Much like other females in their mid-twenties, I have more than a few not-so-supportive friends and have gotten the WORST breakup advice in the history of life. (I also have some really GREAT friends!!! But…) Some of my friends’ versions of “comforting” me only made me question the friendship and in some cases, end the friendship entirely. (Not every loss is a loss… see my post on toxic friendships!)
When your friend is going through a breakup and comes to you for help… they are sensitive, vulnerable, devastated, and sometimes maybe even a little erratic. It really puts your friendship to the test. A breakup is one of the top most traumatic experiences a person can go through if it was a long-term relationship or marriage. Maybe they lost their virginity to this person. Maybe they have become extremely emotionally dependent on this person. This is your cue to jump in and help him or her discover exactly what they need to start on that long and winding path of healing, or maybe just be the listening ear that they are seeking. It’s also possible that they don’t want to talk about it at all and just want someone to distract them. (If this is the case, no advice is recommended. Respect their needs. Don’t push.) I know I’m not the only one who has gotten Guinness’s record-breaking ‘worst advice ever’, which is probably why you’re reading this post. Do you have friends or family members that give you really bad breakup advice? Or do you want to know if YOU are giving your friend really bad breakup advice? You came to the right place. JUST ASK BLAIRE! I’ve got you!
First, I am going to give you a list of the things that should never be said to a friend or loved one going through a breakup. Then I’ll give you a list of things that are said with good intentions and just need to be demolished and rephrased.
Without further ado… LEGGO!
- “He (or she) is ugly anyway…”
This is probably the most commonly used phrase and somehow people think this will make a person feel better about their breakup. It actually has the opposite effect. Your friend already has a running list of pros and cons going in their head (and maybe even on paper) and is obsessing over the loss of their partner, so commenting on their ex being “ugly” will likely just make them think of all of the attractive qualities they have. Obviously, your friend doesn’t think their ex is ugly, or they wouldn’t have dated them. It could also have a negative effect on your friendship because you are inherently saying that they have bad taste. Not something an emotional and confused individual needs to hear at that moment. If you think your friend’s ex is ugly, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! Even if they say down the line “my ex was really ugly, what was I thinking?” Still… no. Think of it this way… if your friend is looking in the mirror and says “I’m fat”, would you say “YES, you are! Stop eating!” ??? No. And if you would, you need to evaluate your life.
- “He (or she) is a loser…”
It’s quite possible that your friend has already come to the conclusion that their ex wasn’t enough for them. Hence the breakup. Or if their ex broke up with them, this statement could lead them along the dark and twisty road of “if he’s a loser and I wasn’t good enough for him, what does that make me? Will I ever be enough for anyone?? Am I unlovable?!?” DO NOT say this to your friend! You don’t want to be the one to initiate a downward spiral. Friends are meant to be supportive and help find a positive perspective on a dire situation. To add more negativity to an already hurtful situation will only make your friend feel worse.
- “It’s not a big deal…”
Come on… really? Why don’t you just punch them in the face? This is the most insensitive thing on this list that you could say to your friend. I don’t have to explain how this is unacceptable. But since you’re here, you might need me to. A breakup is a big deal! The feeling of loss, sadness, confusion, and emptiness can completely overtake someone if they are lacking support. As their friend, they are looking to you for help in sorting out their tangled web of emotions. To say “it’s not a big deal” is basically saying “well I have no emotional connection so I don’t care about you or your feelings”. If your friend has ever said this to you, I’d say this is grounds for a severing of ties. No real friend would even think this, let alone say this, if they love you.
- “I don’t know what you saw in him (or her) in the first place…”
NOOOO. This (like point #1) will just cause them to run down the list of all of the things they love and will miss about their ex. Unless the purpose of the conversation is to help them identify the pros and cons of the relationship, it’s really important to stay away from prompting a visit to ‘the list’ while they are in crisis mode. ‘The list’ is important, but not during a melt-down. It’s really not your place to know what your friend saw in their ex. A relationship between two people isn’t based on what the person’s friends see in their partner. Obviously, they saw a LOT in this person to have been in a long-term relationship with them. Also, downplaying someone’s feelings or views of their ex will lead to more sadness. If they wanted more sadness, they’d stay home, eat their body weight in ice cream, and watch a ton of Grey’s Anatomy or Lifetime Movie Network.
- “FINALLY!” also known as “I told you so!”
