So, It’s finally here. After weeks and weeks of mulling over the end of your relationship, both inwardly and aloud to any of your friends or family who would listen, the support and advice being hurled at you from every direction has started to chafe. You find yourself irritated by everything and everyone that has an opinion. The words and actions you initially found solace in right after the breakup aren’t so endearing now.
“Forget about him.”
“You deserve so much better.”
“There are plenty of other guys out there.”
“He clearly didn’t know what he had when he had it.”
All of these things may be true, and they probably sounded comforting the first or second time you heard them. But now, after hearing them for weeks and weeks repeatedly, they sound hollow. Like when you were young and a parent would tell you to tell a sibling or friend that you were sorry when you really weren’t.
I get it. Right after the breakup, your emotions were all over the place, like a live wire that people tiptoe around so as not to start a fire. People seem to be handling you carefully. For that you were probably very grateful… at first.
And, like a live wire, we needed to be grounded. It is natural to reach out to the people around you to ground you in moments of emotion like after a breakup when you aren’t sure how to feel. When you still care for someone yet they treated you poorly. Or when you’ve left someone who you obviously cared for at a time. Having conflicting emotions, or not fully understanding why something like a relationship came to an end can leave you wrought, not knowing how to feel.
But it’s been a while since the breakup and your crashing waves of emotions have started to level out and no longer require a life vest to wade through.
Whether or not you found your answers or explanation for the break during this time, you have found a way to live with what you’ve got and you are ready to move on. A lot of times this can be spurred by simply being tired of being unhappy and searching. No matter what the reason, you are tired of being handled with kid gloves.
No, you aren’t entirely over it yet, that takes time. But how are you going to move on when people keep treating you like you’re fragile and might spontaneously burst into fragments at the mention of his name? I think this was one of the most difficult for me because one of my most recent exes had a name that was also part of an everyday phrase or two. So, my friends would be in the middle of a regular conversation and suddenly they would just stop and look at me like a deer in the headlights, as if I were supposed to burst in to tears or suddenly burst into song like we were in some sort of musical. I would just ignore it, or tell them to finish their story, but this version of showing that they cared got old… really quick.
Or if all they seem to want to talk about is, “how your ex totally sucks” or how you feel all the time the easy solution is to change the subject. Redirection is always a good way to lessen the continued interest in your emotional well-being. Not that talking about your feelings is a bad thing. It just tends to draw out the period of mourning, when you are clearly ready to move on.
You keep getting the “There are other fish in the sea” talks, from everyone and their moms. Heck, even their dogs seem to take pity on you.
Okay, I’d probably accept time scratching Rover behind the ear regardless of where I was in the getting over it process. I’m a dog person.
But as for Sue’s mom down the street who somehow got your number and keeps trying to set you up with her “handsome and successful” nephew, John Ralphio… she can take a hike. (Yes I love Parks & Rec, but lets face it… John Ralphio needs to grow up.)
It’s considerate that your friends are being so supportive during the first month or so, but letting people know that you’re ready for them to start acting normal around you again is not something you should put off if you are ready.
But how do you do this without offending the people who clearly care about you?
There are ways to deal with it gracefully, you should definitely not feel like you have to remain in a fragile state to appease the people in your life that care about you. If you are ready to move forward, tell them and allow them to move forward with you.
The Different Types of Support
Everyone has their group of friends and family that surrounds them. It has become quite common for women to refer to their friend groups as a tribe or a squad. The closeness of friendships has grown into a remarkable intimacy. I have some married male friends that venture to say that their significant other’s BFF is in more of a relationship with their SO than they are. Don’t get me wrong it can be make a huge difference to have these people in your life during the recovery from the end of a relationship.
More often than not they will rally around you in support, which is much better than being allowed to isolate.
The thing is that each person deals with things in their own way. By the time you find yourself needing to read this article, you will have already noticed that each one of them has reacted differently to your recent breakup. Each one will take your experience and muddle it with their own experiences. Most of them will respond to your heartache with the kind of support that they would prefer to receive in your situation. It does not always line up with the type of support you need to have.
Here are a few of the different types of support you might encounter. Each type of support has its benefits. I mean, it IS support non-theless, but when they go on for too long they can become annoying or even worse have an adverse effect and actually keep you from moving on.
They stood by you while you unloaded all of your heartache and rehashed every detail of the relationship, trying to figure out where it might have failed and what you could have done differently. The best part was, you could literally talk to them about anything anytime. TMI be damned. They were a perfect sounding board. They would listen without giving feedback or judgement. Which is great because it allowed you to come to your own conclusions without feeling like you were all alone and without feeling judged.
