The responsibility of a friend is to be honest and direct. Then again, it’s also to protect and help. It’s to tell your friend what they need to hear, but also what they want to hear. It’s to defend him or her when they can’t defend themselves, but also to make them stronger.
When it comes to talking to your friend about his or her relationships, things get even trickier. Sure, every friendship is different, but it can be a tightrope act at times in talking about a new or longstanding partner if you feel differently about this person than your friend dating than your friend does.
It all can become even more chaotic when that relationship ends, and your friendly duties require you to listen and chime in, agree and challenge, reflect while moving on. There is always the chance too that the couple in question will get back together, and everything you’ve said may be hanging forever awkwardly in the air. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips when your close friend endures a breakup.
It’s Not Your Loss
There is always the chance you liked the person; that’s just going to have to be too bad. When two friends who happen to be dating break up, things can get awkward what with dealing with the fallout. Here however, you can’t dally; there is no picking sides. As sad as it may be, this person is out of your life unless given explicitly permission by your friend to contact the person, and even that possibility needs to take a long time. What’s more, don’t be upset for the loss. Sympathize with your friend, but don’t mourn the sudden absence as if it’s your own.
In our social lives, we’ve only a finite amount of time to go around. When you’re dating someone new, you’re not necessarily creating more time, you’re just reallocating it. When a person becomes single though, there tends to be a lot of sudden free time available that was previously spent not being alone. As a friend, you have to accept this and take up the slack. This may me that someone who was a closer friend when they were single drifted away when they were coupled, only to appear again once single. It can be frustrating, but it’s a universal truth.
Help Distract and Get Out
One of the worst things anyone can do when a break up occurs is to look for an immediate substitute. Distractions are fun, dalliances can be useful, but seeking to replace that which has been lost is unhealthy and harmful. As the friend, the best thing to do is ramp up that which you normally do: get away from whatever may remind of the relationship. Going out and getting attention is good, but dressing up and making an effort for whatever you’re planning is also key. There is always another train coming, and as one savvy extrovert once said, what good is sitting alone in your room?
It’s never time for I told you so, and not just because it’s a negative statement that helps nothing or no one but yourself. It’s because it’s always a different world within the relationship. Yes, one half a couple may be blinded by some things that others on the outside see, but if you generally trust the decisions your friend makes, then there is likely something on the inside that isn’t noticed by the public.
Spending intimate time with someone allows for more nuance, understanding, sympathy; people on the outside might not realize that. When the relationship falls, it will be easy to see all the bad things but we’ve all a tendency for the hopeful and to see things through. It’s harder within the relationship, and much easier to take shots from outside.
Remember It’s Not A Waste
This is good advice for yourself, but everyone needs to hear it. Too often we too narrowly define success in a relationship; it would seem in fact that unless you get married and live together until you die, some may say it’s not a success. The truth is most people will have a series of relationships throughout their lives, and they can all be positive in a variety of ways.
We are a product of our relationships, and it’s likely we will learn something from each one. They are rarely a waste, and it’s important to embrace the positives while acknowledging and accepting the negatives. Most relationships end, and often the breakup won’t be the least bit enjoyable. When everything settles though, it’s important for everyone to accept that that was a part of one’s life, and now it’s on to what’s next.
The best thing to say, which also happens to be true, is that it wasn’t the right time. The aftermath of a breakup can be easy when everything went to hell, and all the more difficult when just a few things were off. In the end, relationships are about where two people are in their lives, and so much of it is timing, and ultimately, there isn’t much that can be done save for accepting it, remembering it, and moving it.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.