6

After 9 months into the relationship, my early 20's friend just got dumped. She thought he was the one. He'd say things like "I've never felt this way with anyone before," or "I could see myself being with you for the rest of my life," right up until he dropped the bomb on her last week. He did it by explaining to her that he's "too busy with school right now" and she's "the right person, but the wrong time" and more "it's not you, it's me" things.

Now ordinarily I'm good with post breakup comfort. I have the tub of ice cream ready and I'm prepared to listen to her vent and tell me what an asshole he was. But to my utter surprise, that's not at all what happened!!

My friend relies heavily on her intuition, and she's told me multiple times (post-breakup) that she thinks that they were meant to be together and that they'll get back together in the future. Oh boy.

Things are complicated by the fact that they have classes together and their families are close friends so they'll see each other often. I'm worried that this combined with how she feels about the breakup will prevent her from getting closure and healthily moving on.

I've tried to confront her and help her see how douchey the whole situation was to help her move on, but she always takes his side and insists that he's "always told her the truth, even about things [she] didn't want to hear, so why would he lie now in the breakup?"

How can I help my friend accept that this relationship didn't work out and this guy is not the one?

8

How can I help my friend accept that this relationship didn't work out and this guy is not the one?

To be honest, you really can't. That may seem unfortunate, but this is probably something she's going to need to figure out on her own, in her own time.

Using rational argument, to dispel, discourage, or even explain something as irrational as love doesn't usually work. The heart wants what it wants, and people usually have to work it out on their own.

It sounds like you have already stated your opinion on the matter. If not, as an honest friend, you can and perhaps should tell her what you think. But do it one time and do it gently and then drop it. Something like:

Hey, I know you still love him, but I think you deserve better than someone who would break your heart when being in a relationship became inconvenient, but I'm your friend and I'll be here for you no matter what.

And leave it at that.

I've seen these situations play out a few different ways:

  • They split up on good terms, and then get back together some weeks-months later and have a pretty good relationship.

  • They split up on good terms, and then get back together some weeks-months later and do the make-up break-up thing till one or both realize that it isn't going to work.

  • They split up on good terms, and then one finds someone new. This can be devastating if the other is still holding on to hope, but it brings closure.

There are, of course, many other scenarios, but these are the more common ones, so let's look at these for the sake of brevity.

Being the friend that bashes the ex doesn't go well in any of these scenarios. She still loves him. Bashing him may cause her to distance herself from you. If they get back together at any point, she'll know that you don't approve, and may worry that you'll judge her for it.

So... With all of that in mind... What should you do instead?

Be there for your friend. Hold space for her. Let her go through what she's going through, and be willing to go through it with her. If she wants to remember him fondly, listen patiently, if she wants to bash him try not to agree too enthusiastically. Remember that her feelings are likely to change and change again. You're there for your friend, not there for the ex.

In the long run amicable breakups are usually easier to heal from. Things ended before they got really bad. Remember that even if her ex was a douchebag, he ended it before being really douchey to her and that's why she remembers him fondly.

  • 6
    Lovely answer. I would emphasise that when you say bad things about someone's ex it often reflects poorly on them and strains your relationship with them (for choosing to be with them) especially if they are not the one initiating the breakup. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 26 '18 at 15:01
  • 3
    @BenjaminGruenbaum That's a good point. Not hard to make the leap from "he's a douche" to "you're foolish for dating a douche" – apaul Oct 26 '18 at 15:05
3

First of all it is important to acknowledge that this is not your responsibility nor your problem to fix. As a friend all you need to do is be supportive and make yourself emotionally available if you are able.

That is, I've found very general things like:

If you want to talk about your feelings regarding GUY then I'm here for you and I would love to listen

And:

I am your friend and I respect you and acknowledge you as a person regardless of GUY.

To work a lot better than (co)runinating with friends about breakups and problems (I've done this a lot myself in the past).


More broadly:

It is important to recognise that a breakup in a meaningful relationship is a really tough thing which often includes loss of shared meaning, plans, hopes and friendship.

It is normal for your friend to feel grief and it is not uncommon to deal with it with denial. People who undergo relationship breakup often experience symptoms of PTSD (enough to pass the GHQ‐28!).

So I would focus on two sides - emotional availability and well-being:

  • Encouraging healthy behaviour:
    • See if she is getting enough sleep and if she is not - see if you can help her make the choice to sleep better.
    • See if she is eating healthy and enough. If she isn't, see if you can buy her healthy food for a little while or encourage her to cook together.
    • See if she is getting enough exercise. If she isn't see if you can go work out together or find a nice exercise class.
  • Make yourself emotionally available:
    • Acknowledge her feelings and promote a feeling of safety.
    • Be non-judgmental and emphasize you are on her side unconditionally on this.
    • Make it explicit that if she wants to talk you are there for her.

(Note: I based a bunch of this on research - I explicitly did not want to clutter my answer with scientific reviews - if anyone finds them helpful or would like to contest a point I've made - I can gladly provide them)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.