DO's and DON'Ts for Helping a Friend Through a Breakup
We've all been there. Your friend is heartbroken. You care about her. You want to be there for her. You also might, just possibly, be feeling a teensy little bit frustrated with her. Here are some tips to help you navigate your friend's breakup and hopefully emerge with the friendship (and your sanity) intact.
DO LISTEN. It's one of the most helpful and important things you can do for your friend. Just listen, nod, and let her know that you hear what she's saying and that you understand. It's so simple and yet so often we don't do it!
DON'T LECTURE, PREACH, OR GIVE ADVICE (UNLESS SHE ASKS FOR IT). It's a trap for both of you because you end up having the same conversation over and over again. Letting her go over the same thing more or less on her own 2 or 3 times without a lot of input from you is actually more healing for her. And although it may seem challenging at first to just sit and listen, eventually it ends up being less draining for you, too.
DO reach out just to say hi and that you're thinking of her with calls, texts, emails, etc. The feeling of loss of contact and communication can be one of the hardest parts of a rough breakup -- remind her that someone really cares. (One way you can let her know you're thinking about her is to send one of our free e-cards)
DON'T compare her current situation with yours from the past. Let her have her moment. After some time has gone by and her wounds are less fresh, you can swap war stories.
DO set boundaries and take care of yourself. Yes, it's helpful to listen, but it's also okay to take breaks and set limits. Ask if you can call her back later if you need some time off. If it's feeling like all you do is talk about the breakup for hours on end, suggest that you spend a specific amount of time talking about it (let's say 15 minutes) and during that time she'll have your complete and undivided attention. After that you both agree to change the subject. Tell her that a psychologist (that would be me!) recommends this for her as a way of honoring her feelings while not letting the breakup take over her life.
DON'T forget to have fun together. Just like the breakup shouldn't take over her own life, it shouldn't highjack your friendship either. Make sure you spend some time doing things you both enjoy, while letting her know that you'll still be there when she's feeling sad. Otherwise your friend may stay stuck in "woe is me" mode because she's afraid that if you see her acting okay for a while you won't let her be sad ever again. Let her know that you understand that she can have good AND bad days, and that you're there to share both of them with her.
DO feel free to criticize her ex in vague, general terms in her favor when she is angry and venting. Saying things like, "What a loser!", "I can't believe he said that to you, that jerk!" and "He really blew it, big time!" are usually good bets!
DON'T go overboard with trashing the ex. Don't get angrier about him than your friend does, don't bring up any personal complains you've been holding against him, and avoid specific insults or criticisms about his appearance, personality, etc. These are the ones that tend to come back to haunt you. On the off chance that your friend ends up getting back together with the guy, you don't want your comment about his freakishly small, pointy head floating out there.
DO act as a voice of reason and save her from herself when she's about to do something crazy. See if you can confiscate her phone if you're headed out for "forget him!" cocktails, and hide her keys if she's talking about driving over to confront him at his new girlfriend's house (yikes!). Tell her that you would definitely want her to do the same for you if you were in her position. If she's really set on doing something you think is a bad idea, instead of continuing to argue about it just ask her to give it a 24 hour waiting period (kind of like buying a gun).
DO send her a Breakup Coach E-card to help cheer her up. And if you've followed all of this advice and she's still driving you a little crazy, try sending her the link to my article about being a good friend while you're going through a breakup. It can't hurt. You can also let her know about my free, personalized breakup coaching programs that will give her daily support with customized emails designed just for her (and might take a little of the burden off of you).