What to do if my best friends are breaking up?
Expected or unpredictable, the separation of our loved ones is not always easy to accept. It changes the relationship we had with our friends and sometimes challenges us about our own couple. AneLor Dabo, therapist and positive psychology coach at Zen Pro *, gives us keys to avoid missteps.
- “Somewhere, it is a mourning to do.”
- It is possible to keep in touch with both
- “Don’t get into a discussion that disparages the other”
- Don’t play the middleman
- Do not reveal secrets
- Change their ideas
- Know how to protect yourself
My friends are separating: how to react well?
“Somewhere, it is a mourning to do.”
The news is sometimes a surprise, even a shock. This was the case for Emmanuelle, 37, who had not at all seen coming the breakup of her closest couple of friends a year ago. “ I saw them regularly and never noticed any disagreement. They smiled, spoke to each other kindly, made tender gestures, remembers the young woman. Nothing suggested a big conflict in the couple and my friend, since it was her to which I was closest, had not spoken to me about anything. So I was overwhelmed when she told me that her husband was moving. ” Emmanuelle is very touched by this separation. Sad at the same time for her friends whom she saw as “the perfect couple”. “ They went so well together, she sighs. They had a 15 month old baby girl… My reaction was to tell me it was a mess! ” But also for itself. “ It also meant that our wonderful evenings for four with my partner would be over. That my contacts with the ex-husband of my friend , whom I adore but whom I know less, might be limited in the future… Somewhere, it is a mourning to do. ” The difficulty in admitting this separation also sometimes comes from the fact that it sends us back as an image. “ Inevitably, we wonder. As a friend, we already wonder why we didn’t anticipate anything: were we attentive enough?, notes AneLor Dabo, therapist and coach in positive psychology. Then, we tend to identify with this couple to which we are so close. We wonder if such a situation could happen to us too, if our relationship is going well. This news challenges all of our links. ”
It is possible to keep in touch with both
The first question that arises is often that of the future of the relationship: will I manage to keep in touch with both? Will we always be as close? Will you have to make a choice? “ Not at all, says the therapist. The rule of thumb is to try to keep in touch with everyone, then let things happen naturally. The situation will necessarily change the links you had. But it won’t be up to you, you just have to adapt to it. ” It also depends on what gathered you before the separation. If your friend is a childhood friend and you have known her husband for only a few years, it is a safe bet that it is with her that you will keep the most contact. And vice versa. The reason for separation can also influence your new relationships. “When there is unfaithfulness , we naturally go to the one who has been deceived because we feel that he needs more support , recognizes AneLor Dabo. But be careful not to judge a situation too easily: the other too may need us. You have to remember that you are above all a friend. ”Of course, it is entirely possible to maintain contact with both, if that is what you want. Be aware, however, that it will not be the same link as you had before with the couple and certainly not the same link with each. One of the ex-partners may indeed need to step back further to better rebuild.
“Don’t get into a discussion that disparages the other”
“At first, I was so assailed by emotions that I did not know how to react well to my friends , confides Emmanuelle. I was too compassionate, I joined in their grief and it didn’t help them move forward. On the contrary, I involuntarily established a double game by giving everyone the impression of being on their side. I had to reposition myself. ” Neutrality is indeed essential to preserve ties. Our friends do not expect us to feel sorry for them, but to be listened to, with warmth and kindness. It is truly this capacity for empathy that will help them to recover. “Forget the directive advice (“ Me, in your place, I would do this… ”) and the judgments (“ He was always a little seductive, I should have alerted you… ”) , emphasizes the therapist. Simply welcome the emotion and the secrets as they are said, with sadness as with anger. Your friends need to empty their bags with you to feel better. But don’t get into a discussion that disparages the other ” . Stay in a neutral position that will help them move on: “I understand what you are saying, I hope it did you good to let go of all of this.” .
Don’t play the middleman
Even if you want to preserve them, don’t resort to lying. Tell them frankly from the start that you want to keep in touch with everyone, even if things aren’t going well between them. And if you see them a few days in a row, there’s no need to keep quiet! “I chose to say it because I was getting tangled up in the brushes ,” continues Emmanuelle. And then, I always appreciated the two, I had nothing to hide from wanting to maintain a friendship on both sides. They understand well and do not try to know the life of the other. They managed their separation well enough to say things to each other if necessary. ”Be careful not to take on an intermediary role, which would be uncomfortable for you and for them. Instead, suggest that they meet with a marriage counselor or mediator if necessary.
Do not reveal secrets
Over time, you may learn new things about them. She had cracked a colleague a few months ago . He was bored by his side or would like to reconnect with an ex now … Stay vague in what you transcribe to each. The two ex-spouses do not have to know past or present secrets that could harm them and poison their future relationships. “Even if they do find out, it’s not up to you to tell them,” says AneLor Dabo. One of them could feel betrayed and hold it against you, by association of ideas. You would risk losing his friendship. ”He or she accuses you, after the fact, of not having informed him? Explain that you want your neutral position: you did not want to hurt him / her more. Your role is not to bring bad news, but to be a support to welcome it.
Change their ideas
Help them mobilize new resources to be able to turn the page. For this, nothing like action! “Allowing the body to relax is ideal for not brooding, approves the therapist. Hiking , running , sports lessons, tree climbing, laser game, everything is good to help them surpass themselves and see their situation in a more positive light . ” Of course, if the sporting activity is not really their hobby, you can submit other proposals to them (museum, cinema, escape game etc.). The idea is not to leave them in pain, but also to find common occupations to establish between you new rituals of outings.
Know how to protect yourself
Their story touches you deeply and tends to influence you? Worried about your own couple? Stop! You must protect yourself from these negative thoughts! “Detach yourself from their history and work on your optimism by meeting couples who are doing well, advises AneLor Dabo. This will help you value what is going well in your relationship and find a balance. ” Taking a step back from their separation is essential if you want to continue to offer them an available, compassionate and good ear.