How do I help my best friend get over her broken heart? She has been in a long distance relationship for over 2 years and her shitty boyfriend dumped her over email and wouldn’t even FT!! She has been a mess for over a month and I don’t know what to do :(
Dear Tops BFF:
Well that’s shitty.
The kind of good news is that we have all been there; what your friend is going through is absolutely necessary. I am going on the assumption that since he refused to FT with her, then he also hasn’t been very communicative since, if at all. Bottom line is break-ups are brutal, but not being offered the opportunity to communicate about it or try to make amends is the equivalent of being kicked in the face twelve times. This is scientific fact, by the way, because this usually leaves us wondering how little did I mean to him/her that I was so easily set aside?
Please recognize that there are quite literally an infinite number of ways to perceive a situation. If your friend is looking at this situation and thinking: My heart is broken, he is the love of my life and I was not good enough for him, I will never find anyone like him again, her brain — actually — creates a pathway connecting these dots. Every time she thinks of him, these dots light up and connect faster and this pathway gets more and more worn and eventually, her brain becomes incapable of creating another pathway and oftentimes depression sets in. You MUST, for the health of her, help her re-write this story: I got dumped by someone who is not the love of my life so that I could find the actual love of my life who will not dump me after two years via email without giving me a chance to engage the ‘why’ of it. What a Grade-A asshole!
That said, here are some practical steps which she can action immediately:
First: No contact AT ALL not under any circumstance. He actively chose not to communicate with her at the time when communications was at its most essential. Why? Because he’s not interested enough. He’s not engaged enough. He doesn’t care about her enough.
Brutal, I know. But better brutal now than later – at this point in the game, she needs to be vigilant in how she treats this scenario. Me, I am surgical in my removal of an ex – no facebook, twitter, bbm, dm, calls, texts, smoke signals, Morse code. I delete and block and filter messages to a spam folder. I also delete all former communications such as emails because I’m not interested in fixating on the past when something has shattered. In the interest of her well-being, you need to make certain that this is how she too has set herself up.
Second: If she is connected to him via social media, and if she’s not yet ready to un-friend / block him, then recommend that sheunsubscribe from his feed(s). She doesn’t need to see what he’s doing and she doesn’t need to know about his happy fun-time.
Instead, she needs to concentrate on herself and her life and this present moment. He should no longer factor into her daily routine in any capacity.
Third: She needs to exercise as much and as often as possible. Force her to go out for walks and activities where her body is too occupied and exhausted to fixate on her brain. Bonus reality here is that after a break-up, too many of us tend to internalize and wonder what it is about us that is no longer loveable. One of the worst things that can happen during such times is that we no longer feel good about how we appear (shallow, but 100% true) – exercise and activity will off-set this and will, in the long run, serve her better than gorging on ice-cream and drink.
Fourth: No binge-drinking. Alcohol makes us stupid and messy. In this current state of hers, these are the last two things she needs to avoid, so make certain that if she needs to have a drink, it is kept to a minimal or you are right there alongside her to grab her phone and not let her drunk dial or drunk text. Basically, be her chaperone.
Fifth: The relationship is over and she will likely for a time still only see the goodness in her ex. For whatever reason, most of us within the shock of a break-up, suddenly think our ex was the love of our life and we will never find anyone to fill their amazing shoes. But in the case of your BFF, the reality is that if he were in fact the love of her life, he would have never left her. He wouldn’t have refused her communication about the break-up. If he were the love of her life, they would still be together and I would not be writing this advice column.
He will be a Superhero of Love in her mind’s eye and she will exalt every single thing about him. You? You need to bring him down a few notches in front of her. As all BFFs have, you likely hold a list titled ‘Shitty Things Your BFF’s Ex Has Done To Hurt Your BFF’ – use them freely and loosely to remind her. If you can, make these moments as funny as possible as there is healing in laughter. Trust this.
Sixth: Help her make a list of all of the things which she did to contribute to the breakup. We always know; we always know when we’ve done something shitty but then pretend like we didn’t. Now is the time to face these moments, to list and take count so that in her next relationship, she will remember this list and be the better for it.
*With the above in mind and before I move into the work that requires more heavy lifting, please remember that her break-up is fresh. It will likely still be fresh for the next few months so don’t ever badger her for this healing. Rather, sit next to her for as long as she is on the floor paralyzed by her heart pain.
Seventh: Allow her to go through all of the stages of mourning both the relationship itself and also whatever future she had imagined with him. The future? It never was, it never will be. It is a phantom limb which she needs to cut off unless she wishes for it to infect her entire self.
This may in fact be the hardest part of a break-up: letting go of all that we had imagined for our future which is, because it is imagined, picture-perfect. When a break-up is not of our own choosing, we are forced to abort all hopes and dreams which we had built into our partners. This SUCKS. There is no other way to put it, so you – as her BFF – your duty is to empathize and help her shoulder this pain. With time, it will slowly become lighter and eventually vanish.
Eighth: Allow and even help her get angry. Right now, the emotion of anger will serve as a sort of bubble wrap and it’ll keep her from breaking every time she smashes into a good loving memory of her ex.
About what does she have to be angry?
After two years, he dumped her over email. He did not have the grace, kindness, or mindfulness to call, FaceTime, Skype with her to discuss this unilateral decision – and this behaviour, it is a reflection of both his cowardice and how little respect he holds for your BFF. She has every single right to not just be angry, but to fully rage as response.
Exercising anger is a critical part of the process to her eventual heart’s health, though remind her not to direct it at her ex, but to instead talk about this anger with her friends. It’s why we’re here. This anger will lift when she least expects it because it is exhausting. If in a few months it does not lift, then she needs to start actively dismantling it because angry hearts become atrophied and eventually, this means that they are incapable of loving even the most precious of new people.
Your BFF, as with all of us who have had our hearts thrown back at our heads, deserves to love with an open heart and with vulnerability and trust. Anger is a barrier to these things.
And ultimately, it is the road to bitterness and no one likes a bitter person (least of all themselves).
Ninth: Keep her insulated with people who love her. As always, our friends are our balm – right now, in her life’s story, she needs it more than on the average Wednesday. Be there; don’t let go of her.
Tenth and absolutely most importantly: She is not to, under any circumstance, engage another man until she has completely and totally washed this man off of her skin. As a dear friend once said “Eat your feelings, but not other [men].”
When she comes out of this, please remind her to open her heart with this same amount of willingness and vulnerability to the next man. This is for her sake alone. There is nothing more painful than not loving to our full capacity or worse, holding someone else accountable for the mistakes of a former lover.
Support her in being open, loving, and even reckless in all future loves. Chances are that she will be hurt again and again and all of this is alright. We always recover – every single person walking in the street is a testament to this one true fact – We. Always. Recover.
Until she one day finds the one man who will meet her beat for pure beat every single step of the way.
In your corner, as a woman who has had equal heart pains and wouldn’t have it any other way,
What do you think? How do you usually deal with a breakup? Do you have a tried and true system to help your friends get over the Jerks Who Dumped Them? Let us know in the comments – and if you’ve got your own question for our gorgeous guru, leave a (totally anonymous) comment in the box below. Happy Monday, Beavers! <3