ExBoyfriend Recovery was built to help women going through breakups. ExGirlfriend Recovery was built to help men going through breakups. But as I was working on figuring out the different I realized that a lot of our ladies struggle with feeling alone and isolated. It’s as if their friends don’t know how to handle their individual way of grieving a breakup.
So, I took a trip down the google highway and realized that there are TONS of people looking for ways to be a better friend… a more supportive friend. TONS!
So, whether you are a woman who feels unsupported after a breakup or a friend who is struggling with how to handle it, I have put together a comprehensive guide covering a few things that will help.
My hope is that ladies who are feeling isolated can use this guide to help their friends understand what it is that they need from them as friends. And hopefully the friends who are struggling can find this guide on the net and redirect women in a breakup here to ExRecovery so we can help them either get their ex back or move past this and turn this experience into a stepping stone to a better life.
It includes the following:
- Characteristics of a Supportive Friend
- Understanding Your Limits as a Friend: The Difference Between Being a Friend or a Fixer
- Definite Ways That You CAN Help
Before we get to it I need to address something with each of you, the woman going through the breakup and the friend.
To the Woman: Reading past this point you may disagree with some of the things that I say. The idea is to give your friend insight, some of it may go beyond what you see. I study psychology and human behavior. There are some common threads that run through every breakup and they manifest in your reactions. Each of which requires a certain level of understanding from your friend despite their own feelings about the breakup.
To the Friend: As I said above, there may be some things I ask you to do that you may not understand, like going against your natural instincts or keeping your opinions to yourself. Just remember that this breakup is about her not you and that her reactions to it will be raw for a while. It’s all about patience and active listening.
For the most part, I will be writing to the friend, but I will make a couple of notes along the way for the Woman.
So, let’s jump to it.
Characteristics of a Supportive Friend
A supportive friend will be considerate of your feelings. They encourage you to stay positive throughout difficult times. (even if you are being whiny, insufferable, and a little dramatic.)
A supportive friend will strive for an improved relationship between the two of you. Right now, while you are hurting, a friend will be beside themselves and frustrated because there is only so much they can do that won’t cross a line and alienate themselves from you. So, they will likely be walking on pins and needles unsure of what to do for you.
A supportive friend will encourage you to do what is best for you, even if it isn’t what you want to do. For example when you want to do something that will reflect badly on you, hurt someone, or possibly turn around and bite you in the butt later. But they will be understanding if you don’t agree with them or follow their advice.
A supportive friend reminds you of your ultimate goals and encourages you to turn your focus to things that will help you reach them, you know, goals that go past your desire to get your ex back.
A supportive friend helps you find healthy ways to distract yourself when it is particularly difficult. When you are upset there is a excess amount of energy that will drive you to make mistakes (like breaking No Contact or Gnatting) if you don’t find something healthy to channel it into.
Understanding Your Limits as a Friend: The Difference Between Being a Friend or a Fixer
Watching a friend go through a breakup doesn’t just take energy from them. It can be incredibly draining for everyone in their life. I mean, watching someone you care about go through something as painful as heartache.
We enter into relationships for very obvious reasons, the need for love and attention, the desire to connect. Each relationships we enter and build has the power to teach us something about who we are, like holding up a mirror. After a breakup, we see our actions more clearly the more distance we have from the object of our affection.
I’ll tell you this right now, I read “Why Men Love Bitches” after a breakup last year and I was having revelations with every page I turned for weeks.
“Well crap I did that wrong… and that… and holy crap THAT!”
You need to understand that even if it’s been weeks or months even, she will have these realizations with no real warning. They might not be uplifting and she may lose faith in herself again and again.
When people lose faith in themselves, they find themselves needing validation.
Their energy and need to be validated will usually manifest in the desire to reach out and try to pull their ex back in, even if they know it won’t help.
Whereas, your energy will most likely manifest in frustration and the overwhelming need to voice your opinion even if it puts a huge wedge between you and them.
What kind of friend would get frustrated with someone who is obviously hurting? Right?
Well, people tend to make the same mistakes again and again. So, it can be frustrating when someone can’t get past an issue and keep ruminating on it over and over.
It is important to ask your friend who is hurting what it is that they need from you. The truth is that they probably don’t know for sure. Not many people know exactly what they need at any given point. They are more likely to know what they want.
You need to become an expert on what your friend needs from you. Keep in mind that they might not want your advice, so you have to watch the way they react to you. Learn to empathize with the waves of heartache and guilt. In order to do that you have to be willing to see the situation from her perspective as well as your own.
