I don’t know if it has anything to do with moving season or not, but now it seems to be breakup season. The worst season.
When I went through my own Seminal Mid-20s Breakup With the Person That You Thought You Were Going To Marry But Then Didn’t (SM20sBWTPTYTYWGTMBTD), there were only two things that made me feel … not better, exactly, but not quite as much the ‘I can feel the sadness everywhere, even in my lungs, even in my wrists, even in my armpits’ feeling:
1. Frozen raspberries
2. My friends
You can’t take the boundless, multifaceted sorrow of a breakup away from someone. That is like mopping up a flood with paper towels. But you can be there, to remind them that you love the shit out of them and that things will not always be like this and maybe sometimes distract them. Some effective techniques, after the jump.
• Let them talk and talk and talk and cry and cry and cry. But don’t let them re-write history. The first few times they say how everything was perfect and how could this happen?, let it slide. But then (gently) remind them that no, not everything was perfect.
• That being said, don’t say things you can’t take back. Sometimes, breakups are temporary. You can feel super fucking mad at this person that broke your friend’s heart and express that. But don’t say he’s a worthless piece of shit that you never liked anyway.
• Encourage them get out of bed/their house. Invite them to parties, the beach, whatever. Changes of scenery are nice and distracting. If they cry at the party or beach, that is ok. At least they’re giving their pillow a chance to dry out a little.
• Do not encourage them to fuck the first person that will have them. I mean, if they want to, don’t stop them. I’m not saying people can’t/don’t enjoy casual sex. Some people really do. But for a lot of people, the fast, not entirely wanted but it will make me feel something else for a second-rebound is damaging. It can trigger the following pathetic mental path:
I realize this person that I’m having sex with doesn’t care about me —> I want to have sex with a person that cares about me —> the person I broke up with DID care about me —> oh, wait, but not anymore —> (anguish)
• Do try and do something really special for them. After my breakup, one of my kindest friends organized a big group of people to come over and paint my house together. I’d admired how pretty her painted apartment was, as opposed to my sanitarium-white one. But by the time we were all through, the apartment looked like a new place. Every time I looked at the walls, I felt better, and different.
Another friend surprised me with an all-girls trip to Las Vegas, because she correctly discerned that normally I traveled with the ex-boyfriend, and so all of a sudden I didn’t have anyone to plan trips with.
It doesn’t have to be on that scale, but anything you can do that concretely demonstrates your vast and boundless love will be appreciated. Even if that person has a hard time expressing that appreciation.
• Check in on them. Not all the time. And not in a way that implies, “I am calling because I’m concerned that if I don’t, you will quickly descend into self-harm.” More in a, “Hey, I love you, here is a picture of a baby otter” kind of way.
• Remember: there is a difference between feeling sad for someone and feeling sorry for someone. No one wants to feel like they’re an object of pity, and if they got dumped, chances are good that ‘shame’ and ‘embarrassment’ are at least two of the clouds in that swirling emotional hurricane. Feel sad for your friend. Realize (and remind them) that breakups happen to everyone, and if you are happily coupled, for God’s sake, do not be smug. It could be you next time.
• Some people will disagree with me on this last point, but: if someone broke a close friend’s heart in any but the most respectful and kind of ways, they are dead to me. Not even in a mean or angry sense; we just have no further business to discuss.
If they WERE super kind and respectful during the breakup — that means no toying with the person, no cheating/other terrible reasons to break up, no keeping the heartbroken party around as an emotional/sexual safety blanket afterward — then I will write an email or Facebook message, like, “Hey, I’m so sorry about you and (Friend). I think you’re a great person and I wish you all the best.” And then, after that, friendliness but not friendship, at least until the broken-hearted one is all healed up and moving on.
• This assumes closeness with one party. If you’re super close to both of them, and there is no clear villain, then let the bulk of your sympathy and support lie with the broken-hearted one and don’t be angry at the other one, because people can’t help it when they fall out of love. Just don’t tell either one what the other is up to.
(Photo via OakleyOriginals)