It can be hard enough navigating your own romantic relationships, now you have to help others too? It’s true, sometimes you’ll be required by the bonds of friendship to step out of your self-involved cocoon and help your bestie with their relationship problems. Every good friend knows that when you get the “It’s over between me and Josh” text, it is your job to grab some Ben & Jerry’s and beer and lend an ear. On top of always agreeing that their mother is wrong about their career prospects and that the person who made their life hell back in high school definitely got fat by now, best friend rule #1 is always being there after a bad break up.
However, it’s easy to accidentally say the wrong thing when you probably should just listen instead. Be careful. People tend to be extremely raw and sensitive after a relationship goes south, so it is best to tread lightly. While there are many, many ways to screw this up, here are a few guidelines on what to avoid when you’re trying to keep the recently single from unraveling.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Ordered universe or random chance, a break up is going to hurt like hell either way. By removing their agency and making them feel like they wasted their time without any say in the matter, your friend is probably going to feel even more low. Sure, it could make them feel like all of the pain they’re feeling now is one piece to the puzzle they have to solve in order to find true love, but that’s not really how life works, is it? This just doesn’t quite hold up to rational thought.
“Being single is more fun anyway.”
Whether or not this is true, no one wants to be reminded up their newfound single status right away. While being single can be super fun, it can also be intimidating. If someone is used to having an automatic plus one and Netflix binge partner, being reminded that they have to find a new one can be daunting. Plus, all of the body maintenance that comes with new sex partners is terrifying enough. It’s not all fun and games being single, so let’s take baby steps towards the new reality.
“Time to sign up for Tinder!”
Continuing along that thread: Let them ease into the nightmare hellscape that is online dating, especially if they are getting out of a long-term relationship. While the casual flirting period will come in time, immediately after the death knell is probably not the time. No one really wants to be on Tinder or any other dating app, so forcing a pal into it is probably not the way to go.
“Maybe you’ll get back together?”
This is in the back of nearly everyone’s mind after a breakup, but it doesn’t help to dwell. While some couples do find reconciliation and are stronger for it, this is not usually the case. Couples break up for a reason, and that reason is that the relationship just isn’t working. Focusing on the might-have-beens is no way to recover.
“They’re probably cheating on you anyway.”
COOL. THIS FEELS SO MUCH BETTER. While you’re probably just trying to make them feel more justified in the break, this will probably just make them hurt more. Instead of making them feel justified in the breakup, it will probably just make them wonder why they “weren’t enough.”
Seriously, just pop in a movie (but not one about infidelity) and share a giant bag of candy.
“Just remember all of the bad times.”
While this could work as a form of aversion therapy, it could also make them feel even worse. There is no doubt that your friend is reliving all of the bad times as well as the good, but telling them to focus on the minutiae of every single fight is only going to make them angry. Angry people have more energy to be self-destructive than sad people, so this method will probably end with a very public scene followed by even more tears. Also, if it was that bad, they might feel like they wasted time — like they were just hanging on hoping for things to turn around and then they never did.
“Don’t waste your time feeling sad about them.”
Listen, people need to be allowed to grieve in their own way. If they need to spend a little time wallowing, let them. Delegitimizing their feelings isn’t a fair response as a friend, and grief is an important part of the healing process. This may be one of the uglier things you have to witness, but friendship can’t all be sunshine and rainbows.
“I wish I was single now too!”
They’ll know this is a lie. While the agency and freedom that comes with being single is pretty rad, there is usually still a certain level of uncertainty and loneliness that unfortunately comes with it. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s probably best to avoid mentioning it all together.
Plus, and here’s an important note: THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU. This is about them.
“I saw this coming.”
Informing your friend that you saw this train wreck coming and did nothing is only going to backfire on you and hurt them. Again, as it probably needs to be repeated: this is not the time to be “right.” Everyone likes to think that they have the inside knowledge and foresight to see how a relationship is really doing under the surface, but this kind of response has such a gross lack of empathy. Even if you did see it coming, some things are just better left unsaid.