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One of my close friends, who is 25, has recently broken up with his girlfriend of 10-11 months. Naturally, he has turned to me and other people close to him for help and support.

My friend is, by nature, quite needy and very inexperienced with relationships. He's taking the breakup extremely badly and his neediness has manifested itself in his communication with me and others around him.

For the past week, he's been texting me and calling me incessantly. I receive dozens of texts and calls from him throughout the day. I understand what it's like to go through a breakup and I know he needs people there to support him and help him move on. For the first few days, starting Saturday, I was very patient with him, attempting to console him and provide him with advice to help him move on from her.

My advice basically boiled down to cutting off contact with her, focusing on building himself up, and finding a hobby to help him take his mind away from the situation.

It's now Wednesday; he hasn't accepted my advice, but instead has been spiraling out of control. The incessant calls and texts did not stop between Saturday and now. Each time, I've attempted to repeat my advice to him.

However, the situation is severely testing my patience. His texts and calls are interrupting me at work, when I'm with my family, and when I'm spending time with my own girlfriend. It has been a week since the breakup, and I can't hold his hand forever. I'm getting very frustrated with him.

Recently my communication to him has been quite blunt and I feel bad. I've repeated to him dozens of times that he needs to cut off contact with her, but he's not listening to me.

Last night he turned up unannounced to her house and her workplace. Thankfully, he went back home after I called him and calmed him down. I feel like he's going to be arrested if he continues down this path. I tried to tell him this, but he refuses to listen, rather saying things like "I need to see her again, I need to be with her again".

He's also begging me to speak with her and "change her mind". Obviously, it's not my place to do this, and I barely know her (only having met her once). I told him this, but he continues to ask me.

I'm at my wits end. His actions are cutting into mine and others lives and are becoming dangerous.

How can I communicate to my friend that his actions are harmful and that he needs to pull himself together?

Additional info:

  • I'm seeing him in person on Sunday. Unfortunately, I'm unable to meet with him any earlier as I'm very busy this week.
  • His ex-girlfriend ended the relationship. Based on the texts from her he's shown me, I believe the relationship is beyond repair.
  • His mindset about the situation is totally twisted. He truly believes she still wants him and is still in love with him and that she's confused and brainwashed by others.
  • Does your friend have a tendency to solving problems? Maybe in his mind he is solving a logical problem, but you cannot see this? My stalking behavior stems from this mindset, but I don't think about changing my ex's mind or believe that she still loves me at all. – Ooker Aug 2 '18 at 2:27
71

I have been in your position but never in such an extreme case. You must understand that he is going through a tough emotional time and he isn't really thinking how it might affect your friendship. What worked for me was:

First:

Set clear boundaries with your friend. Don't answer texts and calls during work hours or quality time with your family or girlfriend. You can just return one call after work and address his texts that you received during the day.

He should know you are there to support him but not available 24/7 to fill his emotional hole.

Second:

Try to distract him. Constantly talking about the girl and the breakup doesn't really help him to move on. In my case, my friend was a passionate gamer so distracting him was pretty easy, I just suggested we play some new game together and he focused a lot of attention to that.

For some people self improvement activities work well after breakups. You can suggest to your friend to start going to the gym (go with him a few times if possible), pick up a new sport or hobby depending on his interests. Show him a way to make use of his free time so he doesn't obsess with the lost relationship.

Third:

Make sure he isn't doing something that will have strong negative impact in the long term. Some people might turn to alcohol or drugs in cases like this. Keep an eye out so your friend doesn't end up in a hole he can't get out of easily later.

A little addition specifically for the face to face meeting.

I would suggest talk about anything but the breakup. Find some activity to do (Go carting, Paragliding, Bungee jumping, ect.). Focus all conversations about the future and dismiss any conversations about the Ex. Sometimes we need our friends to focus us on the future when we are stuck in the past.

  • Thank you for your advice. He's refusing to try anything to get his mind off her and prefers to wallow in self-pity. Hopefully time will make him see. – InterpersonalLoser Aug 1 '18 at 11:08
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    @InterpersonalLoser sometimes that is the case. The best course really depends on how close of a friendship you have and the personality of the person in question. Can't really give you a more specific approach based on an online post. – Ontamu Aug 1 '18 at 11:18
15

Like what Sheryl Crow said,

The first cut is the deepest.

