Friday, 23 January 2015

Things not to say to someone who has seen their relationship end

It's tough when one of your friends breaks up with someone. You know they're hurt and you have no idea what to say to them and you don't know if it's best if you should ask them about it all the time, or shouldn't ask them about it at all and you don't know how they're going to react to fairly innocuous questions about the demise of the their relationship.

I get that. I really do.

But in the interests of public health, here are some things which you shouldn't say to someone who is going through a break up

1. "You know where I am"

I know what you're thinking. What's this girl's problem. Of course you would let your friend know you're there for them.

The thing is, this phrase does not let your friend know you're there for them. This phrase says "I'm not really going to to bother with you unless you come to me. So....good luck with everything you're going through."

I have a string of texts from people who uttered those words in the days after the break up. That was the last I've heard of them and I couldn't tell you where they were. In the midst of it all I couldn't have told you where I was, let alone where they were.

Don't tell someone "You know where I am" let them know where you are. It is your responsibility to keep in touch with them and ask them if they're doing ok, it is not their responsibility to ask for your help. Call, text, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter - there are a myriad of ways to get in touch with someone and let them know where you are. Ask them out to dinner, ask if you can come round - they may say no, they probably will say no, get over it and show them that you are there.

2. "You're so strong, you're coping so well with it all, I'd be in pieces."

Again. What's wrong with telling someone that they're doing well? Surely this gees them up and makes them feel good about themselves?

No no. The trouble is this phrase is almost certainly paired with Number 1.

You see I don't have any choice but to be strong, because I'm doing this on. my. own, Am I going to sit down and curl up in a ball and cry? Actually yes, yes I am, and I do, all the time, but I'm not going to do it at work or when I'm out with friends because that would be super awkward and creepy for everyone. Of course I'm going to go to work and laugh and joke and seem normal, what else is there to do?

When someone says to you "You're so strong" it immediately puts a huge roadblock in the path to showing your true feelings. Now they've said that to you, you feel like you can't have a little breakdown and freak out. Sometimes I don't want to be strong, I want to feel like shit and not be happy go lucky.

By saying "You're coping so well with it all, I'd be in pieces" there is an implicit judgement in there for the recipient of that phrase. Oh so you think I'm a heartless bitch who has got over her relationship in double quick time. That's nice. And so untrue. I still cry most weekends when I'm stuck in the house by myself and I cry and feel miserable on other days of the week too. Yes those days are lessening but they're there still. Just because I'm not sobbing over my keyboard or stabbing pins into a voodoo doll over the lunch table don't assume that I'm "coping with it so well."

3. "I envy you your space."

This is one of my personal favourites and is only ever uttered by people who are in relationships.

No. You don't envy my space. You don't envy that one day I came home to discover that my one ally in life was not only leaving but was a complete stranger to me. You don't envy that I went from splitting my bills with someone to being responsible for them on my own.

What you want is an evening/weekend to yourself when your other half is out/away and you can have a bubble bath and watch crappy TV and paint your nails. You don't envy that I spend every weekend in on my own. You sit at home on a Saturday night, with your other half and your takeaway, watching Take Me Out and laughing at all the desperate single people - I'm sat on my own doing the same and trust me, you don't envy me.

4. "Have you heard from him at all?"

This just acts as a reminder that no, no I have not heard from him. Yes he was the biggest part of my life for a huge period of time and yes he did indeed turn his back completely on it and sever all contact completely. Thanks for reminding me.

Also trust me, if I hear from him, believe me I'll let you know.

5. "You'll meet someone else."



Arm yourself with these and you'll be able to be a fabulous friend to someone in need.

Good luck.


  1. I'm definitely guilty of number one, so on that note, I will be putting an email together re: an idea Sarah (lovelystrumpet) and I had in December!

  2. First of all, sorry to hear about what has obviously happened.

    Secondly, I am going through the same at the moment (we have been together for 21 years) so all of last year and this year so far we are trying to move on and separate. I can TOTALLY understand all you are saying above and agree wholeheartedly. Good on you for saying it when most of going through it just think it! X

    1. Oh goodness I am sorry.

      Glad to be of service - maybe just point people in the direction of this post when they say something similar to you :)

  3. Well put! Look forward to catching up with you in February in person, hope you can still make it.

    1. Yes of course I'm going! It's in the calendar and everything :)

    2. Yay!!! I really do hope you're ok lovely lady. Can't wait to catch up x

  4. Oh gosh, number 3 just makes my toes curl. You envy me my space? There's a simple solution to that, you know. It's quite straightforward to become single if you wish to be. I think you'll find that you don't actually envy it enough, when it comes down to the alternative.

    It's interesting, though. All these comments are well-meaning, I guess some people just don't get how to show their sympathy or empathy appropriately. It's hard, even if you have been through it. What is good to hear/say? I suppose what I find is having people ask how you are is nice (in genuine, non-patronising-head-tilty way). And you can either brush it off and say 'yeah, okay' or you can go full on rant and cry, if the moment/person is right for it.

    1. Yeah absolutely. I don't for a minute think that anyone is saying these things out of anything other than care but they're just not really what you want to hear.

      And you have it nailed - just keep asking how I am and I will then tell you if I'm feeling crap or not. I'm never going to come up to someone and unload on them without invite. But I wonder if the reason that some people don't ask and the reason that people say "You know where I am" is because they don't reeeeeeeally want you to tell them. That way they can feel like they've done something without putting themselves in the way of having to deal with someone's pain.

      But that's just the mean part of me that thinks that I'm sure.

  5. I am so sorry. I'm so guilty of number 1. I don't like to keep on at the person askin if they are okay so I leave it to them to come to me. I had never thought of it any other way until I read your post. I'm so sorry. I will be a much better friend. Sorry

  6. Oh lordy those are some gems right there. You just have to give them a psychopathic death stare. Trickier in text. Sorry it's still shitty for you lady. (so wanted to say you know where I am if you need me. But it's too soon, right? ha.) Take Me Out contingent!

    p.s. Aww look how sorry you made the commenter above!

  7. I've been through this and am still guilty of number 1, despite being annoyed when friends said to me (later down the line), "Oh we thought you were ok because you never said you weren't".

    There is nothing more rage-inducing then coupled-up people telling you how they loved being single - my best friend is majorly guilty of this, she's been single for a total of about 6 months since we were 16. She has no idea what it's like to be long-term, unintentionally single in her 30s - it makes me want to punch her.


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