Breakup Advice

Breakup Advice for a Friend Going Through a Hard Time

When a good friend of mine was going through a bad breakup, I knew I what the best advice to give him was, because I had gone through a difficult time myself when my own relationship broke down.

In this article I’m going to share with you the things you need to do for a friend in need. Right now, your support is more important than anything else, as you’ll soon come to realise.

Let’s do this.

The best things to say to a friend going through a breakup are positive things. Avoid dwelling on your friend’s breakup but do listen to all they have to say and be sympathetic. Being there to support them is more important than the actual words you say to them.

The next few days are crucial for your friend and there’s a lot you can do to speed up his breakup recovery.

Read on to make sure you do the right things in the right order.

The best thing to say to a friend going through a breakup is very little

The first words you say to your friend matter more than you think.

Although this may be your best friend, you need to explain why you’re visiting. This is a time of confusion for your friend, especially if it was a devastating breakup for him. Right now, when he’s feeling low, he may not trust anyone.

When I went through my own breakup, my buddy turned up and, unexpectedly, said all the wrong things. He even made a joke about hitting on her next time he saw her now that she was single.

He simply didn’t know what to say, and he thought it would be a good idea to tease me. He’s a great friend and he meant well, but he has no idea to this day how crap his words made me feel at that moment. Moreover, it made me suspicious of anybody visiting – I was convinced they were popping in to see me for the juicy details, and maybe even to laugh at me behind my back.

Those were the days when I had no confidence in myself, and certainly the days before I wrote How to get over your ex.

Similarly, your friend may not fully trust you right now. That is, until you explain yourself.

Be brief. Say something like, I thought you could do with some company. Or, I’m here for you, man.

What you actually say depends on the dynamics of your relationship with your friend. I’m just giving you a guideline here.

When I turned up at my friend’s door, he opened the door and I lifted a stack of beers. No words were needed. He knew I would be staying the night on his sofa.

What to do to support your broken hearted friend

Initially, your friend will feel the need to vent about his breakup and will tell you everything in detail. It’s an odd psychological trait: people explain themselves when you remain silent.

Let him vent. He’s going to say all he needs to say to get things off his chest. Keep in mind that he’s probably been dealing with a lot of things in his mind and you may be the first person he talks to after his split.

This is the time for you to remain silent. Nod and say things that let your friend know you’re listening and you’re sympathetic.

My friend talked for hours when I sat down on his couch. None of what he was saying interested me – I’m not naturally curious about other people’s stuff, especially if it’s bad news – but I gritted my teeth and nodded and said oh no when it was required.

There are certain things that your friend is not ready to hear right now and may even anger him. Let’s take a look at those now.

Things not to say to a friend after a breakup

Don’t talk about his previous relationship just yet. At this point, he’s the only one allowed to mention it.

Don’t say stuff like there’s plenty of fish in the sea. This is obvious and patronising. Your friend knows there are plenty of people around who would make suitable partners, and he also knows that people breakup all the time. But those things don’t matter to him right now – he’s grieving.

Avoid talk of future relationships and don’t talk about attractive people as if that’s going to distract him. It’s not.

Avoid acting like a relationship expert and dishing out break up advice. Your friend hasn’t even started the healing process – he’s still in shock – so don’t start talking about the things he needs to do, like getting out there and hanging out with friends.

Also, don’t talk in depth about your own breakups or somebody else’s bad break. Mention things about your breakup that your friend says to establish something in common. But don’t hog the limelight.

Likewise, don’t mention mutual friends who went through a difficult breakup – in fact, avoid talking about the difficulties of breakups period.

Don’t try to sound super positive either and avoid talk of romantic relationships. When a relationship ends badly, the last thing you want to hear is how well other people are doing in theirs.

Just chill. Say little and listen a lot. Employ the 80/20 rule: make sure 80% of what you do is listening. All your buddy needs to know right now is that he’s not alone.

Ask what you can do to help

If you’re able to stay around for a few days, then great. But even if you’re not, when the ranting has stopped, ask what you can do to help out. I’m talking about house chores, even grabbing a few things from the supermarket.

Help them take care of chores and tasks

Your friend may turn your offer down at first, out of politeness (or because he can’t think straight right now). Look around and see what needs to be done. There is always stuff to be done.

You can bet your savings that your friend hasn’t been washing the dishes lately. Suggest tackling a few house chores like washing the dishes, but don’t go crazy and start thinking you need do redecorate his home.

Dishes are important because you need glasses to pour your beer into, but also because you’re going to need to eat something, as you’ll see next.