But now that things have kind of mellowed out and you’ve accepted the fact that it might just be better to move on, they continue to handle you with care, asking how you are, and looking at you like you might burst into tears any minute, waiting for you to spill your guts. Having someone to listen can be comforting at first, but eventually you’re going to want to regain your footing and feel strong in your singleness. You’re going to need to stop talking about the past. This is hard to do if you have people around acting like you are made of glass or urging you to keep talking about it.
Similar to the listener, they were a shoulder you could cry on. However, they will liken your experience to one of their own, or several of their own. Their reasoning for doing this would be an attempt to remind you that you weren’t alone and that other people have gone through the same situation and survived.
At first this can be uplifting and even inspiring. Eventually though, you’ll started to notice the “I’s, my’s, and me’s” in their stories, making it feel like they were trying to make your heartache more about them than about what you were going through. Usually, when people react this way, it isn’t something they do on purpose. It is human nature to gravitate back to things we are familiar with. And what are we more familiar with than ourselves and our experiences?
This can get a little annoying after a while. If life is going to suck, even temporarily, it shouldn’t have to be multiplied with someone else’s pain, even if their intentions are to help.
Then there is the person that doesn’t just offer to be there for you. They just kind of show up. They are constantly trying to help distract you. You’re in pain and their reaction is to go out and party, drink wine and have a girl’s night, or to brunch away the pain. Basically anything that keeps you in their, and everyone else’s, presence. They single handedly seem to fill your calendar with things to do that keep the two of you attached at the hip, as if to suggest that you being alone would be catastrophic.
At first it was incredibly endearing, even considered thoughtful. And while it can be helpful to be reminded that you have amazing friends that love you by being surrounded by them quite a bit, going out every night can be incredibly draining. It can even get downright annoying when you’ve been doing it four nights a week for two months. And the worst part is that by being around people 98% of the time, the rare moments you spend alone start to feel increasingly like magnified isolation. Which can result in regression, where you can find yourself more devastated than you were when you the breakup first happened.
This is the friend that basically tells you to suck it up. If you start whining about how your ex posted a pic of him and some girl his Instagram, she will take your phone away and delete, unfollow, and block your ex on every single version of social media that you have access to. While doing this is sometimes very therapeutic, it is more-so when you choose to do it on your own.
Your ex suddenly receives incredibly creative and colorful nicknames from this friend. And you are surprisingly made aware of the fact that your friend, the Robot “never liked him anyways”. Go figure. Couldn’t they have told you that before you feel head over heels for him, or before things went so apparently sideways?
(Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t have listened. Love is blind, you know.)
You can appreciate this type of support momentarily. In fact, having someone remind you that your ex was a human that had flaws is not a bad thing. Their lack of emotion toward the situation might help dull the overwhelming amount of emotions that you are feeling.
However, if you are continuously exposed to this indifference or even negativity towards your ex, it can have the exact opposite effect. You will feel like you need to defend your ex and the reason you were with them in the first place. It will cause regression. This tactic is similar to the Judge Jury, and Executioner I’ll talk about in a moment.
The Harsh Truth Teller
This person will tell you like it is. If you are wallowing too long they’ll tell you. They’ll call you out for cyber-stalking your ex on all fronts like it’s their job. To be honest, this is my favorite type of friend to have in this situation, because I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to my emotions.
However, there comes a time when you have to start doing this on your own. Relying on someone else’s opinion means that when they aren’t around, you won’t be able to keep from snooping, or dwelling on the past, and letting your emotions get the better of you.
The Judge, Jury, & Executioner
This one will break bones at the first sign that you are hurting. You woke up feeling less than perfect because of someone’s actions? Who are they, so can they make them sorry they ever hurt you? They’re ready to reenact every Carrie Underwood song ever written if that’s what it would take to make you stop feeling like crap.
This kind of friend is simply being protective. They’re the first to suggest string him up by his toes, even if they don’t actually plan on doing so.
It’s great fun imagining your ex getting what’s coming to him, especially if you’re feeling particularly wronged, but too much exposure to this line of thinking can inspire horrible spontaneous actions that you’ll will eventually regret. I’ve seen many a keyed car or popped tired due to having friends that react like this. Taking aggressive action has serious repercussions, like jail, fines, and restraining orders. Don’t let anyone convince you that any kind of physical retribution is worth your freedom.
Let’s avoid doing anything that will go on a permanent record… okay?
The Mother and Cheerleader
You know this one. How dare anyone hurt their dear sweet friend!! They’re on your side even if you were in the wrong.