Just ask her how you can support her and be considerate of her feelings moving forward.
There are two tactics you can take in your position, the Friend or the Fixer.
- Listens without being judgmental and takes time to digest what they are told
- Offers their opinion only after their friend indicates that they are ready to hear it
- Helps find healthy ways to distract from taking steps that might have a negative effect
- Helps you maintain areas of life that may be neglected
- Encourages them to be true to themselves and take actions that are out of character
- Gives their opinion forcibly, whether desired or not
- Tries to fix the situation without taking into account their friend’s perspective
- Is as invested in the relationship and the breakup as much, if not more, than their friend
- Over-analyzes the relationship and reinforces any feelings of inadequacy, criticizing
- Is overbearing about the direction the situation should go
If you can’t tell being a friend is helpful, whereas being a fixer is not.
As a supportive friend it isn’t your job to fix it for them.
Definite Ways That You CAN Help
- Simply BE there, reasonably available when they need you. I say reasonably, because you have your own responsibilities and life. But you have to let her grieve and let her come to you with whatever she needs to talk about… just listen to what she has to say.
- Learn to recognize boundaries by watching their reactions and body language. You’ll know when you are toeing the line where they start to consider shutting you down. When you push way too hard you will get annoyance and anger.
- Help them find healthy ways to deal with negative emotions, like releasing anger and self-sabotaging her Recovery Program. Here are a few suggestions, start a project or workout regimen together, go to a fun and upbeat concert, trips to a pet store (puppies are basically the embodiment of all that is good in the world), etc. A secondary perk of this is filling up her free time to keep her out of her head, swelling on mistakes made in the past.
- Help her clean up her wardrobe. You know… ditch everything that doesn’t fit or makes her feel like the old her. Then, plan some new wardrobe updates. I like to pick out a couple of full outfits from Pinterest and turn a shopping adventure into a scavenger hunt. It can be quite fun. Not to mention empowering to feel like someone new.
- On that note, When she is feeling more open to suggestions you can suggest an empowering activity. Have her choose a picture of a woman she admires physically. Be supportive even if it is a goal that seems out of reach. With the proper motivation anyone can do anything. Just look up Cristina Bautista. She’s the most motivated person I know and she literally achieved what no one thought she could. Chris interviewed her. you can listen to the podcast here. laying out a picture of the person she wants to be can give her a visible goal to shoot for. cute it out and put the picture on a piece of paper. Out to the side have her describe this woman’s characteristics and hobbies as if it were her. “If this were you, how would you see yourself? What would your life be life?” Let her paint as clear of a picture of the dream life. Then suggest making an imaginary list of plans or actions that could be taken to get there.
- Remind her to take care of herself. If you know that she used to do yoga on Saturdays and you notice she’s tapered off, maybe ask to tag along next week. It is easy to retreat into yourself after a dramatic life change. The idea here is simply to encourage activity in general, but it is important that it is healthy. Excess drinking and partying will not be helpful. Like I said… healthy activities, both physically and psychologically. As most people will tell you, drinking magnifies whatever mood they are in. Even if they are great at putting on a happy face, hiding depression, drinking would amplify that depression. Why do think drunk texting exes is such a big thing?
- Give her reasons to smile, even if she’s faking it. The brain equates smiling with being happy. So, when you smile the brain automatically produces dopamine and serotonin along with a ton of other mood altering chemicals. Theses chemicals are like stacked dominoes. Once you get the ball rolling they just kind of add up. So, even if you can get her to enjoy herself temporarily, it enhances her chances of coming out of the rut we all get stuck in after a breakup.
Being aware of what it takes to be supportive will make a great difference in how your friend progresses. Now I know it can be frustrating, especially if they won’t stop talking about it constantly.
Do you want to know why people do this, the retracing the of the relationship over and over?
It’s a desire for clarity. The mind looks for explanation when it senses something as a mistake or not right. We spend a lot of time in a relationship imagining a future with that person. It’s understandable that the mind would consider it a mistake when that future is snatched away.
So, as a good friend, it is imperative that you be prepared to listen to the same crap over and over again. When she finally gets fed up, and she will, that is when you offer advice. But you shouldn’t push her to follow it.
There is one last thing we need to discuss. There are plenty of cliches out there that are much ore harmful than helpful. So, I’ve put together two lists, things that will help you know how not to push the envelope.