Get a takeaway and settle in

Don’t ask your friend if he’s hungry. Of course he’s hungry. He’s had a bad break!

Order a takeaway and pour more beer. Junk food is fine right now and he’ll feel a lot better with a full stomach.

If he’s a close friend, then hopefully you can stay the night. When my own friend’s relationship ended, I brought some comedy DVDs that we had both enjoyed in the past, with the objective of spending a long night watching TV.

We did watch TV into the wee hours, but my friend didn’t laugh at all. In fact, he watched TV but he didn’t really register much.

Be prepared for your friend doing the same. Don’t expect him to fill up with positive feelings no matter what you say or do. It takes time for a failed relationship to sink in. His mind is full of conflicting thoughts right now, not to mention the rest of the negative mind chatter that comes with a breakup.

When the time is right, say a little more

Later on in the day (or night), once your friend has vented, his attention will turn to you. At this point, he may even look suspicious. Unless you and your friend are very close, he may wonder why you’re there. More specifically, what’s in it for you.

This is the time to actually talk, so you don’t look like you’re soaking up his breakup story and saying nothing in return.

But be mindful of what you say.

Now is not the time to chat about single people who you think could be the next romantic partner. Instead, talk about your friend’s ex girlfriend but only to echo anything he says.

Just remember to keep it general.

For example, if his ex was an abusive partner full of toxic behaviours or theirs was a bad relationship, then let him know that you know and understand.

Saying things like she was no good for you is fine, especially if it’s true. Just don’t say you can do better because that implies he failed to get a decent girlfriend.

Remind them they are much better off without a bad partner

As your friend starts the grief process, there will be more mental bandwidth for processing information and understanding.

Until then, you can gently remind them that being single has many advantages. A single person can get a lot of things done and a lot of their bucket list checked off.

Your friend likely had to compromise on some things when he was in a relationship, and the fact that those restrictions no longer apply is cause to celebrate, so it’s worth mentioning.

Remind them they won’t always feel this way

One of the last things you should say to your friend is that things will get better. Time heals, as they say. Tell them that, although it may not seem that way right now, things will be better.

Remind them of what not to do for their own sakes

When I stayed at my friend’s house, he had the radio on while we tackled the dirty dishes. I gently reminded him that radio stations play sad love songs (or even happy love songs) continually.

I reminded him that listening to those songs, even subconsciously, would keep him feeling sad. I suggested instead playing some DVDs.

When you feel the time is right, remind them that stalking their ex on social media is not a good idea either. They need to establish healthy boundaries for themselves, that those should include not stalking anybody.

Likewise, going online to search for true love (to put it one way) is not a good idea at this moment. A rebound relationship is the last thing your friend needs. Lonely nights are not an excuse either. Finding true love (or a decent partner is something that needs to be left until after your friend has recovered from his breakup.

Give them a gift that can help them

If you can give your friend a gift, that gift should ideally be something that can help them on their way to recovery.

One book I (naturally) recommend is my own book Get over your ex. The book has a step by step process for dealing with a breakup and regaining your confidence and self-esteem.

Your friend may not feel like reading right now, but trust me, when you’re gone and he’s alone, he’s going to reach for anything that can help.

If your friend is suicidal, act

Be aware of how the relationship ended and how emotionally involved your friend was, and watch out for signs of the unthinkable. If you think your friend is suicidal, don’t mess around or pussy-foot. Talk straight and don’t leave his side.

Grab your phone and search for a suicide prevention lifeline or equivalent in your area (or even the Good Samaritans). Do whatever you need to do to get your friend talking to a professional.

Also, inform mutual friends of what’s going on and perhaps even family. If somebody is waiting for your return, then let them know you’ll be late. If it’s imperative that you be elsewhere, then make sure you get a replacement to stand in for you. If you screw this up, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Summary

Friends are precious, and sometimes we need to step up to the plate and help them through a difficult time, such as when they’re going through a breakup.

Explain briefly why you’re visiting and bring things to show that you’re there for as long as he needs (beer, coffee, games, DVDs, whatever suits).

Don’t say much at first. Let your friend talk and vent about his ex and sympathise with him. Your job is to be a sound board at this stage.

Ask what you can help with (things around the house, and even food shopping) and lend a hand with basic house chores.

Grab a takeaway and when you sense your friend is done talking, offer some encouragement about the current situation by reminding him that being single opens up a lot of new opportunities.

The most important thing is let your friend know you’re there for him.

Finally, if you think your friend may be suicidal, act immediately and make sure mutual friends and family know, and try to get him talking to a trained professional on the phone before you even think of leaving his side.

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