No matter how much you tell him to go out and do things to keep his mind off of her, it probably won't work. Instead I suggest that you let him feel the pain. It's ok to spend some time to feel the pain of a breakup, and it takes time before moving on. When he says things like,

omg I just really need to be with her right now

you could say something like,

yeah, it sucks to be going through this, and it'll take time before things get better

By matching his unfiltered honesty, you're helping him a great deal and he'll appreciate it because he feels heard by someone.

Take your friend out to parties or other social scenes where he can meet new people; perhaps he will meet a new girl to date, and this would be the best outcome for him and you, as it would help him to move on sooner.

If he plans on doing violent things, do not participate!

Warn him of the consequences (e.g. jail time, loss of job) and remind him that things will eventually get better, even though at the present moment, things may seem hopeless.

  • I really think that encouraging the friend to wallow in his misery by agreeing that it is justified and that he can wallor deeper before it gets better increases the risk that he continues and escalates hos unsafe/stalking behaviour to his ex. – Spagirl Aug 1 '18 at 12:21
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    @Spagirl I understand your concerns, but I truly believe, having gone through that painful first breakup myself, that having friends who didn't sugarcoat things for me, and just simply acknowledged, "yeah, it sucks to be going through this, and it'll take time before things get better" was the best possible thing to hear. I believe that one should feel the pain and not ignore it - this will help the person grow. I certainly do not encourage any violence, and my answer makes this point clear too. – Jalapeno Nachos Aug 1 '18 at 12:27
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    @Spagirl you're suggesting to protect his ex by restraining him: "shut him down, tell him its over, don't commiserate", while Jalapeno Nachos is suggesting to protect her by healing him (the root cause of the danger). Of course the ex's safety is important and stalking behavior should not be condoned, but there's ways of sympathizing without condoning and the best way to guarantee her safety is to get him healed. – Alexandre Aubrey Aug 1 '18 at 19:52
10

It seems to me like his behavior splits really into three categories: normal mourning, seeking support, and stalking. These three behaviors should not be confused with each other and treated differently.

Mourning

People vary enormously in their reactions to grief. Some move on almost immediately, some get a lot more attached and go through a long, painful process. Contrary to some of the other answers, I think if your friend is someone who takes loss very hard, its best not to try and force them to stop. The grief process is absolutely critical for some people to move on from a loss, and can be their way to get it out of their system permanently, even if this takes months to years.

I do not feel you should attempt to force them to "move on", instead simply try and ensure they remain as functional as possible, support them in normal daily activities such as going to work etc. The pain cannot really be avoided but one can minimize the damage caused by it as it runs its course.

I have found more extreme reactions and more prolonged periods of pain tend to be more common in those who are young, or have not had many relationships in the past. I cannot give a certain reason but if your friend has only had a few past relationships it may be harder on them then for someone more experienced. Some people however will always react this way, and it is just part of who they are.

Excessive Support

Sadly, I would say, allowing this friend to lean on you to that extent is actually non productive, they need to face their own grief rather than try and rely on others to momentarily feel better. This is not to say you should cut contact with them or ignore them entirely. But severely limit how much attention you give and how often. If you want them to avoid bothering you so much, do not allow it, either don't answer, or immediately end the conversation if they begin to rant about the situation or suggest ridiculous activities or wont stop talking about their pain

Note, there is a small chance they will do something self destructive. This possibility is really impossible to avoid entirely, the best you can do is listen to them when they do speak to you for any hints that they are seriously considering something dangerous, versus ranting from the pain. Nothing you can do will protect them entirely, this is just not possible, but attempt to be receptive if they reach out in a genuine crisis, though do not confuse this for their more normal clinging to you.

Stalking

This should not even be humored, this behavior is dangerous and possibly illegal. If they bring it up I would suggest making one or two statements about how dangerous or disgusting their suggestion is and if they continue, just end the conversation or hang up. This is likely more effective than trying to argue or reason with them as they are likely doing this exactly to get attention, either from the ex or you. Giving it will encourage the behavior. But do not hesitate to warn the ex or call law enforcement if you believe they pose a real or serious threat, it would be better they be caught early than having later done something illegal that they could end up regretting for a long time.

In Summary

I don't think you can stop the reaction of grief. But you need to distinguish where it is going outside of grief, into stalking, dangerous behavior, or clinging, and react appropriately to each. You should also reduce how much they are able to contact you, by answering the phone or replying.

