It’s only natural that a friend will turn to you for emotional support during a breakup. But helping a friend who is dealing with being the one dumped in a broken relationship can be a hard ship to navigate. Sometimes you want to offer help but don’t know how. Being on friend duty is necessary to the relationship during emotional times, so it’s important that you make yourself available.
Focus on listening and avoid giving advice right away. “At first, you really need to simply listen and just let your friend get it all out. Don’t offer analysis or judgments,” said Carlin Flora, author of “Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.” After being dumped, your friend is probably feeling a mix of emotions -- sadness, anger, shock, denial, confusion. Let her know you care and are there for her. If your friend is receptive to physical affection, a hug or a hand on the back can be a nonverbal way to show your support.
Get your friend out of the house as a distraction from his heartbreak and to remind him that there is a life outside of his former relationship. Encouraging your friend to be social can help him stop dwelling on his significant other ending the relationship. Flora suggests doing things like having a large party, going to the movies, taking classes together -- for example: cooking -- to learn new skills that can build self-esteem, or participating in sports or fitness activities to help elevate his mood.
Provide your perspective in a gentle and encouraging way after several weeks have passed. It is OK to help your friend look back on her relationship with clarity. It is not uncommon for someone who has been dumped to look back on her relationship through skewed glasses. “You might meet some resistance, in which case you'll have to proceed carefully and continue to pour on the support as well as some clear-eyed analysis,” said Flora, “but if over time you can help her see her situation more accurately, you'll be doing a great service in terms of her future romantic relationships.” Ask her questions to help identify any negative relationship patterns she may have.
Encourage your friend by letting him know that it will get better with time. He likely feels rejected, so reassure him that break-ups happen for a reason. Tell him that a break-up means a new beginning and a chance to think about the qualities he really wants and need in a partner, said Flora. Remind him that this is a chance to learn from his experience in the relationship.
- Be understanding if your friend lashes out at you, Flora advises. You might unintentionally say something that makes him feel worse but instead of snapping back, remember that he is hurting and is likely to transfer his anger onto you.
- Be patient. “Broken hearts really do require time to heal,” said Flora. “The best kind of friend is the one who acknowledges this without encouraging the broken-hearted person to indulge in negative feelings for too long.”
- Carlin Flora: Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are
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