back to top

Here Are Useful Things To Keep In Mind When Your Friend Goes Through A Break Up

We spoke to a psychotherapist for advice on what you can do.

Posted on

A big break-up can make for a traumatic life event.


"Break-ups happen in different ways," says Dr Avi Shmueli, psychoanalyst and couple psychotherapist at the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships. "Some are sudden, some appear suddenly but have been building up slowly over time, and others can be protracted and play out before your very eyes. Whichever the case, a break-up is traumatic."

Break-ups can hurt. BIG TIME. If your friend goes through one, you're going to want to be there for them. Here are few ways you can help your friend.

Do let them know you're available and try to see your friend more.

BuzzFeed / Grzegorz Mleczek / Via

One reason why break-ups can be confusing for people is that they cause "significant changes in different parts of your life to occur simultaneously", according to Shmueli. You can help by making your friend knows you're there for them as they handle all of those changes.

Try to call and text, and invite them out when you can. Building the belief that you’re a constant in your friend’s life can help.

Don't feel anxious about bringing it up.

Flickr: 128745475@N07 / Creative Commons / Via

"If you're anxious about broaching the subject of a break-up with your friend, ask yourself if you're anxious that you will seemingly cause upset," says Shmueli. "Then ask yourself whether your friend is someone who tends to bury upset rather than acknowledge it. Burying a feeling does not resolve it. It only stores it up for the future. So if you're anxious, your friend is probably also anxious."

Also, don't be afraid to broach the question of how your friend is really feeling for fear they'll bare all. "You won't be causing upset, but offering an opportunity to your friend to process what is already there. The invitation may not be taken up, but will certainly be noticed and valued just the same."

Do expect the unexpected when talking to your friend.

BuzzFeed / Tirza van Dijk / Via

"A person suffering a break-up also has to manage some powerful self-realisations and face some truths about themselves that they would otherwise not really wish to know," says Shmueli. "Sometimes your friend may treat you badly simply as part of the break-up, so be resilient. Expect fluctuations in how your friend feels."

Your friend has to process a lot during a break-up. Try your best to take everything in stride with them.


Don't necessarily go along with the common "I'm fine".

NBC / Via

"It is wise to 'believe in your friend', but don't believe everything they say," says Shmueli. "It goes without saying that different feelings will dominate at different times, but the pervasive 'I'm fine' is to be treated with constant suspicion."

Do be mindful of things that might remind your friend about their ex-partner.

Luis Llerena / Via

"Remember important dates and places in relation to your friend and the ex-partner," Shmueli says. "When these occur, make sure to contact your friend and ask how they are."

Make sure they don’t get bogged down in potential annoyances and reminders of their ex, such as special events they had planned to do together.

But don't belittle or berate the ex-partner.

André Robillard / Via

"Remember that the ex-partner, no matter how hated after the break-up, was once loved and valued over others," says Shmueli. "If you begin to belittle them, then you run the risk of also belittling your friend."

Do believe in your friend and the future.

BuzzFeed / Riley Briggs / Via

"Break-ups often feel as if there is no future," says Shmueli, "and you can be a good friend in showing that the future does exist through maintaining the activities and routines that were there before the break-up.

"It might be true that ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea’ but a person’s got to be together enough to go fishing first."

And yes, booze can help. Sometimes. Within reason.

Flickr: yto / Via Creative Commons

"If going out for a drink is part and parcel of your friendship then carry on, as this helps your friend to realise that there is a future," Shmueli says. "If it isn't, then don't."

It's important to remember that alcohol is a depressant, and not the answer to all of life's problems. "The idea may be to blot out the pain, but the reality will be that the pain of a break-up will outlast any drunken evening and be a lot more difficult to manage through the haze of a hangover."

Although it can't beat making your friend a cup of tea and having a chat.

Flickr: praveenpn4u / Via Creative Commons

According to Shmueli, sticking the kettle on is important because you're taking "time out from the day devoted to another person. An indication that they are sufficiently important to have clearly in mind, uninfluenced by the bustle of the day. The time may be just spent in silence, but it may be all the more valuable for it."

The most important thing you can do when your mate goes through a break-up is to be there, and to let them know you care.