The days and weeks on the heels of a breakup are, for me at least, memories branded in searing pain. Time, which generally flies by, is suddenly measured in minutes, not days. My energy, the stuff that I often dial down so as not to overwhelm the person who happens to be in my company, is non-existent. My ability to get-it-up, to put on the Darcy Hour, becomes something I can barely recall ever doing. It sucks. And I know that this is a universal experience because I am, after all, a shrink.
And as a shrink, I’m often dumbstruck by people’s clumsy attempts to offer comfort at times like this. So here is my list of the top 5 dumbest things to say to someone who is coping with a breakup.
ONE: You dodged a bullet. In the spirit of transparency (and because my friends, family and clients read my blog), I’ve listened to these very words come out of my mouth. This is not a smart thing to say. It invalidates the person’s pain, implying that they should be grateful for the loss they’re experiencing.
TWO: You’ll be off the market in no time. Why do people intuitively understand that we’re not looking to get a new puppy the minute our beloved dog leaves us for heaven, but when it comes to relationships, people think the obvious fix to a broken heart is new love interest? Your friend is in mourning, people. Get it together.
THREE: You’re still young – you’ll be fine. As though every person hasn’t internalized a big old stopwatch that ticks away every day, marking the milestones they’ve yet to accomplish. This comment just reinforces the pressure imposed on us by society. Leave age out of it.
FOUR: At least you guys weren’t together that long! Would you like a scoop of shame with those tissues? What this communicates to your friend is that judging by how brief you think the relationship was, they shouldn’t be feeling a loss.
FIVE: I Never Understood What You Saw In [insert ex’s name here]. Then why didn’t you say something? Is basically what your friend is thinking, all the while piecing together examples of how your support of the relationship was bullshit. And that doesn’t even touch on the quicksand you’ll be in if they get back together.