How to Help a Friend Who’s Going Through a Breakup

the dos and don'ts
written by HAILEY BOUCHE
Source: mikhail-nilov | Pexels
Source: mikhail-nilov | Pexels

There is no other way to put this: Breakups are complicated as hell. It doesn’t matter what happened, which partner initiated it, or if it was amicable or not, going through a breakup can be frustrating, sad, relieving, and confusing all at the same time for both people. There are plenty of books and blogs that explain how to navigate it, but truthfully, I don’t think anyone has ever perfected how to get through a breakup gracefully. And if we aren’t pros on our own, how are we supposed to know how to help a friend through a breakup?

If you’ve tried to support a friend who was going through a breakup or you are working through it right now with one of your besties, you know that finding the right thing to say to them isn’t easy, and knowing how to be there for them when and how they need you to be can be even more difficult. There is a fine line between not being supportive enough and being overbearing and saying the right or wrong thing. But rest assured, you don’t have to be an expert to help a friend through a breakup—all you need to do is keep the dos and don’ts we are breaking down ahead in mind.


Do: Allow them to process in their own way

And just as importantly, in their own time. Breakups look different for everyone, and it’s not our job to tell our friends how they should process theirs. If they want to cry on the couch and watch Dirty Dancing for a week like Jess in New Girl, so be it! Alternatively, if they want to distract themselves so much that they don’t grieve at all, let them, but make sure that you are there when their emotions finally set in. The way they move on is their own decision, and as a friend, all you need to do is support them. Only intervene if and when there is cause for concern. For example, if they start excessively drinking or if they start to skip work or miss important deadlines, gently let them know you are concerned and ask them how you can help get them back on their feet.


Don’t: Talk badly about their ex

Now is not the time to say anything along the lines of “thank gosh, they were terrible,” “I never liked them anyway,” or worse, “I knew they weren’t right for you from the beginning”. These comments are not helpful in any way, and they won’t make your friend feel any better. If anything, they will probably just get upset with you for never telling them how you really felt in the first place or start to feel judged by you. If they want to talk trash about their ex, they can do that, but it’s not your place to start that dialogue—even if they really were the worst.


Do: Check in every few days

Sending a text or calling your friend every few days to check in and say hi—especially if you can’t be there for them in person—will go a really long way. Ask them how their week is going, tell them something funny that happened, tell them about a new show you’re loving that you think they’ll like too, and talk as you normally would with them. If their breakup doesn’t come up in conversation, that’s OK. Let them know that you are there for them to talk about everything or talk about nothing, and leave the ball in their court knowing that they have you to lean on if they need it.



Don’t: Push them into dating

Listen closely: Your friend will start dating again when they are good and ready. I know we always hear the phrase “the best way to get over someone is to get with someone else,” but really, when has that actually worked for anyone? Dating when you’re not truly ready to open yourself up again is a setup for more disappointment, and rebounding doesn’t make anyone feel good either. So leave the “let’s get you back out there!” encouragement at the door, and let your friend make the decision of when or if they will start dating again without the outside pressure.


Do: Make fun plans

Your friend probably has a lot of free time on their hands now, and while it’s important that they allow themselves some time to be alone, they probably don’t want to spend all of their time by themselves. Ask them if they are free to go out to dinner, head to a farmers market, check out a winery, go to the nail salon, or anything else you can think of that will give them something to look forward to. But take note: Whatever you choose to do, refrain from saying anything like “I’m just trying to keep you busy,” because you never want them to feel like they are a burden or that their breakup is the only reason you asked them on a girlfriend date.


Don’t: Get in the middle

Especially if your friend and their ex were together for a while, you probably became pretty good friends with their partner during their relationship. This makes navigating a breakup all the more difficult—for the couple and their mutual friends. But remember that at the end of the day, their breakup is between them. You can support them both as friends, but be careful not to become a mediator or take sides. Similarly, don’t try to repair their relationship either.


Do: Help them see the bright side

Breakups are gloomy, no matter which way you look at it, but you know what they say: When one door closes, another one opens. This is the start of a new chapter for your friend, and it’s important that they start to see little glimpses of that as they move on. If there has ever been anything they’ve wanted to do that they didn’t get around to doing during their relationship (like a hobby they’ve talked about starting or the business idea they’ve been scheming but haven’t moved forward with yet), encourage them to go for it! Being able to see a life filled with things that excite them can help them be optimistic about what the future holds.