7 Things You Should Never Say To A Friend Who'S Going Through A Breakup
When a pal is knee-deep in tissues and pints of Ben & Jerry's post-breakup, it's tough to know what to say. Even with the best intentions, you may find yourself at a loss for words, or worse, blurting out something totally lame. (Hey, have you heard of this thing called Tinder?) So we asked top relationship experts to share the top seven things you should never say to a friend trying to mend a broken heart—and what you can do to help her get back on her feet.
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1. “You should have seen this coming.”
Pointing out reasons why your friend shouldn’t be surprised by her painful breakup is probably one of the worst things you can do for her. “Avoid saying anything that could leave your friend feeling guilty, ashamed, or to blame for the split,” says Grant Brenner, M.D., a Manhattan-based psychiatrist. “She’s probably already feeling inadequate and rejected because of the failure of something she most likely spent a great deal of time and energy trying to salvage.” Instead, encourage her to take care of herself and propose activities that will make her feel better. Maybe that’s going for a walk outside or grabbing brunch. “If your friend’s being really hard on herself, one of the best remedies is distraction—and that’s where you really come in handy,” Brenner says.
2. “I know how you feel.”
You might...but hold back on letting your pal know that, at least for now. “Even if, intellectually, your friend knows she’s not the first person in the world to suffer a heartache, right now all she is thinking about is her situation,” says Brenner. “This may lead to her feeling misunderstood, more isolated, and that you’re dismissing her experience altogether.” Instead, say something simple, yet supportive, like, "Breakups can be so difficult. How are you doing?" “Assure your friend that it’s OK if she doesn’t want to talk about it right now, but remind her that when she does, you’re there to listen,” says Brenner.
3. “You’ll find someone better.”
Your friend probably will, but now’s not the time to start planning and plotting her next conquest. “Even though she probably realizes her relationship wasn’t going to work out in the first place, she’s still very emotionally attached to that person—and the idea of that person,” says Brenner. “Being told it was no good fails to provide empathy for the parts of her that are still involved, and can lead to feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment within the friendship.” Instead, one of the best things you can do is listen and not give too much advice in the beginning—and definitely don’t lecture her. “Repeat back some of the things she’s told you, so she knows you’ve been listening intently,” says Dawn Michael, Ph.D., certified sexualty counselor, clinical sexologist and author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me.
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4. “He/she is an asshole.”
True? Maybe. But worth saying? Definitely not. “Refrain from implying that her ex is a bad person, or that getting with him or her was a bad decision in any way,” says Michael. “Once in awhile, people get back together and all your friend will remember is what nasty things you said about her ex.” Even if getting back together isn’t in the foreseeable future, your friend is still likely very attached to her ex, so much so that she may want to defend him. “This again closes off the feelings of support and being understood, which she so desperately needs right now,” says Brenner. A better solution for both past, present, and future scenarios is to just listen and acknowledge your friend’s feelings.
5. “Welp, time to get on Tinder!”
Scrolling through a sea of potential suitors isn't the best idea for your friend right now. “Dating apps and websites will only delay and distract the grief your friend is experiencing,” says Michael. “If she hasn’t had the time to heal or grow from the experience, she’ll likely wind up in the bed of a stranger crying pitifully during intercourse.” Instead, spend time together doing something fun, or get creative with different ways of making her smile—whether that involves looking through old photos from your awkward teen days or popping on a Will Ferrell flick. Anchorman’s always a good save, too.
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6. “You just have to put this behind you and move on.”
Umm, duh? Your friend’s no fool. Don’t totally miss your window of opportunity to be there for her by hop-skip-and-jumping it to the finish line. Yes, she knows she needs to get past this, but it’s a lot easier said than done. “Your friend needs time to grieve, so you should let her do just that,” says Brenner. “People need to learn how to heal and cope on their own with the support of loved ones nearby.”
7. “Let’s go out and get hammered!”
A lot of people try to be supportive by taking friends out and getting them drunk, but this can be one of the worst distraction tactics,” says Brenner. “This usually winds up making your friend feel even worse, because alcohol enhances feelings of sadness and despair.” And, let’s be honest, you don’t want to be held responsible for the bad decision they make in an emotionally unstable moment. Healthy distractions are a much better solution—going to the movies, grabbing dinner, going for a walk, hitting the gym, etc. “Do avoid heavy, sad movies, though!” Brenner adds.