How to support friends and family through a difficult breakup – By Annie Button

By June 7, 2022No Comments

Breaking up is hard on everyone involved. There can be many reasons why couples decide to call it a day from genuine irreconcilable differences and affairs through to something as simple as growing apart. Of course, it never gets any easier, but in some cases, efforts have been made to make the process of going through a breakup a little less challenging.

In fact, there have even been rules brought into effect in 2022 that support the idea of making divorce ‘more civil’. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has made it possible for couples to divorce without one partner blaming the other, or a waiting period of two years, which was the case under previous legislation.

Nevertheless, while some couples are able to breakup at least relatively amicably it is still very common to see difficult breakups with negative feelings and emotions running high. This kind of end to a relationship can be very hard on individuals and their mental health, but professional help is available. If it is a friend or a family member, you want to be there to support them as much as possible as well as signpost them to people and places that can.

But how do you lend a hand without getting in the way, and what kind of support is appropriate in the context of a messy breakup? Here we take a look at how you can support friends and family through a difficult breakup.

Ask what would be helpful

People handle breakups differently. Even if you have been in a similar situation, it is probably going to be unhelpful to make assumptions and presume to know what they need. Every relationship is unique, which means every breakup is too. This leads us to a conclusion: you need to ask what you can do to help them. And make sure that you listen and really take on board what they say.

Yes, it is fine to share your own experiences in dealing with this situation, but they aren’t the same as you, and may find comfort in a different way. It can often be extremely valuable initially just to offer them your time, but not make any assumptions as to what that time is going to be used for.

“Let’s go out tomorrow evening and find you a rebound” might work for some people – for others it is the opposite of what they need.

Help around the house

One of the most common experiences for those going through a tough breakup is finding a lack of motivation for chores and ad-hoc tasks around the house. Of course, once again you need to consider what is appropriate and what you feel comfortable taking care of for them (see the point about asking them). However, some useful tasks that you might be able to manage for them might include:

  • Cooking dinner – homecooked dinners are a great remedy for feeling low and it can be something that feels like far too much effort if you’re going through a breakup.
  • Washing up dishes – just as helpful as cooking dinner might be taking care of the washing up afterwards.
  • Putting on a laundry load – a simple task that helps to avoid all the housework accumulating.
  • Planning appointments – make sure that their routine doesn’t go out of the window. Booking simple things like hair appointments and dentist check-ups can be very helpful.

Avoid badmouthing your ex

There are a lot of bad feelings about breakups. Your friend may have been hurt and experienced something that has made them angry and betrayed. However, now is not the time for speaking poorly of the former partner. You might think that it feels cathartic, but this only serves to add further negativity to the proceedings.

Try to focus on the positive parts of life: the opportunities and possibilities. Your friend needs time to process what has happened and how they feel about everything. Making negative comments (even if they come from a place of trying to help) can just make things worse.

Set limits for yourself

This one might sound a little harsh, but it is important to remember your own mental health and time commitments. Yes, you want to help someone who you care about – but it doesn’t have to come at the cost of completely draining your mental resources (or indeed the actual monetary costs of days out).

Remember that this isn’t about being selfish – it is about being realistic. Promising them your time and then having to pull out at the last minute is far, far worse than admitting that you don’t have the time today and scheduling something else in the future.

Being a good friend to someone who is going through an emotional crisis can be very draining, so don’t be hard on yourself if you do need time to decompress from it.

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