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.