How to Help Your BFF Through a Breakup
Has your bestie just ended things with his or her S.O.? You already know the right flavor of ice cream to bring over, but it can be tough to know what to do next. And no matter where your friend is in the breakup process, she or he needs your support more than ever, so you want to get it right. We asked communication and dating experts to help us out with their recommendations for building up your friend while they’re going through a split. Grab two spoons and scroll on for their top tips.
1. Nail their communication (or non-communication) style. If you don’t know exactly what to say to a friend post-breakup, just ask, says Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships. “We don’t all have the same communication style. Some people prefer directness [and some prefer] indirectness in communication,” she explains. Find out whether your friend would like to vent via text or over the phone, or if they’d rather meet for a coffee to chat. Some friends, Tannen says, may even want to avoid the subject of the split altogether. If that’s their style, she says, respect it and don’t push the topic.
2. Don’t bad mouth the ex. Whatever you do, skip the name-calling. “You never know if your friend will go back to their ex, so it is always important to weigh our words when we are talking about people that they care about,” says Ezgi Ceren Isik, the in-house expert at the dating app Once, which matches you with one compatible user per day to encourage a more authentic connection between pairs. “Avoid using very harsh language that can’t be taken back or easily forgotten,” she adds. The only exception? If you have a serious problem with the former S.O. and it’s a close friend. “If you feel comfortable enough, feel free to say something, but be honest with your reasons and whether you’re biased in some way. What we think is right for our friends may not actually be right for them,” says Nicole Sbordone , a licensed clinical social worker and author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. But most of the time, it’s best to put aside your own feelings and focus on listening to your friend’s. “Talk about how they can learn from this experience and move on,” Sbordone says.
3. Give them some TLC. Experts say one of the critical pieces of healing from a breakup is showing yourself as much love and gentleness as possible, so help your friend help themselves. Invite your bestie to join in on any part of your regular self-care routine, like meditation, a spa day, a spin class, or weekend brunch. “Self-care will not only help by easing their emotional pain, but it also keeps them focused on the future,” says Sal Raichbach, a psychologist at Ambrosia Treatment Center. And consider sweating it out: Raichbach says that research shows that mild exercise every day improves symptoms of depression and anxiety.
4. Whisk your friend away. Taking your friend along on any kind of getaway — particularly one where they can get some perspective by being in nature — can be a great way to show that you’re there for them, says Frowsa Booker-Drew, owner of Soulstice Consultancy and author of Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last. “Sometimes providing presence is critical when our friends are going through storms in their lives,” she says. “It isn’t more advice that’s needed; it’s knowing that someone loves you and is allowing you space to just be present with no expectations.”
5. Hold them accountable. Sometimes helping a friend through the ups and downs of a breakup means being the bad guy. (Someone needs to be the voice of reason when it comes to 2am texts or Insta-stalking their former flame’s rebound on Instagram.) Jane Reardon, a licensed therapist in LA and founder of the app Rx Breakup, a guide to moving past a relationship, prescribes “30 days of self-love and no contact with your ex” as a breakup remedy. “In order to have clarity about what went wrong with the relationship, figure out if things are truly fixable, and what your feelings really are, space is necessary. Otherwise, you can end up in a vicious cycle of limbo and confusion, and that will not help you move on,” Reardon says. So be a true friend: Help your BFF give themselves the space they need.
6. Just be there. “Don’t underestimate the value of just being there for them, just showing up,” Tannen says. “Call briefly, and keep offering to do things; it could be a text, photo, or phone conversation. But those little things show the person you care.”
What’s the sweetest thing a friend’s done for you during a bad breakup? Share your story with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
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