6 Ways to be Supportive When Your Friend's Relationship is Falling Apart

"I TOLD you so"- she repeatedly said to me over the phone.  I envisioned her on the other end, nodding up and down, time and again.  We all saw it coming, didn’t we?  I was an idiot and my relationship was a piece of shit.  Still, nothing hurt more than coming to the realization that everyone was right about the person you'd been defending all along.  Not only was I heartbroken, but I begun harboring resentment towards someone who meant so much to me.  

No, not him.  My girlfriend.
After such experience, I sincerely empathize with the helplessness my old girlfriend may have felt as I continued to engage in a cycle of toxic love.  Unfortunately, these tumultuous relationships can place a great deal of tension on your friendships, instilling frustration and resentment.  As an outsider, it's painful to see your friend suffering over something or someone you feel is unnecessary.  It's important however, to know one's role and level of involvement while handling a situation this delicate in nature.  Here are a few reminders on how to be just what your friend needs.

Have some empathy.  I was amazed at how emotionally disconnected my friend was while handing me advice.  Her heart wasn’t there and she couldn’t understand my pain.  Have you placed yourself in his/her shoes? The beauty of empathizing with someone else’s feelings is that it will assist you in treating others the way you want to be treated.  Not only will you remain humble at heart, but this quality will help you build a more compassionate character.   

Don't rub it in.  My girlfriend took any and every opportunity to insult my boyfriend and that really wasn’t fair.    While all of your advice may be legitimate, there's only so many times someone wants to hear it.  In fact, overstating your righteousness can be counterproductive. Bashing your friend’s companion could easily come back to haunt you if they decide to make amends.  We ALL know how frequently this happens.

Don't tell her what she wants to hear.  Personally, I’ve been guilty of sugarcoating a bad situation when giving advice.  You don’t want to see her cry, you don’t want to make it worse, you’re afraid of her reaction.  I get it, but you should never lie to your friend to avoid hurting her feelings.  The truth comes first and will be most beneficial regardless of her final decision.  

Watch how you say it.  If you follow me on the Gram, you know I have the cutest little rat terrier.  He (Gunner) is terrified of garbage bags but loves to go on walks (as with most dogs).  My stepson and I love to play this game where we yell out ‘GARBAGE CANNN?!’  in the same tone that we usually say WALK and Gunner goes crazy with happiness. We get such a kick out the fact that he has no idea what he's agreeing to.  As you can see it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.  Unlike with Gunner, this involves much more than tone and pitch.  Eye contact, gestures and even your facial expressions can influence the message you are trying to convey.  

Learn to LISTEN.  Previously, I had a bad case of finishing people’s sentences.  Over time, I learned that saying nothing can be just as favorable as putting your thoughts out in the open.  As much as you’re itching to let your two cents out, it isn’t always the necessity at the moment.  It's important to decipher if you friend simply wants a shoulder to lean on (literally) or wants feedback.  

Keep checking in.  The last thing on my mind after my breakup was going out.  I barely left the house and can't remember if I showered daily or not.  I alienated myself from many friends as I just wanted to gather my thoughts and decide what my plan of action would be.  Maybe your friend isn’t exactly in the mood to go get trashed ‘til 5 am with the girls, but wouldn’t mind dinner and movie night at her place.  Do whatever she wants to do, whether it’s partying til the sun comes up or sulking at home with a bottle of wine.  Sometimes you just need a minute.  Or two.  Send her a text, leave her a voice message or mail her a card.  Show you care in any way that you can.  She’ll come around because real friends do always do.

The changes in the dynamic of our friendship helped me realize how mindful one should be when dealing with another's feelings.  While watching a friend endure a breakup, separation or divorce can be upsetting, you must learn your boundaries.  Trusting that your friend will make the right decision is simply a part of the undertaking.  Keep your communication authentic and use sympathy by all means necessary.   Not only will you have helped a friend in need, but you will solidify the bonds that tie you both.