Pangs of dread, constant nausea, the ache that vibrates through basically the entire core of your body. That's heartbreak, and it is a wretched collection of feelings. You've probably experienced it before yourself, and you've probably had to comfort a friend or two in the throes of a broken heart. And if you're looking to comfort a friend and give them breakup advice that actually works in diminishing the pain and moving through it, know that there truly are some tried and true ways to go about this.
First and foremost, counselor and dating expert David Bennett of Double Trust Dating tells Bustle that he relies on some research with his clients. One particular study related to breaking up, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that there were three ways that proved effective in either diminishing feelings of love, or boosting positive feelings in relation to breaking from a romantic partnership. They call it "love regulation." Being distracted, doing a negative re-appraisal of the ex, and accepting and acknowledging love feelings were all strategies employed. Bennett supports these ideas.
"Being distracted with other things helps people feel better after a break up," Bennett says. "So tell your friend to go out and do the things they love." If they're a close friend, Bennet suggests offering to do them together.
As for focusing on the negative, he also insists this works. It doesn't mean the friend needs to villainize their ex by any means, it can just be helpful to get real about the qualities that might have been less than ideal for a partner. It's not a time to be nostalgic or romanticize the past.
"While I normally don't advise being negative, if your friend is pining for an ex you know isn't good for them, remind them to focus on the negatives about them," Bennett says. Remind your friend that it can be anything from little things, like how loudly their ex chewed, to things that indicated a little less acceptable on a character level for them, like a tolerance for cruel humor they found damaging and offensive.
Therapist Lauren O’Connell, LMFT, who specializes in and focuses on heartbreak in her Santa Monica practice, tells Bustle that nowadays, one of the most crucial, albeit difficult, ways to move on and heal heartbreak is to stay off an ex's social media at all costs. Encourage your friend that if they need to block, mute, or delete an app from the phone, then so-be-it. Just don't give into the temptation just because it's there. It's leads to creating narratives about the ex you really don't know anything about.
"This is a very important step to take to avoid setting obsession and pain," O'Connell says. In fact, she says that encouraging your friend to reach out to you or another friend or loved one when they want to reach out to the ex or do check up on them on social media. Remind them that it's a good idea to avoid connections and reminders where the ex is concerned. Encourage them to seek love and support when they need it!
And another good thing to remember, for your friend, and for yourself? As corny as it sounds, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and moving through that kind of pain is truly a way to confront your own emotional growth.
"Heartbreak is a sacred wound, one that we as humans are all deeply connected to," O'Connell says. "It opens you up to a possibility of growth, healing, and change like no other. As painful as it it is, it’s an opportunity for new and better things to enter your life."
Sharing your own experiences of heartbreak, and reminding your friend that they aren't alone in this time of anguish is always helpful. And hey, when all else fails, bringing over a little ice cream and sharing a streaming marathon never hurt anyone, right?
Counselor David Bennett of Double Trust Dating
Lauren O’Connell, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Down-Regulation of Love Feelings After a Romantic Break-Up: Self-Report and Electrophysiological Data Journal of Experimental Psychology General. Sandra J E Langeslag, Michelle E. Sanchez. 2017.