When you learn of a loved one’s split from their significant other, there’s no doubt you’ll want to support them the best you can throughout the break up process. The trouble is that you may not know what to say or do to help because you’re worried that your words and actions will haunt you down the road.
For advice on how to best help a loved one cope with a painful breakup or divorce, we turned to Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, star of Bravo’s hit TV series “Real Housewives of New York City” and author of the etiquette book, “Class with The Countess: How To Live with Elegance and Style.”
FabulousLiving: If you hear—via Facebook or gossip—that a couple has split, should you reach out to your loved one, or wait for them to tell you about the split on their own terms?
de Lesseps: My feeling is that if your friend announces the split on Facebook, it is okay to reach out to her and find out if she needs anything. If you hear about the break up through the gossip mill, you can still call your friend and ask if it is true and then tell her you are there for her. We are talking about someone you love, so getting involved early on is appropriate.
FL: What are some appropriate and inappropriate things to say to someone who is beginning to deal with a split from their significant other?
de Lesseps: When someone you love is going through a break up, being a good listener is one of the best gifts you can give during this difficult time. You can say things like, “When one door closes, another one always opens,” or “This seems terrible now, but in the future you will look back and be grateful you’ve moved on.”
It is inappropriate to bash your friend’s former lover since you never know if they’ll get back together and everything you’ve said will be held against you. Another no-no is telling your friend to start dating immediately as a cure for the pain. It is important to deal with your feelings before getting another person involved in your life.
FL: Is it ever okay to speak negatively about the ex or the relationship?
de Lesseps: Until you know for sure that this relationship is permanently over, I suggest keeping any thoughts about the ex and the relationship to yourself. It is perfectly okay to listen to your friend’s thoughts on why this relationship failed.
FL: Can you point out what your loved one might have done wrong to derail the relationship?
de Lesseps: If you see a pattern in your loved one’s failed relationships, it is okay after the initial shock wears off to point out that dating people who are emotionally unavailable, married, addicted, etc., is not a good idea and that maybe they should try to meet someone healthy and ready for a relationship.
FL: What are some appropriate and inappropriate things to do for a loved one dealing with a break up or divorce?
de Lesseps: The best thing to do with a friend going through a break up is to keep them busy with social activities. It’s hard to be sad when you are on the dance floor with your best friends!
It is inappropriate to start setting your friend up on blind dates right after a painful split. Let them recover surrounded by best friends who love them.