By Priscilla Rodriguez
Breakups are hard, even if it’s your friend going through the split instead of you. These situations are almost always complicated: maybe you loved their significant other, or maybe you disliked them for valid reasons. Either way, it makes it all that much more difficult to know how to help a friend through a break up, and exactly what to say or what to do to help your friend get through this time.
So what are some of the best ways to help your friend through a breakup? Be sure to provide them with a support system, think of their feelings above all, and follow the expert advice below.
Don’t play the comparison game
It’s normal to want to share parts of our own relationship experience as we’re listening to someone discuss their breakup, but it’s often not the best way to go about helping someone deal with heartbreak. “This may seem like a natural way of empathizing, but when someone is telling you about their breakup and you reply by turning it back to you, it doesn’t make the person feel better,” says Amy Chan, founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp. Instead, concentrate on the situation that your friend is going through.
Focus on the present
Avoid telling your friend things like, “you’re better off,” or “you’ll find someone else,” even if that’s how you might be feeling when you’re seeing your friend hurt. “What may or may not happen in the future is not helpful in the here and now,” explains psychiatrist Dr. Anjani Amladi. “Right now your friend needs you to be present and supportive.” It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what to say; Dr. Amladi encourages listening, above all. “That way the person struggling can explain to you how they feel and what they need,” she says.
Keep the conversation positive
It might be difficult for your friend to feel hopeful or optimistic right now, so Dr. Laura Louis of Atlanta Couple Therapy suggests getting them in a positive headspace by reminding them of their successes, offering kind words, or joining them in an endorphin-releasing activity (anything involving movement should do the trick). “During a breakup, it can be easy to slip into a dark and negative headspace,” says Dr. Louis. “Don’t say anything negative or anything that puts blame on your friend. Instead, say, ‘I will help you every step of the way to make sure you get through this and heal.’”
Don’t be invested in their relationship outcome
Often our words of advice in situations like these are guided by how we felt about our friend’s significant other. If we liked the person, sometimes our hope is that the two will eventually get back together. If we weren’t a fan, then we tend to want our friends to completely move on from the person.
But, as so many of us know, breakups can be extremely confusing. “Your friend might feel really confident about their decision to break up,” says marriage and family therapist Dr. Dena DiNardo. “And then a week later, things might change. They aren’t so confident, or they changed their mind, or they realized that their perspective is shifting and they want to get back together. Even if you disagree, support them and their ability to decide for themselves. No matter the outcome, it’s their journey and your unconditional understanding and support can only help them.”
Through it all, it’s important to remember breakups are never easy for anyone—no matter the situation. So be as supportive, loving, and understanding as you can.