Monday, February 21, 2011

When Friends Break Up.....

When friends go through breakups--whether they be from a summer fling or a 10 year marriage, we are navigating rocky terrain. No one wants to see a friend in pain. And after a point, no one wants to hear lamentations about how beautiful their children would have been had they remained together and bred, how she was his one true love, how she can't bear to consider life without him. I mean, sympathy for a broken-hearted friend is one thing, but months of maudlin moping is quite another.

In situations like these, it is quite tempting to trash the other party. You have observed, either up close or from afar, the pain he/she has inflicted on your pal. You can see that your pal is suffering. Your duty as a friend is to provide a sympathetic ear, offer chocolate and/or ice cream, pour drinks and give reassurance that your pal will not shrivel up old and alone and be discovered long dead by a meter reader. It is not your duty to trash the other party. I realize it is on the tip of your tongue to say things like:

--"I've always hated her. She's never been nice to you, even in the beginning when all girlfriends are on their best behavior."

--"Of course you are doing the right thing. Short of having a lobotomy, there is nothing he can do that will change him for the better."

--"Even if the survival of the human species depending on a reunion between the two of you, you should think long and hard before teaming up with that beast."

In the near term, these feel good, and may make your despondent friend feel marginally better. But there may be long term consequences. Consider:

--Your friend is down and out. Will it do him/her any good to learn that you thought the relationship was a mistake all along? There's nothing like an "I told you so"-even an unspoken, unintended one--to make someone feel rotten. They're already feeling low, so don't make it worse by inflicting self doubt about their judgment.

--There's always a chance that they will reconcile. Then you are the odd man out who called the bf all those terrible (though probably justified) names. Your friend is now in the horrible position of knowing that you hate her bf, that you think she is foolish to take him back, and wondering how you will manage to be in the same room with him going forward.

--She might even feel inclined to share your sentiments with him. This could be a misguided demonstration of her staunch, undivided loyalty to him in an attempt to solidify the reunion: "Grace called you an arrogant, bullying blowhard, but I defended you!". Or a weapon to use against him in a heated argument: "Grace always hated you--she called it way back when that you were a #%@&*!" Either way, you're in a bad spot.

--When the inevitable next breakup occurs, she may be wary of seeking your support, knowing that you disapproved of the reunion. And that's when friends are needed most.

--Phrases like "There are lots of fish in the sea" and "You need to move on" fall on deaf ears to broken hearts. Let them mourn the relationship--and do your part (the ice cream, the sympathetic ear--see above) to help ease the pain.

So steer clear of the assessments and advice. Stock up on the necessary comfort items--but don't overdose--if the poor sad friend gains 20 lbs from overindulging in Ben & Jerry's her chances of future romantic success may decrease.

1 comment:

telephone snow said...

Such good advice! It's never a good idea to make disparaging remarks about someone freshly out of a friend's life.

I was initially misled by the title, and thought this would be an article on break ups with friends. Now that is something that is difficult... you can't just tell them, "I don't love you anymore" or "There's someone else!"

What is the most socially graceful way, in your opinion, to excuse yourself from a friendship that you no longer want to be in?