They dumped you? That idiot! Clearly he didn’t see what a good thing he had when he had it.
He moved away? How dare he not offer to take you with him! Jerk!
You cheated? Well, he should’ve been more attentive, totally his fault. (Not exactly the right kind of support, but support none-the-less. Like I said, supportive no matter what.)
No matter what the reasoning was for the split, you deserve better!
They are continuously checking to see what you need and if there is anything they can do.
If you check out the guy at the coffee shop, they’re behind you doing a happy dance in their head. Or, if your friends are as overly enthusiastic as mine, they’ll break into an actual dance party in public and may even propose to a barista on your behalf. There are some Starbucks in East Texas that I purposely avoid because of this. Because, you know, that last guy didn’t appreciate you and you deserve better like… Rick… the tall double half-caf guy.
I already have one mother than is always trying to hook me up with her friend, Eileen, from Bible Study’s great nephew since middle school. Once your friends start overstepping the boundaries, it’s time to maybe say something.
The Perpetual Crafter
This person almost always has a project they’re working on. She might even have an entire room dedicated to her collection of glitter, stickers, and mountains of yarn. We all know at least one person like this.
From the moment your relationship ended, you were officially her number one project. She’s all about making sure you feel good about yourself, keeping you busy, and helping you understand what you’re feeling. It’s like the Cheerleader, but more… forceful.
She’ll squeeze you into that little black dress you used to wear back before you became half of a couple. She’ll take you out on the town while simultaneously encouraging you to join her at the gym, and knocking carbs out of your hands in the middle of the mall. She’ll start making sure you get up and do productive things. No Netflix marathoning with this one around unless you agree to let her bedazzle your jeans and set up an online dating profile for you.
You’ll start getting texts asking if you remembered to shower today. This can actually be helpful at first, seeing as the desire to actually do things dissipates with the sudden thrust into single life.
However, as you begin to realize that you were perfectly fine before your ex walked into your life and you’ll eventually be fine again, you’ll start to realize that there is a line that has been crossed and those texts will start to go unanswered.
The Good, The Bad, and The Revoking of the Spare Key Privilege
So, you let your friends dote on you and treat you differently because you were hurting. But you’ve finally grasped ahold of reality and you’re ready to take back your control. But you’ve let so many people have bits of control since you were kind of flailing around in the wind after your breakup.
How exactly do you go about taking the reins back when everyone has been so amazingly supportive, especially if they’ve started to agitate you?
It would be so simple to tell everyone to “just back off”, but you might find yourself without any friends left if you take that approach.
But you can’t just hang a banner that says “I’m okay now! Thanks for the Support.” although mentioning when they’re all around that you are finally feeling a little more stable in your singleness, might help lessen their over-investment.
However, there will always be those few that don’t take a hint. They’ll still show up at your house at 9am on a Saturday with coffee, to drag you to some boot camp workout. Which, if you’re okay with that, is one thing. But, if you aren’t exactly into the boot camp scene and early weekend mornings, it might be time for, you to let her know what’s up.
I had this friend after my first real devastating breakup. I had recently moved into my own apartment and she had my spare key. She would literally BE my alarm clock. It was okay the first or second time, because I needed someone to kick my butt into gear. But the seventh or eighth time I found myself sleepily demanding she relinquish my key as I shoved her out my door, leaving her on the front step confused and with hurt feelings while I climbed back into bed. What can I say? Her 5am wake up calls were a little invasive.
Looking back, I probably could have handled it better.
So, how do you deal with letting each type know that you will be just fine if they let up a little?
Well, it would be advisable to cater to each of the types by taking their approach into consideration. There isn’t just a one-size-fits-all way to go about it if they don’t realize it after you tell them in a casual way in a group.
Which by the way can be handled in one swift fell. Imagine it now, you’re in a group of your friends and one of them blatantly caters to your “fragile” state. The best thing to do is to call them on it, by saying something like “actually, I think I’m feeling better about the split. You don’t have to avoid saying his name any more.”
It’s casual and let’s everyone know that you aren’t going to fall apart if they start acting like normal. But there will always be the few that still act like you are going to fall apart at the very mention of his name.
Here is how to deal with each type of support tastefully, without ruining a friendship.
Firstly though, you have to stop talking about your breakup. If you are constantly talking about how hurt you are, or how wronged you feel, then they will continue to feel like their support is needed. When faced with a concerned friend, gently let them know that you feel better about your newly found singleness and that you are trying to leave the negativity of it in the past.
