Taking a Friend In Post-Breakup

Those who know me well know that, though I’ve had a number of relationships (a few fairly long-term), I’ve also had two pretty difficult breakups. Three if you count something that was never much of a relationship – and it was short-lived – but that when I ended it, it was painful for everyone involved (long story).

So let’s stick with the two that I consider to be bona fide breakups. Not your typical high school break-ups but real, adult breakups. In both situations I count myself lucky to have had good friends to count on and take me in.

After the first breakup, I took off with a college friend on a road trip. We flew to Arizona with no specific ideas about where we were going to stay or which cities we would visit, and thus we had no reservations anywhere (I assure you; this works just fine). This was before smart phones and so we mostly had maps, directions at gas stations, and our intuition. We also stopped to see my cousin and his wife, both of whom I adore and are the kind of people anyone would love to be around. I learned a great deal that week and came home feeling stronger, more confident and more prepared to take on the world all by myself in my new home and with my new roommate.

Days after the second breakup, one of my best friends invited me to visit her and her husband for a few days. We took two hour walks and talked about everything from high school to where we were then in life. We also went to a theme park (to which my then-ex said, “We broke up and you’re going to Disney World?”; when I’d had a similar reaction, my friend – who can be quite funny even in difficult times – had said “Well, it is the happiest place on earth!”) and, the next day, canoeing (they were and are very good friends to me). A couple of weeks later I headed to see some other friends in LA who kindly offered me their extraordinarily comfortable couch, fun lunches and dinners, and a water balloon fight in a public park with their friends. It was at their apartment that I came across a book called Blankets by Craig Thompson. Blankets is the first graphic novel I’d ever read and it blew me away. Being nearly 600 pages, I didn’t get to finish it that weekend and somehow didn’t pick it up again for years.

Recently, though, that same friend sent me another Craig Thompson novel called Habibi, which I savored reading day after day until it came to an end against my will. Which prompted me to finally get Blankets again and today I curled up in a booth at a bakery and read the first hundred pages before making myself stop (truly: I enjoy savoring books).

Reading Blankets today reminded me of that time and that space in the Glendale area of LA. It reminded me of how fortunate I’ve been to have friends take me in – literally into their homes and figuratively into their lives – when I’ve felt more like a shell of myself than a living breathing person. (For two reasons – one of which is quite personal and, to me, striking – at that time in my life it wasn’t unusual for me to hear in my head the part of the song Graceland that goes “And she said losing love is like a window in your heart. Everybody sees you’re blown apart… everybody sees the wind blow.”)

It was a tough time, but I was lucky to have friends. I was lucky to have hugs and warm dinners and enough laughter to take my mind off my troubles. To get through those first few days and come out the other side on the mend.

This is all just to say that if you’ve had such good fortune yourselves, I hope you recognize it too. It can be a heartening experience to realize the arms that have been around you when you’ve needed it. I think too that it gives some hope and comfort that should you ever take a leap of faith again (whether in love, work, moving, etc) – or if you should ever fall in a way that hurts quite badly – that you’re likely to have friends and support around you. And to the extent that you can, I hope you find ways to take your friends and family in when they run into tough times as well. I’ve always tried to open my home to friends and family when they needed or wanted it. I’ve given them books, whipped up a pitcher of sangria at 11am, sent them cards and pick-me-ups, and gone in for extra long hugs. About this thing we call life: I don’t know why we’re here but along the way I think it’s a good thing to do to take care of one another.

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About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • http://www.DontTouchGame.com/ Crystal

    So so appreciated at this moment in my life!  Time to refocus and appreciate what we have.  Thank you.

  • Debby Herbenick

    I’m so happy this came at a good time for you. Life is mysterious like that. :)

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk/ Mens Sex Toys

    There’s no doubt that men do things differently, our post-breakup rituals tend to involve a whole lot of alcohol, and finding someone else very quickly. No doubt there are unspoken pains there that men just deal with in a different way.

    One of the most important things I think should be mentioned – having been the friend others turn to several times – is don’t forget them when you have it good.

    I can’t speak for the ladies, but men tend to abandon everyone they know when they get into a relationship, and before they know it they’ve lost contact with all of their friends, the people they would otherwise turn to.

    I’ve been guilty of this too.

    A few years ago close friend of mine started a relationship and even had a child with the lady in question before their relationship ended. I had barely spoken to him for a year, our socializing had ended almost on the day they met, we perhaps spoke on FaceBook once every couple of weeks. Yet when their relationship came to an end I was the only friend left who was willing to help him through it. People he’d known for fifteen years had moved on and were not interested in his problems – just as he hadn’t been interested in them throughout his relationship.

    He’s now married, with two more kids, and we get together for a drink maybe once every six months.

    All relationships need work, but far too many men dedicate themselves entirely to their partners and then wake up aged 40, with three kids and a wife, but no friends and no social life beyond the people they work with.

    That’s where the mid-life crisis comes from. Some men buy a bike, some build a shed, others have affairs. but it seems that the majority just have no social life and no friends of their own because they abandoned everyone.

    We all need to maintain those friendships and have a life away from the family. You can’t wake up and see the same people day-in and day-out for decades and expect to have a great life.

    Be there for others and they will be there for you. Abandon them because you’ve got it good and they’ll probably just be shadows in your memory when you need someone to help you.