Oh my goodness, PLEASE NO! To practically tell your friend that you’ve been standing around in double-dutch mode anticipating the demise of their relationship is extremely hurtful! You should take no pleasure or get any satisfaction out of the fact that your friend just got abandoned or had to let go of someone they love. Your friend likely dealt with a lot of pain to fight and try to make the relationship work with no return on their investment of love and time. So for you to throw a party or collect money on a bet because it didn’t work out is completely unacceptable.
- “I would go off on my boyfriend (or girlfriend) if they ever did (or said) that to me!”
If your friend has been cheated on, or has been verbally or physically abused, or anything similar, the last thing they need is to be reassured of how bad the situation is. By coming to you, they know it’s bad. Try to keep the focus on your friend and not fictional responses you would have if someone did or said that awful thing to you.
Now… there are some things that people say with good intentions but they come out wrong. So the next few things are statements that just need to be reworked to be deemed acceptable…
- “You’ll find someone else.” also known as “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Your friend is not in a place to be thinking about dating another person. When someone goes through a breakup, especially one that isn’t mutual and ended on bad terms, the thought of dating someone else is sickening. Their heart is in pieces and they are trying to salvage what they can. Though it is probably a true statement, they don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to contribute anything to a new relationship directly following a breakup. Therefore, not helpful.
Alternative statement: “You deserve someone who will love and respect you for who you are and appreciate what you offer to the relationship.”
- “The single life is better anyway… less drama.”
Ok… this is borderline. But right after a breakup, no one wants to hear that they are single. Especially if it’s coming from someone in a happy relationship! Even the word ‘single’ should be considered a buzz word when speaking to an emotional wracked person post-breakup. Also, the single life doesn’t necessarily mean less drama. Dating around or participating in random hookups can be MORE drama, actually. There are many benefits to being in a relationship. You have someone to talk to about everything who will (hopefully) not judge you, someone to laugh with and share victories with you, and a companion. Who doesn’t want that??
Alternative statement: “I know this is a hurtful situation, but maybe you can take this time to really evaluate what makes you happy.”
- “I remember when my ex did that… it all started when…” or “How do you think I felt when…”
A person going through a current break does not care about what you went through 3 years ago during your breakup. This is not to say they don’t care about you, but when someone is going through a tough situation, they want to talk to you about that. Don’t flip the focus onto yourself and start reminiscing on your pain. If you recently went through a breakup as well, that’s understandable. But if your friend came to you seeking solace, try to wait until another time to start talking about your own struggles or let them know that you are going through a similar situation and aren’t able to provide the support they need. “But isn’t that insensitive, too?” Not really. It’s honest, and it’s better that you be upfront with them than to start talking about yourself. That way, you look much less selfish and they will understand why you aren’t comforting them the way they need you to. That saying “misery loves company” is a true statement, but two people talking about separate hurtful experiences and not listening or addressing each other’s issues will lead to nowhere. Listen to your friend, respond to what they’re saying, or just be a shoulder.
Alternative statement: “I can relate to your experience and here are some things that helped me heal from it…”
- “I’ll hook you up with someone!”
Again, similar to the first bullet point, your friend is in no position to be trying to give the leftover shards of their heart to a complete stranger. They are feeling extremely sensitive and protective of themselves, and the thought of dating someone new is the last thing on their mind. The myth of “the best way to get over someone is to get on top of someone else” is FALSE! Sleeping with another person when their judgment is likely impaired is a sure fire way to make a bad situation worse. In addition to the pain they feel from the breakup, they will possibly feel a lot of regret if they sleep with someone else too soon following a breakup. Also, it will be tough to explain to their ex if they do end up repairing the relationship. Do not lead your friend to more destruction!
Alternative statement: “When you’re feeling better and are ready, I would be more than happy to help you find a suitable boyfriend (or girlfriend) if you need me to. But for now, just focus on you and let yourself heal.”
When all else fails, just think “would this be helpful to me if I was going through a breakup? WHY?” A lot of people think a good old fashioned bashing session is just what their friend needs to show them they didn’t lose out on much. However, it doesn’t take away from the pain they feel and they will probably just feel bad when it’s over. Be supportive, loving, understanding, and just try to help them draw their own conclusions to the breakup. That way, you have no fault and they can feel the closure they need to help them heal and move on, or maybe even repair the relationship.
Peace and love always,