Helping A Friend Through A Break-Up
WellBeing|Issue 187
A relationship break-up can require a lot of support, with friends often the first people involved in the healing process. Read some of the ways you can help a friend through a split.
Samantha Allenmann

When her boyfriend of six years called time on their relationship, despite it being a fairly amicable split, Elise Baldwin struggled to find the words for what she was feeling. “Especially the guilt and shame about being dumped — that was really hard to talk about,” she says.

Fortunately, Baldwin received lots of support from her friends and family, but that’s not always the case. Dean Talbot was also in a six-year relationship; however, he was the one who broke it off. He shared many mutual friends with his ex-girlfriend Anna and says he didn’t receive much support when the relationship ended.

“I was distraught, confused and maybe a little numb,” Talbot says. “I still loved Anna but as a close friend, not a romantic lover. I didn’t want to hurt her but knew that I had to for my own happiness, so I ended the relationship like I was tearing off a Band-Aid. Most of our friends either took a neutral stance, not wanting to get involved, or thought I was a bit of a jerk for breaking up with her so suddenly.”

Provide unconditional support

It’s not uncommon for the person who ends the relationship to receive less support, especially when the couple share friends. However, psychologist Donna Cameron says that both parties experience grief and loss, regardless of who ended things.

“I often explain to my clients that even if they are the one to leave and they have grieved the person they once loved even before ending the relationship, they still now have to grieve the ending of the relationship,” says Cameron. “So for them it’s not so much about the person they’ve left, but more about the future they saw and the plans they made in this relationship that have also ended.”

Alcohol isn’t the magic fix (nor is Tinder)

In Cameron’s clinic, many clients going through break-ups have told her that their friends have recommended sleeping with someone else to get over it. “Seriously, have we not moved past this yet?” asks Cameron. “Are we still thinking that a random fling with a stranger will fix the grief and loss process? We have to start learning more about our emotions and the role they play in our health and wellbeing. I can promise you emotions are here to stay, and they do not like being blocked or ignored.”

Alcohol is also commonly used as a short-term block to the grieving process. Although these days we have a better understanding of the impact alcohol can have on mental health (such as increasing anxiety), a night on the tiles is still often recommended as a way to deal with heartbreak.

“I’m sure these friends had the best intentions, but recommending me to go out and get drunk is a terrible idea when you’re newly broken up, not fully in control of your emotions yet and liable to make some pretty iffy decisions,” says Baldwin.

Don’t minimise their feelings

Aged 29 when her relationship ended, Baldwin received comments from well-meaning friends that focused on her age. “Being told things like ‘You’re so young’ and ‘You have your whole life ahead of you’ … both are true but are also quite dismissive of the way I felt and my immediate pain and grief,” she says.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM WELLBEINGView All

Travel the Top End

Immerse yourself in the eerie colonial ruins of Victoria Settlement and experience the rugged tropical landscape of Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, fringed with white beaches and teeming with all manner of birds, fish, crocodiles and unique Aussie wildlife.

9 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Yoga to foster friendliness

Unconditional friendliness is the key to transforming your life, and it starts with the self. Harness the yogic concept of maitri to work towards conscious, radical acceptance of the self and invite more happiness into your life.

10 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Protecting the commons

“The commons” are the natural and cultural resources, ranging from land to knowledge, that should be accessible to all members of society. Under intense social evolutionary pressure, however, we need to be vigilant that these commons are protected and secured for the good of all.

9 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Pregnancy-safe beauty

Your skincare regime may make you feel great, but beauty products often hide a large amount of harmful chemicals. Natural beauty columnist Ema Taylor shares her guide to the ingredients you should avoid while you’re expecting.

7 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

The climatarian diet

Our daily food choices have an impact not only on our health but also on the climate. We explore how to shop, cook, eat and reduce waste in a warming world.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Kiwifruit

While more research needs to be conducted on humans, kiwifruit is looking particularly promising as a powerful medicinal food. Eating two of these delicious fruit per day is showing positive health benefits for many of the conditions that affect us today.

4 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Designing a sociable home

Architecture and interior design can help build our personal relationships, and numerous design strategies can nurture fertile ground for social interaction. We explore how to foster feelings of togetherness and set the tone for sociable life at home.

9 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Kit Willow A winning formula

Two years after being fired from her own label, Kit Willow started again from the ground up. Second time around, though, she is reshaping a broken industry and forging a fresh outlook in which makers, market and Mother Earth all benefit.

8 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Accentism

Accentism, discriminating against someone because of their accent, is still prevalent in societies around the world. We explore accent bias in an increasingly diverse world, the politics and cultural significance of accents and what your accent says about you.

9 mins read
WellBeing
WellBeing #196

Effects Of Coffee On Your Body And What It Is Doing To The Planet

Coffee is a massively popular drink, second only to water. In this article we take a deeper look at coffee, the many ways you can have it, the effects it has on your body and what it is doing to the planet.

10 mins read
WellBeing
Issue 194