Phrases and Statements to Avoid
“Told You So”
It’s best to avoid this aggressive sentiment all together. It doesn’t help anyone.We all want the people around us to see us as knowledgeable. But even if you told her he was no good from the beginning, no one wants to hear that. You might as well ASK her to push you away. This sentiment can be expressed in many manners, most of which you should try and avoid.
” I always thought he was a jerk anyways.”
“I never liked him.”
“I never thought he was good enough fr you.”
” I kind of saw this coming”
“I Know How You Feel.”
Making her feel as if you know her pain better than she does will make her feel isolated. She will retreat further into herself. Understanding is different that knowing. Believe it or not, the way that you phrase things can make a difference in how what you say is perceived. Making someone feel as if you know their own life better than them can make them feel persecuted or judged. On top of the breakup, that could pile on more negative emotions.
“There Are Plenty of Other Fish in the Sea.”
Cliches like this may seem insightful, but trust me, there is nothing that you can say that she hasn’t said to herself already. They may hold some truth, but she needs to feel like you Here are a few more…
“Time heals all wounds.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“It’s for the best.”
“You’re better off without him.”
“At Least You Didn’t Have Kids.”
Pointing out random facts about the relationship or ways that she may have messed up will make her feel worse not better. This along with other versions will make her feel like you are diminishing her choices, decisions, or even her feelings. No one likes that. More examples are…
“Do you think you should have fought harder?”
“You weren’t dating that long.”
“You’re handling this better than I expected.”
“You’re still so young. There will be other opportunities.”
“Was there something he could have done to change your mind?”
“Do You Think You’ll Get Back Together?”
Asking questions about what she thinks will happen is pointless. She’s already doing all of this in her head and it’s probably making her feel a little crazy and out of control.
“I bet he tries to get you back.”
“Do you think he’s seeing someone else? Do you think he will?”
“You Are So Much Hotter Than The Girl He’s Seeing Now.”
Just saying something is so doesn’t mean she’ll believe you. In fact, she’ll assume that you say most of these things along this line because “that’s just what friends say to make you feel better.”
“You can do so much better.”
“You can get past this. You can handle this.”
“It Too Bad. I Liked Him. I Thought You Were Good Together.”
I get that you might think this. You might be absolutely shocked that they split up. You may think that the breakup was a horrible idea. But saying these things so someone that is grieving the loss of a relationship will make them feel like you are siding with their ex, again making them feel isolated.
I know being supportive is… annoying… at times. In fact, sometimes you just need a little space from it, and that is understandable. It will be tempting to distract her or try to find a quick band aid for the situation so you can get a break from it. But suggesting that your friend do something before she is ready or that could potentially a choice that she doesn’t look back on fondly in the future. (To the women in breakups, if you’re still reading this far in, remember that your friends may need a break from the breakup take from time to time. If you are exhausted and feeling a little crazy, then they are feeling it too. Be mindful of the strain they have taken on for you.)
“Put it behind you and move on!”
“Let’s set you up a Tinder! a Bumble!”
“Let me set you up!”
“Let’s go out and get drunk!”
“Man, I Wish I Was Single.”
I know this type of statement is meant to make light of the situation. To break the tension and maybe make her see this as an opportunity. But you can’t make someone see their situation differently than they do before they are ready to. Doing so can come off as pushy and insensitive.
I am sure that there are other directions you could go that aren’t exactly helpful. Now that you know this much, I am sure that you can get a good feel for what isn’t helpful. But now… let’s talk about what is.
Like we’ve already discussed the goal is to be supportive, so let’s talk about what you should say.
Especially after reading this article, she might feel like shes been putting too much on you. And that’s understandable. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotions of the breakup and not realize the toll that it is taking on the people around you. Hopefully you can be honest in saying…
“After everything you’ve been through, you’re allowed to be be sad. I understand.”
And it is important that you find ways to be supportive that will remind her that she can handle this without discounting the way that she feels now.
“One day, whether you get him back or not, you will wake up and you will be okay. You can survive this. I believe in you.”
“Today sucks. Tomorrow will be better.”
“The way he made you feel does not define you.”
“You are worth loving.”
Wrapping Things Up Here
I know this has been a LOT of information to take in. But it wouldn’t be an Ultimate Guide if it was half-assed, right?
Friendship can be all that holds someone together after a breakup. Hopefully you can use what I’ve laid out to help each other get through this. But the important part is that you both understand where the other is coming from.
If there are any questions either of you have, feel free to reach out in the comments below.