If a mate is struggling with a break-up, let them know they can chat to someone by emailing [email protected] or texting lovebetter to 234.
Break-ups suck. Even when they’re “for the best”, “mutual” or any of the other cliches we lean on to make ourselves feel better – they’re tough.
Pop culture has long provided us with a guidebook on how to grieve the end of a relationship. Crying into a tub of ice cream has been glamorised so much that it’s easy to look at struggling friends and file their break-up pain under ‘normal’.
But how do we know that, really? How do we know if their wallowing is part of the break-up process or if it’s evolved into something more serious?
To get to the bottom of it, we chatted with sex and betrayal therapist Jo Robertson. She says getting over a relationship happens in two parts – but the timing of those two parts is what varies.
The first phase is where people disentangle their emotions and distance themselves from the love they once had for that person. Easier said than done. The next part involves some self-reflection and learning, so might be a bit harder to stomach…
“The second phase is the processing of the relationship – understanding what happened. What were the unique dynamics that didn’t work? What part did they play in the breakdown?” says Jo.
So, if you’re not sure where in that process your friend is, or whether they’re hurting more than they should be, Jo has a few pointers. Here’s what to do.
Are they withdrawing?
It sounds obvious, but there are some common signs to look out for. If your friend has just broken up with a partner and stops engaging with friends, looking after themselves or enjoying things they used to, that likely means they’re hurting. And if your mate is isolating themselves from their community and hasn’t shown improvement over a two-month period, Jo says it’s time to reach out.
Consider the timeframe
It’s all about timings with break-ups. If you’re seeing concerning things (like the above) but also seeing improvements over a month or so — Jo says that could still be positive as they’re heading in the right direction.
“If it’s been two months and they are still in a dark place or deteriorating, then you could encourage them to see a counsellor,” Jo says. Of course, it may depend on how long the relationship was. “For a three-month relationship, they may feel recovered after eight weeks. For a seven-year relationship, it may be two years before they feel fully themselves again.”
You don’t have to “fix” it
When we’re worried about a mate, it’s tempting to jump into solutions mode to try and help. But Jo says most people just want to be heard, whether that’s through venting, crying or processing out loud.
“Our role as a friend isn’t to fix their pain, but to sit with them in it,” Jo says. “The other tendency is to jump in with our own similar situations. It’s well-intentioned, but can feel like we are pivoting the conversation to being about us so stay present, stay focused on them, and give them the space they need as it’s usually just a season.”
How to help
It’s all well and good to be ready to listen, but what if your friend isn’t talking? Maybe they’re embarrassed. Maybe they don’t talk about their feelings at the best of times. What then?
Jo says it’s helpful to gently drop a few comments like “I’m worried about you”, “I’m wondering what you need to start feeling better”, and “Is there anything I could do to help?”.
They might not be ready to take that next step, so give them a few options. Make sure they have a couple of numbers for helplines or psychologists for when they are ready.
If a couple of months go by and you’re still worried, Jo says asking what extra help they need before suggesting third-party help like a counsellor is the way to go.
“After this point, you keep getting in touch, offering support and raising your concerns,” says Jo. “However, it’s up to them what they do next. We can’t force anyone into help, they have to want it.”
LoveBetter has provided the below resources for anyone needing help or someone to talk to about their relationship struggles.
LoveBetter Youthline support channels: email [email protected] or text lovebetter to 234.
The post How To Recognise If Your Mate Is Hurting Post Break-Up appeared first on VICE.