When the most beautiful woman I’ve ever dated abruptly — and unapologetically — discarded me from her life like a baggie full of dog turds, I was crippled by my unremitting heartbreak and dizzying confusion. Desperate for answers, I called my friend Ann, who happens to be a relationship coach, and asked her to help me make sense of it all.
After talking to Ann, I called my friend Leah.
Then, I called my friend Kevin.
Then, I called Jason.
Then, I called Lindsay.
Then, Brian. And, Sean. And, Ashley.
Then, I called Ann and Leah again.
Admittedly, I did this every day for weeks: calling anyone who might listen — who might have advice for how to get over a breakup — because I wanted to feel better.
But, there was a problem. After dozens of conversations with some of my closest, wisest and most obliging friends, my broken heart didn’t feel any better. Not in the slightest. In fact, I felt worse, pining even more for the woman who treated me so poorly.
Then, I came to an important realization: maybe you shouldn’t talk to your friends about your broken heart. Maybe, despite what common wisdom suggests, it’s actually kind of a dumb idea.
And, here’s why:
1. Your friends can only take so much.
Your friends are the best, aren't they? They lift you up when you’re down on the ground. They make you laugh when you need to the most. They meet you for happy hour and play all your favorite songs on the jukebox. They might even pick you up at the airport. Collectively, they’re the Vince Vaughn to your Jon Favreau.
But your friends can only take so much, and, if you do what I did, you’re almost certainly going to annoy the crap out of them.
Trust me on this one. I lost a potential client, embarrassed my neighbors at a party and ruined a perfectly good road trip to Austin, all because I couldn’t stop talking about my broken heart. Even my mom told me to “shut up about it already.”
Your friends are there for you and the best ones always will be, but they aren’t your caretakers. Don’t make them clean up your emotional vomit. It’s not their job and, eventually, they’ll let you know it.
2. Your friends don't have the answers.
I know what you’re going through. You devoted your time to someone who didn’t reciprocate. You loved someone who didn't love you back. You gave someone your heart and they tossed it right in the dumpster without remorse. Words can’t possibly describe this kind of pain.
And, you’re a rational person. You believe you deserve closure and resolution and some kind of logical explanation for why this happened. You would do anything to solve this twisted, infuriating mystery. You just want answers.
But, your friends don’t have the answers — not because they’re misguided or misinformed, but because there simply are no answers.
You can never know for sure what’s swirling around in somebody else’s head. You can never know for sure why somebody said what they said or did what they did or behaved so despicably cruel. The more you look to your friends for answers, the more confused you’re going to be.
As Buddha may or may not have once said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
3. You're preventing yourself from healing.
For who knows how long, we’ve been advised that talking about heartbreak helps us heal, but this may not be the case.
Walter Mischel, one of the most widely cited psychologists of the 20th century, first rose to prominence in the 1960s after creating "The Marshmallow Test", a series of landmark studies on delayed gratification conducted at Stanford University. Mischel’s team gave preschoolers the choice of having one marshmallow immediately or two if they could wait for 15 minutes. Mischel observed children who were able to wait for the bigger reward did so by developing coping strategies like covering their eyes with their hands or stroking the marshmallow “as if it were a tiny stuffed animal.”
In his more recent studies on effects of talking about trauma, Mischel found that “ruminating on bad experiences could send people into a downward spiral... Each time they recount the experience to themselves, their friends or their therapist, they only become more depressed.”
So, maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t keep talking to your friends about your broken heart.
As British author and therapist Phillippa Perry wrote in The Guardian, “This is the psychological equivalent of scratching a mosquito bite. If you don’t stop scratching it, it is going to continue to itch and may become infected.”
But I still have a broken heart! What can I do?
In the 1964 song "Ain't Nothing You Can Do' (covered masterfully here by Van Morrison) seminal Blues artist, Bobby Bland, sang:
"When you got a headache/A headache powder soothe the pain
When you try to rest/Lord, you feel alright again
When you got a backache/A little rubbin’ will see you through
But when you got a heartache/There ain’t nothin' you can do."
Unfortunately, for us humans, old Bobby had it right. Only the passage of time can fully heal a broken heart.
But, if you wish to heal faster, there are some things you can do.
- You can cease all contact with the person who mistreated you. No phone calls, no text messages, no emails, no Facebook. No excuses.
- Give yourself one week — and one week only — to truly feel your emotions. Let them engulf you like an old, heavy blanket. Lock yourself in your bedroom and cry in the fetal position and punch your Tempur-Pedic pillow and scream obscenities at your TV. You can do this because you need to, because you have every right to, because somebody robbed you of your spirit, and because you’re merely doing what’s necessary to take it back.
- Next, thoughtfully reflect on your relationship while reminding yourself that you can’t control the actions of another. Examine your own behavior and embrace this opportunity for growth. If you think you need to, work with a therapist to overcome any childhood traumas that may be causing you to consistently fall for the wrong people. Educate yourself on toxic shame and attachment theory and relationship patterns. Take everything you learned and use it to become an even better, more attractive and more confident version of yourself.
- Rise up, knowing that you’re a remarkable catch and that the person who cast you aside lost out. You can even write this person a letter — that you will not send — and burn it to ashes.
- Get back to work on pursuing your mission and creating the life you deserve. Replenish your soul by immersing yourself in the things that bring you joy and excitement. While you’re at it, work to define your boundaries, vowing to never let anyone mistreat you ever again for the rest of your life.
Then... Call your friends. Call all of them.
Call them and tell them it’s happy hour, you’ve got money for the jukebox and you’re ready to party.
Tony Endelman is an author, blogger, certified life coach, heartbreak expert, music nut, comedy nerd, gastronome, thinker, wanderer and hopeless romantic who graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in communications which hangs prominently above his toilet. Tony is on a mission to help others overcome heartbreak, date more consciously, and find fulfillment in life and in love.
Keywords: Divorce, friends, friendship, heartbreak, breakups & divorce, breakups, broken heart, how to get over a breakup, how to get over a guy, how to get over a break up, how to get over an ex, how to get over a divorce, how to get over a broken heart