If you’ve never been through a break-up, you’ve at least known someone who has gone through one, and believe me, anyone who is going through one needs at least one good friend to lean on during that time.
And sometimes, just like my friend's Doberman that weighs 90 pounds but thinks he's only a third of that, it’s a heavy lean so you betta be ready.
The Buddy plays a specific role in a break-up because he or she can literally influence an emotionally vulnerable mess for life. So it’s important that The Buddy stick to a few important rules to ensure his or her friend makes it through their hardship all while keeping the friendship intact.
Be an Ear, not a Mouth
One of the BEST things you can do as The Buddy is to just listen, especially at the beinning of a break-up. (It’s definitely NOT the time for “I told you so’s,” “I hated her anyway’s” or especially, “Now that you’re done with him, can I have a go?”) Ask open-ended questions to get your friend to talking. Or say, “Hey, I’m a really good listener. Let’s go for a beer and chat. You can talk or not talk, but let’s spend some time together.” Be careful not to interrogate your friend, but show that you can actively listen and are genuinely concerned for your his or her well-being, and not just the chance to voice your opinion.
Be an Advocate, not a Judge
Recently I went to a friend to talk about some bad behavior I had witnessed in my own life. I kind of expected a reprimand, but she never said, “Oh, TNR, that’s a terrible thing to do!” but she did say, “Wow, you must be going through some really tough stuff to make you act that way.” Suddenly, with her being my advocate instead of my judge, I was able to acknowledge the factors that were causing me to be less than my best and make things right.
In that moment, she cared about my person and not my actions. Sure, as a friend, you may need to help someone to STOP being an idiot (see below), but there are also times you just need to say, "Hey, I'm here for you, no matter what." So, if you’re The Buddy, try to remember the person first…it’ll make you a better friend, and can ultimately help make your friend a better human being.
Be an Oncologist, not a Plastic Surgeon
Oncologists are in the business of fixing people who have life-threatening illnesses, which can require pretty extreme or painful measures. Plastic surgeons, however, are mainly in the business of elective surgeries or alterations. (Do I even need a disclaimer, here? Obviously, I'm talking about the plastic surgeons you'd see on Dr. 90210, not the wonderful people that donate their time to fix cleft palates, burns or disfigurations.) They are both doctors, but they operate on two different spectrums: it's a difference between "need" and "want."
My friend Lisa is the best at helping me with what I need and what I want. Of course, we've reached a certain level of trust and friendship to be able to do this, but I can count on her friendship because I know she can be a straight-shooter with me if I need it.
For instance, last week I was about to complete one of the hardest items (for me!) on my 31 before 31 list (details to come), and I was on the verge of a hard-core chicken-out. I mean, literally, I was being the biggest baby, and talking about the worst scenarios and how I wasn’t going to go through with things. Finally, Lisa turned to me and said, “Look, we are all here to support you. We'll think you’re great if you do succeed, and we’ll think you’re great if you don’t succeed. Just do it, you’ll be fine.”
It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear in that moment. I didn’t need someone to tell me, “Oh, poor thing, you’re right, it’s too hard, just do it some other time.” I WANTED that--good lord, I DESPERATELY wanted someone to just say, “It’s okay, you don’t have to”--but that’s not what I NEEDED. As The Buddy, it’s true that your friend needs someone to listen and not to always be dispensing advice. But your friend also needs someone to say, “Enough crying, we’re going out!” or, “You deserve better for your life, but you’re not acting like you deserve better.”
(You do have to be careful with this rule since it does require that you sincerely desire for someone to be better. I hate when people say, “I’m just HONEST and I TELL IT LIKE IT IS,” when really, they’re just rude and couldn't give a shit if the person they're "being honest with" benefits from their honesty. Don't be a dick...you can tell someone "how it is" without crushing their spirit.)
Obviously, use your emotional intelligence to gauge when someone needs a bit of tough love. It’s probably not a good idea to use tough love right after a break-up and tell a sobbing friend that, “You acted like a total doormat so she didn’t respect you.” Yeah, bad idea. But maybe a few weeks later if your friend is still moping around, that’s the time to say, “Hey, I miss the person I know you can be, so enough moping for tonight, we’re going out to dinner and you’re going to talk to a hot girl.”
Final note: I’ve been really blessed to have some fantastic buddies in my life. It actually makes me want to be a better person for the next time I’m The Buddy…paying a friendship forward, if you will. Honestly, I had some people that were so amazing to me during my divorce that I vowed I would use that experience to be better to others in the future.
What do you think? What is the best way to be a friend to someone during a break-up?