaholics.com, tells Bustle. If your friend's social media or phone habits are preventing them from moving on, offer some healthier suggestions.
After a horrible breakup I had several years ago, not only did two of my best friends change my Facebook password, but they took my phone away for a week so I couldn't send any drunken texts to my ex. Not to downplay my love for that particular guy, but not having my iPhone for a week might have been even more difficult than losing him. In the end, although I would end up texting him a few times when I got my phone back (they deleted his number, but I had it memorized), it was one of the best things they could have done — if only to prove to me they loved me that much and gave that much of a damn about my mental health.
3. Be Careful What You Say About Their Ex
"The other important thing to be aware of during a friend’s breakup is to be careful not to trash her ex too much!" says Hartstein. "There’s always the distinct possibility that the breakup might not take and then you are the friend who hates her boyfriend!"
As much as you may want to be that friend who slams that ex while your BFF suffers from whatever they did, you need to put a cap on it. As Hartstein points out, it's going to be really awkward if they get back together. Like, really awkward.
4. But Also Be Realistic About Their Ex
While putting a cap on trashing your best friend's ex is a good idea, if only to prevent any future issues, if there was abuse involved, then that's a whole other story. In this case, it's not just about trashing them, but really driving home to your friend just how essential it is to her welfare that she never return to that abusive partner again.
"Of course if the [partner] was physically abusive, in which case you should be very clear about how harmful [they've] been to her," says Hartstein.
5. Support Them However They Need To Grieve
Everyone grieves differently and every loss, no matter how small or large, should be grieved. As psychotherapist Barbara Neitlich, LCSW, tells Bustle, grieving involves crying, getting angry, yelling, and basically being a menace to society. Why? Because a breakup tears a heart from someone's chest and throws it on the floor!
So if you show up at your best friend's house and they're blaring an empowering breakup song like "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gaynor while screaming along to the lyrics and eating a wheel of cheese that they haven't even bothered to slice, don't judge. Ask for a bite of that wheel of cheese and sing right along with them.
6. Sit And Listen
"Mostly you should just be there for her," says Hartstein. "Breakups can be very devastating and debilitating."
I realize it can be exhausting to listen to the same thing over and over again, as your best friend rehashes what happened, what didn't happen, what could have been done differently, and all the rest of it. But it's important to remember that you did the same thing during your breakups and your best friend sat there and listened.
7. Suggest A Therapist
At some point, you might realize you've given everything you can and you have nothing left. It's not that you're giving up and abandoning your best friend, but that you understand that some of it is just out of your jurisdiction. It's at this point, that you should suggest to your best friend that it might be time to get professional help. But don't just leave it at that — help them find a therapist they like and, if they don't want to go alone to their first session, then go with them.
"If you find that she’s having trouble getting out of bed, getting to work, or seems extraordinarily depressed, then you should suggest she see a therapist," says Hartstein. "Sometimes people need a little professional help to get them back on their feet."
Although nothing can heal a broken heart except time — and lots of it — you, as a best friend, have a very important job to do. And that job is being there for your best friend 110 percent. She'd do the same for you.