Dealing with The Listener, The Commiserator, and The Clinger
These three need only to be aware that you are trying to avoid dwelling on the breakup. The Clinger may need to be told a little more forcefully that you don’t want to continue to talk about it, but the Listener and The Commiserator should both be easily directed to other topics. Whereas, a person who has made your pain their own pain is clearly avoiding something in their own lives, whether it be something specific or a general lack of anything interesting to focus on.
In the event that you find yourself dealing with a clingy friend that tends to focus on your unhappiness, perhaps it is time to distance yourself a little. If they bring up the fact that you’ve become distant, simply let them know that you are trying to focus on becoming more self-reliant in your singleness. Usually this explains your distance well. However, if they press the issue, you might have to actually ask for a little space, gently of course.
Dealing with The Robot
Having that friend that is a little too pushy with the realness is difficult when you are trying to move forward. It’s like them pushing you to get over it just makes you want to hold onto the pain even longer. You might have to let them know that you need them to ease up a little.
You can do this simply by letting them know that you appreciate their efforts to help you move past the pain and that you would appreciate it if you they would allow you to do that.
Dealing with The Harsh Truth Teller
I have and always will be the Truth Teller in our group of friends. Everyone comes to me when they’re ready to hear the harsh truth. The downside to this is that it is hard for people to tell me that I am being too honest.
If you have someone like me in your life, you can give them the truth right back.
Tell them, “Look I appreciate you always being honest with me, but I think I need a little less honesty right now.” Trust me they can handle it. They just might be surprised.
Dealing with The Judge, Jury, and Executioner
People like the Robot, The Harsh Truth Teller and the Judge, Jury, and Executioner are self-appointed. However, by letting them have power over your decisions or actions, you basically are giving them permission to continue acting in this manner.
If you want them to stop, you will actually have to ask them to. The Judge, Jury and Executioner will continue to parade hatred for your ex around like a flag unless you ask them to hate them a little less vocally because you are trying to move on.
Dealing with The Mother and Cheerleader
The mother and cheerleader will support you in whatever decision you make. If you choose to move forward and tell them that, then they will move forward with you.
This is the easiest type of support to redirect.
Dealing with The Perpetual Crafter
This type of support is the most difficult to redirect, because they invest so much time and effort into it. This makes them feel like they should see some sort of return, or should have some sort of say in where things go past your feelings about the breakup.
This one you may just have to ask for some space to handle things on your own. This forces them to focus on their own stuff and allows you to move forward without anyone else’s input. Just be sure to be nice about it.
I cannot stress enough that if you wish to retain your friendships not to forget to let them know how much you appreciate their love and support.
Allow your friends to take your response to their support how they will. Being honest is usually the best route. However, keeping in mind the way they show their support when you choose how to ask them to kindly let you move forward is incredibly important. Do not be rude about it, or just cut everyone off.
We joke in our group of friends that isolation breeds “the crazy.” Meaning when we completely cut ourselves off, we don’t exactly think straight and we tend to do things that are… over the top.
Finding a healthy medium between letting your friends be there for you without completely driving your decisions especially regarding your reaction to a breakup is key and is different for everyone. By doing this in increments, you can find a healthy balance where you feel comfortable. When I say in increments, I mean gently as a group and then as needed individually.
If your friend group is connected like mine and spends a lot of time together then you can do what I did and simply ask them to be understanding as a group. Optimally, when you are all in a car or sitting in a restaurant, basically in a casual conversation setting. That way you are not singling any one person out and it’s not like you’re calling some sort of meeting for an announcement. The more of a big deal you make it, the more push back you will get.
Then depending on each of their reactions, referring to the tactics I laid out above address the individuals that have a hard time heeding your request.
The reason it important for your friends to understand where you stand in regards to your breakup will allow them to be supportive of you as you move forward, not only from your relationship, but in other aspects of your life as well.
As I’ve pointed out in other articles I’ve written, where you wind up is all about where you focus. It’s important to take a moment to look over the past, learn from it, and then move on. It is easy to get stuck in the “looking over the past stage.” Don’t let the people in your life hold you back.
It is similar to when you are riding a bicycle and you find yourself focused on a sharp rock in front of you. You are determined not to run over the rock, because you know it isn’t god for your tires, but if you keep your gaze on the rock, even though your intention is not to hit it, your wheel will follow your gaze. You will inevitable run it over, even if it is the smallest thing in your path.
Likewise, if you want to move forward with your life and past the emotional distress of a breakup, you have to cast your focus on a bright and positive future rather than the turmoil of the past. Keep your supportive friends and family from holding you back by asking them to move forward with you.