And finally, don't expect this will end quickly, so make sure you are in a position you can withstand whatever compromise you come to long term. If that means much much less contact so be it, but don't wear yourself down to acting irrationally by being exposed too much.

6

After a breakup, a person has a huge gap in their life - also in his everyday life - to fill.

Right now, he is filling this gap (this energy) into drowning into self-pity. You need to guide his energy into doing new stuff. Like Ontamu said in his answer, going to the gym, doing sports or finding another hobby can be a good thing to start.

In order to make him do that, you have to tell him crystal-clear, that with his current behaviour, he is making things a lot worse. Try to make him understand, that whatever he wants to accomplish, getting himself together is part of accomplishing this.

Take him aside and make sure he understands that this is a serious and important conversation that you are about to have. Tell him something like:

You: Okay now listen to me clearly. What do want to achieve? What is you goal?

Him: I want her back/I want to forget her...

You: Okay. Then you need to get yourself together. Woman don't like weak men. Show the world, that you are a strong person. You have free time now, so get better at [Sports/Work/playing an Instrument] or travel the world. Make yourself desirable by standing your ground. Don't be needy...

The main challenge is to motivate him to find new hobbies. Remember to tell him, that in his current state, contacting her is the worst thing to do and he should not contact her at all for at least a few months until his temper has calmed down.

Time will fix the rest then.

  • 2
    Thank you for your advice. It's looking like time is really the only thing that can fix this situation, as he's outright refusing all my and others motivation to do anything. – InterpersonalLoser Aug 1 '18 at 11:10
6

Firstly, let me say that you shouldn't feel bad for being blunt. It's tough being blunt to a friend at this time, but honestly, it's what they need. Good job. I've been your end with a family breakup, and while I thought I was blunt, my g/f at the time was brutal, and almost screamed she didn't want to hear about it any more, stop talking about it...

So, for the advice about the meetup, there's 2 things I'd stress. Firstly, no alcohol. He's clearly not got a clear head, and making it more fuzzy won't help.

Secondly, he's going to try and steer conversation, repeatedly, to her; that's ok, let him talk about her, but don't ask questions about her (you can however ask about things about not her). If he says "what do you think" - then just reply "I think those messages made it clear it's over, and you're wasting your time thinking about it".

5

I've had a very similar experience in the past, a friend who went through a rough breakup and had trouble accepting it, getting self-pitying and pathetic about it. "I'm dead without her" world-ending gloom. that kind of thing.

My strategy was to open up about my own relatively recent breakup, Describe the pain I felt, relate it to what he almost certainly is feeling, express that I have an intimate understanding for how he feels and that no matter how awful it feels it will get better with time. I think the knowledge that I'd been through something similar, survived and prospered was a comfort in itself to him.

You're his friend, be kind, bring stability, but don't support him being a fool.

I get the sense you're of a reasonable and kind temperament normally, that means his actions genuinely are worthy of being impatient about. This isn't a failing.

Feel free to express the impatience you feel.

Showing that you're getting frustrated with him but still willing to care for his wellbeing may help to throw his own behaviour into new light.

Don't be afraid to be harsh if he's getting self-destructive.
If he's not listening to your reasonable advice, make him listen, because he needs to do so if he's not in control of his own faculties.
He'll thank you later, even if he curses and accuses you of being a jerk about it now.

Good luck!

3

Your last sentence:

He truly believes she still wants him and is still in love with him and that she's confused and brainwashed by others.

Seems to be the main issue. Once you break this thought pattern, his mind will be free to move on.

Next Sunday (when you will talk to him directly) ask him for proofs that his belief is true.

  • likely there will be no logical reasoning behind it and if so suggest him to stop stalking her: make it clear that it is what he is doing, it is a purely selfish gesture, it may get him in legal troubles and, consequently, it may get you in trouble as well (since you are helping him). Therefore you will refuse to communicate entirely with him if he chooses to keep on this path.
  • if he provides some reasoning though, focus on these points exclusively: figure out if they are not gestures of kindness made by his ex in an attempt to lessen the separation burden. If you think there is a second chance based on these, suggest him to take a different approach: ask him to not contact her at all. If those beliefs were true, she will eventually contact him back.

protected by Community Aug 3 '18 at 0:30

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