When you’re going through a divorce or a breakup, it can be tough. Not just on yourself, but on the people around you, and how they act. When we experience heartbreak, we can feel completely overwhelmed with pain, something that our friends and family can find hard to watch. Who wants to watch someone that they love suffer? But while your intentions to help someone going through a breakup may be in the right place, the way you approach the situation may have you on the receiving end of a range of emotions, such as anger and even resentment.
With that in mind, here are some of the worst responses to a breakup you can have when it comes to helping someone going through it, and alternatives that will help you acknowledge their feelings in a way that is supportive.
1. “I know exactly how you feel.”
While the end of someone else’s relationship may mirror similarities to your own experiences, no two people will ever experience an identical situation. While you can call upon your own experiences to express sympathy, be cautious not to say those loaded words: I know exactly how you feel. This will likely be met with anger, especially if the breakup is raw, and you don’t want your friend to feel as though you’re minimizing the way they feel.
When my mum went through a divorce, I vividly remember a time when her friend used those very words. A person can know what it feels like to go through a breakup or a divorce, but they will never understand just how you feel. Remember that you’re there to comfort your friend, not to make it all about you. Instead of saying those toxic words, instead try: “I can only imagine how you’re feeling.”
2. “I knew this would happen.”
When it comes to a breakup, there’s no right or wrong way to handle it. Every situation will be different for each individual, and one of the worst response to a breakup is to express to someone how they should be feeling or acting to minimize how they’re feeling. Only the person going through it has an insight into that relationship, how it made them feel and what they got from it. You can’t judge something you were not a part of.
When it comes to relationships, people fall in and out of love at different speeds, therefore it may take someone months to get over a situation that would take someone else just weeks. The key to being a support network during a breakup or divorce is to withhold your judgment; try to imagine how you would feel in their situation. Would you want someone undermining how you felt? Instead of telling them how they should be feeling, say something like: “I wish I knew the right thing to say.”
3. “I never liked them anyway!”
Everyone has experienced heartbreak at some time or another, and we all know that when you’re going through a breakup you go through a range of emotions, and one of them is anger. You lash out and maybe even rant, and it helps you feel better. However, what doesn’t help is listening to someone else also bad-mouth your ex. Often when the person who’s going through a breakup or divorce is lashing out in anger, it’s not how they really feel. They’re hurting and trying to protect themselves from further hurt; the anger will diminish and it’s very likely their words won’t match how they actually feel inside.
When going through a breakup or divorce, what you really need is for a friend or loved one to listen to your rantings without adding their two cents’ worth. By talking in a negative manner about their ex, you’re admitting that you harbored very strong opinions about the person they loved, yet never shared at the time, and this may cause them to question their trust in you as a friend. It’s one of the absolute worst responses to a breakup, and it could actually cost you the friendship.
With a breakup, there remains a chance of a reconciliation, and if this happens you don’t want to have been the one to bad mouth the person they love; they’ll remember everything negative you said, and it may cause friction in your relationship. Instead, reserve judgment and don’t say anything. Just be there for your friend and listen.
4. “You’ll find someone new, you’re still young.”
The fact that, when going through a breakup, someone even thinks the concept of you meeting someone new is something you’d want to hear can be infuriating. When you’re going through a breakup, the last thing on your mind is the idea of jumping into another relationship in the near future. In order to allow yourself to heal fully, you need to invest the time into taking care of yourself.
Even when we go through a breakup, we don’t cease loving the person we broke up with. Time is a healer, and so you need that time to help you heal before you think of investing that same love in another person. Avoid telling your friend or loved one they’ll meet someone else, or remind them of their youth; it doesn’t help, it’s annoying and you’re more likely to stress them out. Instead, simply show your support by saying something such as: “I’m always a phone call away.”
5. “Do you think you’ll get back together?”
Nobody has the ability to look into the future, and while we may still hold on to the possibility of getting back together with an ex, we just don’t know what the future holds. It’s also not healthy to hit pause on your life and spend your time dwelling on the future; it won’t help you to move on or heal. So, when friends or loved ones ask that question, it forces you to focus on whether or not the breakup is temporary, and it’s simply not helpful. Steer clear of asking questions like this and instead say something like: “I’m here for you.”
6. “Everything happens for a reason.”
While it can be easy to follow the belief that everything happens for a reason, and I’m a firm believer in this myself, it’s not something you want to hear when going through a breakup. Sometimes, it helps to reflect on a previous relationship and pinpoint where it went wrong, and what made you unhappy. This not only helps you to heal, but it will also allow you to go into a relationship in the future knowing what you want, and what will make you happy. By following the ‘everything happens for a reason’ mindset, it slams the door on healing, and you want your friend or loved one to heal.
7. “You’re handling this better than I thought you would.”
First, there’s no guideline to how you should handle a breakup or divorce; sometimes they’re easy and clean, sometimes they’re incredibly painful and messy. Some people have the ability to get over a situation quicker than others, but that doesn’t mean you’re not handling it the ‘right’ way.’ You may have good days, you may have bad days. Also, a person that seems okay on the outside may be suffering on the inside. By acknowledging that it’s okay for your friend or loved one to deal with this breakup authentically, they won’t feel judged for having a good or a bad day. Reinforce this by saying something like: “It’s okay to have good days and bad days.”
8. “Why are you still not over it?”
Putting your timeline on someone else’s pain is not helpful nor is it fair to that individual. Nobody wants to see their friend or loved one suffering, but the path to healing is unique to each person. If you’re in doubt about what is the right thing to say, don’t say anything. Listen more and offer less advice. Sometimes we just need someone to listen, and sometimes being present is enough. In those situations, say something like: “I’ll be here for you as long as you need me.”
9. “Cheer up!”
Statements such as ‘stay positive’ or ‘cheer up’ can be perceived as encouraging someone to feel feelings that they’re not capable of currently feeling. You shouldn’t suggest that they should be feeling an emotion that isn’t authentic; this can hinder their healing, not to mention it’s annoying. Not only that but when you use these terms of encouragement with someone who is going through a hard time, you’re sending them the message that you’re not comfortable with their genuine feelings; you want your friend or loved one to feel free to express their authentic emotions without judgment. Instead of using these phrases, try to say something else, such as: “I know you’re going through a hard time, but I’m always here for you.”
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