”How do I help my male friend go through a breakup?”
If you’re asking the question above, this article is for you.
I’ll never forget what a close friend told me some years ago when I shared another sad relationship story with her.
“You underestimate how much these stories of yours affect my mental health. You don’t know how sad and deeply distressed they make me feel.”
When those words spilled out of her mouth, I kept mum.
I was lost for words. I couldn’t understand how my problems would affect her.
“These are my problems, not yours. They are supposed to affect me; you only need to listen to me. Whatever happened to giving a listening ear to your friend?” I retorted.
Now, years later, I admit that I finally understand what my friend meant by those words.
Our close friends are also affected by things that happen to us and things we go through, and many times, they feel helpless.
Breakup happens; no matter how quiet or subtle the process is, it still hurts.
It hurts more for a guy who feels deeply and has put in his best to make the relationship work.
Men are not trained to express their feelings or deepest hurts.
But make no mistake about this, when a breakup happens, they feel hurt.
Some have sleepless nights, cry in the bathroom, feel numb and as if a void was created in their lives.
They feel powerless, confused, and vulnerable.
Even though your male friend may appear tough and try to let you know he’s fine, and he’s handling it like a man, he needs support.
How Do I Help My Male Friend Go Through A Breakup?: 8 Tips For Being There
1. Check In With Yourself First.
As the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have, and you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Make sure you are mentally and emotionally in a good place before you try to support and help.
If you have committed to treating your friend to casual outings and movies, don’t expect him to settle the bills.
Ensure you are in a good financial place to take care of those bills before you offer to support him.
Don’t over-commit or over-compromise.
Be considerate of yourself and show up and support them within your capacity.
2. Create A Safe Space And Listen.
Many questions normally pop up after a breakup.
“Could I have done anything differently?”
“What did I miss?”
“Can I still fix this?”
“Will I ever get through this?”
A safe space is an environment that is kind, empathetic, and non-judgmental; where your friend feels safe enough to share his deep feelings of confusion, regret, and pain without the fear of judgment, criticism, or invalidation.
A safe space and your listening ears are the best gifts you can give your friend when he’s dealing with the confusing thoughts and feelings that follow a breakup.
Let him know that everything he feels is normal.
You must validate his feelings at all times.
Chances are your friend feels cheated and misunderstood especially if he tried his best to save his relationship.
Validating his feelings with sentences like:
“That must be hard to deal with.”
“This isn’t fair and I’d feel the same way if it happened to me too.”
“I hear you dear and I completely understand you.”
It makes him feel heard, seen, and understood, and it will encourage him to open up his heart and mind toward healing and moving forward.
3. Respect Your Friend’s Boundaries.
He may not be ready to talk about the breakup or see anyone.
If he communicates that he doesn’t want to be bothered, respect his requests and wishes.
Don’t force or pressure him to reach out and talk when he isn’t ready to do so.
Allow him to come to that point where he feels ready.
4. Don’t Assume; Ask Questions.
When we were going through challenges, especially a breakup, we all have different ways we’d love to be helped and supported.
You may want someone to always call and stay around and be with you while I may desire a listening ear.
No words, no advice, just a patient listening ear.
The way you want to support your friend may not be the way your friend wishes to be supported.
So you must do away with your assumptions and ask questions.
5. Before You Visit, Ask If It’s Okay.
Before you offer your opinion, ask if he needs to hear your opinion or if he just needs a listening ear.
Before you book a movie ticket, ask if it’s okay and if that’s what he wants.
Just because you want to help him heal doesn’t mean you don’t need his input.
6. Create Enough Space For Grief.
Normally, relationships form a significant part of our lives, and when they end, it is okay to grieve.
Acceptance and grieving are important steps in a healing journey, and to move forward, one must create space to grieve what was and what could’ve been.
It is also one of the hardest steps to take, and many people, including your friend, may struggle and go back and forth with it.
6. Don’t Rush Him.
Healing is a linear process, and the time it takes to heal varies with each person and each unique relationship.
I know it hurts to see your friend in a lot of pain, and it can be tempting to want to hurry him through it.
Let him grieve for as long as he can.
Give him enough space and time to go through what he needs to go through.
7. Keep Him At The Center Of Everything.
No matter what happened or how the relationship ended, remember that the most important person is your friend, and it’s important that you keep him at the center at all times.
Except he asks you, to avoid sharing your break-up stories.
Yes you may think you’re being helpful but it could pass off as comparing trauma or hurtful experiences, and it isn’t healthy.
Avoid using clichés and statements like:
“There are many more women out there who need you and who will appreciate you.”
Trust me, this is the last thing your friend wants to hear.
He knows many women out there would appreciate him but it’s not about those women.
It’s about the one he loved and held in his heart and who has broken up with him. It’s about him.
Forget about those women.
Focus on him.
It’s about him.
8. Help Him Get Support.
If you notice he’s finding it difficult to cope with the breakup, encourage him to get professional support.
Suggest that he sees a therapist who can help him work through his emotions and cope effectively with the loss of the relationship.
In addition to these ways, you need a considerable dose of patience and understanding.
People react differently to emotional issues like a breakup.
The way you responded to yours isn’t the same way your friend will respond to his.
Be patient with him and while he works through his feelings, give him time.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to healing but knowing that you are there for him, that you understand, and that he can count on you can make a huge difference in his healing journey.