The Ex Factor: How Your Friends Help You Survive a Breakup

It’s Saturday night. You’re home, on your third glass of wine, staring hopelessly into a pint of cookie dough ice cream, wishing that something (anything!) would numb this post-breakup pain. Betcha feel like the saddest girl in the world, huh? But just think how much sadder things would be if you were back with your ex ?- a guy who is so unworthy of your greatness. Says who, you ask? Says Greg Behrendt, coauthor of last year’s hit He’s Just Not That into You, and his wife, Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. In their new book, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: A Smart Girl’s Breakup Buddy, they show you why you absolutely must put down that tub of Häagen-Dazs and pick up the phone. No, not to call him. To call your friends. Yes, these are the good people who are going to help you get over your heartache and get back in the game.You may not have him, but you have something far more valuable right now ?- your friends. “Great. And my health, right? Oh, I’m so lucky.” We know it sounds corny, but having good friends to call on will get you through the heartbreak you’re feeling more quickly than you thought. Their love and companionship can be a beacon during your darkest hours ?- but believe us when we say that those beacons can go out. You want to take care of your friendships during this time, even as they are taking care of you. When you’re on the other side, there’s nothing worse than ending the relentless chatter of the breakup-obsessed friend who doesn’t listen to your or take your advice. Here’s the thing to remember about your friends: They want you to be happy. They want you to be a in a good, loving, and healthy relationship that inspires you to be the best you can be, not one that is difficult and painful. What’s more, your friends can see your ex and your relationship for what it was ?- warts and all ?- and they probably aren’t buying the rewritten version of the perfect love that you’re pining over.

Six months from now, when you are in a completely different emotional space (if not already in a better relationship), you’ll want to look back on this time and feel good about the way you behaved with the people around you. You won’t want visions of Lily Taylor singing “Joe Lies” and bumming out everyone at the party while her friends exchange uncomfortable glances. (If you haven’t seen Cameron Crowe’s film Say Anything, run, don’t walk, to the video store. But don’t wait for your ex to show up on your lawn with a boom box ?- it’s just a movie.)

We know… your friends are always supposed to be there, but for the love of God, give them a break and stop talking about your ex for one minute! We all have those tapes that play in our head ?- what are they called? Oh yeah, thoughts. But some of them are meant just for you. You don’t have to share every single one of them. In fact, stop listening to yourself! If you pay attention to your negative thoughts, you’re only affirming their validity. Those thoughts are like a bratty child ?- if you pay attention to the bad behavior, it only encourages a bigger tantrum. We say this with the greatest measure of love and empathy, but take a step back and try to understand why you need to make a conscious effort not to subject your friends to endless questions, endless tears, and endless analysis during this time. It’s one thing to get dumped by a guy, but it’s another to get dumped by your friends, because they won’t even have breakup sex with you.

You’re great and your friends all know it. They’re on call, ready and wiling to help you get over that loser who wasn’t right for you. However, right now you are stuck in the Melancholy Vortex of your breakup. It’s an uber-powerful trap that sucks you in and blinds you to all the bad, unhealthy, crapola times that were so glaring in your relationship, and it only plays back loops of the best moments, thus obliterating your sense of why it didn’t work out. It’s like A Clockwork Orange. You’re figuratively stuck in that chair with your eyes held open by those weird eyelash-curler contraptions while movies of the two of you in your happiest times flash through your brain to classical music or Coldplay. Your friends, on the other hand, are saying, “Hey there, Hot, Smart, Happening Lady, why don’t you stop strapping yourself into that chair and come sit with us?” And the reality of it is that if you don’t start actually listening to them and taking their advice, your friends will tire of you. Open your mind to what they have to say, and whatever you do, DON’T blame them for pointing out your ex’s less-than-admirable qualities, or trying to give you a reality check about your less-than-perfect relationship. That’s what they’re there for ?- to help you get up out of that chair and start moving on. In return, you need to set a time limit on how long you’re going to dwell on the past. Try setting the limit at eight weeks. If after eights weeks you still need to talk about it constantly, seek professional help and let your friends off the hook. Or talk to your dog. All the dog hears is “blah, blah, blah…” which ?- take it from us ?- is what you are starting to sound like to your friends.

But what if my friends are wrong?
Q: Dear Greg,
My boyfriend and I broke up three months ago after being together for almost four years. Even though it was a mutual decision, I’m wondering if it was the right one. My friends all think I need to get on with my life because I’ve spend my whole adult life with him (I’m three years out of college, which is where we met). They say I’ve been living in a vacuum and they’re sick of hearing about it and never really liked him that much anyway. But the more I dissect it with them, the more I think they’re wrong and just tired of hearing about it. What do you think?

Tamara

A: Dear Tamara Never Comes,
Here’s the thing people forget: You are also in a relationship with your friends. These relationships will ultimately prove to be more profound that the one you just came out of, and right now, they are certainly more important. Your friends want what’s best for you, and you need to recognize that they’ve been living through your relationship for as long as you have, because friends care about and share in each other’s lives. So accept their opinions and move on. Not only should you trust your own instincts that getting out of the relationship was the right move, but the fact that your friends are backing your decision should only make you feel better about it. You should also trust your instinct when it tells you your friends are sick of hearing about your breakup. Give it a rest and take advantage of the other great things that good friends have to offer: fun, laughter, clothes to borrow, and best of all, activities that have nothing to do with your ex.

Excerpt from It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Breakup Buddy, © 2005 by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola Behrendt. Used with permission from Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House.

 

Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.