Even amicable breakups are difficult for most people. When a relationship ends there is an emotional and practical disentanglement from someone that has been important to you, perhaps even your most important person. Lots of people experience distress, loneliness, relief, longing, sadness, guilt and even shame. There is a person-sized hole in your life. There may be regret, guilt or shame about not being the right fit or doing the right things. Sometimes the emotions are mixed or complicated and any relief you might feel might be accompanied by sadness or shame.
Despite the sometimes overwhelming pain, breakups are a fact of dating life. Only a very tiny minority of relationships last a lifetime –– with good reason. So, I’ve previously talked about why you should have a breakup plan, but this post is about having a breakup buddy –– a more achievable objective if you’re mid-breakup.
1) Opening up not closing down.
Emotional pain often pushes us to withdraw into ourselves. The pain of breakups is no different. When we take that pain and share it with our closest people it can strengthen those relationships and increase intimacy. Finding someone that you trust that has the emotional space to be your breakup buddy can help you to shift away from withdrawal towards sharing and openness. This, in turn, can help you to process your feelings and to allow the pain to be rather than trying to push it away or ruminating on it. Sitting with pain is likely to help you to move through it and to reduce your distress in the longer term, even if it is really hard to do that the time.
2) Self-care reminders
Many people forget to do the things they need to do to have a functioning life during a breakup. I don’t know what that might be for you, but examples include not eating or sleeping properly, not doing the grocery shopping, only leaving the house when it is absolutely essential. I’m not suggesting that you need someone to take you for a pedicure or massage, but having someone to remind you to eat and/or that you enjoy going for a run or swim (if that’s your jam) will probably help you to cope with your emotions.
3) Support through the no-contact period
So, having a period when there is little or no contact between you and an ex-partner is a hugely important part of the healing process. Even if you have shared commitments that you need to collaborate on, it is generally very important to minimise contact to what is strictly necessary (e.g., care for the child, dog or house). It can really help to have someone to remind you why you aren’t having contact so that you can heal without being constantly reminded of the intense pain. A breakup buddy can be the person you call when you don’t remember why you broke up and you really want to get back in touch.
4) Help with drunk dialing/texting impulse
Drunk dialling/texting is a thing. People do it. It rarely ends well. Taking a break from your ex’s social media as well as 121 contact is usually critical. A breakup buddy can hold their contact details for you so that you can actually remove them from your phone for a period. It might help to replace their phone number with your breakup buddy’s so that you can text someone when you are having all the feelings. This can help because even if it isn’t the person you’re still craving, there is someone at the end of the line.
It can help to have someone around that has some outside perspective on the situation. That might be to tell you that you need to take more time or that its true that you might want to get back in touch once your no contact period expires. As well as processing the emotional pain, this person might help you to identify patterns that have led to endings in this and other relationships. This sense of perspective can be hard to grasp alone since you’re so close to the situation but can help you to grow through the pain. They could also help you to recognise when your distress is so intense that you need to seek help from some professionals or to recognise when a hard situation is turning into a longer-term bout of anxiety or depression.
Breakups are hard for everyone, and a breakup buddy isn’t going to wave their magic wand and make the world happy and bright and full of unicorns and rainbows. Nevertheless, they can help you to get through a hard time in a way that aligns with your values. They can help you to process and grow in the experience, and maybe help you to not act on unhelpful impulses. They can demonstrate excellent boundaries and love you and themselves in a way that is healthy and grows intimacy between you. Do your breakup buddies a favour, and send them this article to help them navigate the role and to give all of you ideas on how to give and receive support.