If you listen carefully to the conversations happening around you, you’ll notice that it is not uncommon for heartbreak to be used as a punchline.
We share and laugh at stories of the emotional trauma that we have experienced at the hands of romantic partners over drinks. Covered under the guise of humour is a fear we might not be met with compassion after honestly confronting our struggles, and sharing our moments of vulnerability with the people we call our friends.
It’s on-trend to approach relationships as a joke because when we truly open ourselves up to love, our peers label us as simps and clowns. The urban dictionary offers some interesting and other, no doubt, distressing definitions of these terms.
If we can’t share the full extent of our pain, for fear of ridicule when the relationships that we enter with pure intentions just don’t work out, what’s the point of modern-day friendships?
We freely refer to dating as the game, so surely someone is getting played. To borrow one of DJ Khalid’s famous taglines, “congratulations, you played yourself!” In this game, we stand proudly as the losers who cheat themselves out of both authentic relationships, and friendships that can serve as safe spaces if those relationships crumble.
Humour me, because from now on I will write like an authority on heartbreak. The full scope of my qualifications is that I have been heartbroken once. After that, I turned to some friends for support. I know how it feels to leave a friend’s place thinking I was better off talking to my chocolate cake. I also know what it’s like to feel relieved and comforted after a venting session.
While our friends are not our therapists, we should know that we can count on them to be compassionate towards us when we face heartbreak.
Here’s what I was thinking when I went to my friends after a breakup.
1. Can she hear me?
Our friendships can’t be safe spaces if we don’t listen to what people are really saying. Your friend informing you about a breakup is not the full story.
Ask them how it happened, why it happened and how they are feeling. People who ask for more information always seem genuinely interested and make us feel heard.
2. Can she empathise or sympathise with my situation?
This is not an opportunity to make your friend’s breakup about yourself. But it is the perfect opportunity to affirm your friend’s feelings.
Telling your friend that you’ve been there, and you understand the flood of emotions that they are experiencing lets them know that you’ll be available to help them to process the heartbreak without judgment.
3. Does she have some advice for me?
This one is optional because nuggets of wisdom are unwelcome until they are asked for. Before giving unsolicited advice, think of chicken nuggets; either you’re craving them, or they are simply not on your mind. Only dish out advice that is asked for and suited for a person in a fragile state. Let kindness lead and save the tough love for a different time.
I think that this article should have carried two disclaimers: one about acquainting yourself with the urban dictionary, and another about its author’s temperament. I avoid spaces that seek to scare and scar me into becoming some unfeeling being.
Yes, I’m a proud snowflake.
I’m ultimately advocating for authentic friendships.
That we can be free to be our true selves with the people that we hold dearest to us, and rest assured that they have the capacity to be there for us through all the seasons of our lives.
May we all be able to confidently answer Whitney Houston’s question, “Where do broken hearts go?” with “to the open arms of friends who love and care for us.”