being a supportive friends vs. patience
October 9, 2009 8:46 AM   Subscribe

How can I support my good friend (and roommate) through a breakup, and not lose my patience?

My friend and roommate broke up, or is going through an "it's complicated" with her boyfriend. They had a short (3 months) but intense relationship, with an emotional connection. Things have been difficult in the last 10 days or so, with them returning from an out of town trip together, which culminated in him telling her he's got some issues to work on, and thinks it's over, but there hasn't been an official "it's over over. She is hurt, rightfully upset and angry.

She is unemployed (but has some savings, and is applying to phd programs), and I work from home. So we're both home a lot, and I'm getting tired of the crying, knocking on my door, a couple of times at night after I was asleep, and listening to crying and replaying things for hours a day.

I want to be a supportive friend. I really do. I've brought her drinks to rehydrate after crying, offered to get food, taken long walks with her, heard everything about ten times, and am now spending hours with her just being melancholy. I am happy to sacrifice time to listen and support her, but upwards of 4-5 hours a day is hard.

I know she needs to grieve, in her own way. I know she needs to be heard and supported, but I am feeling emotionally drained. Over the course of the past 10 days, it hasn't gotten better.

What can I do to support her, but not lose my patience? Is there anything I can tell her to both help her grieve this relationship, and move forward? Is there any polite way of saying "I love you, I support you, I'm sorry you're in pain, but I'm kind of getting tired of you knocking on my door just so we can stare sadly into space for several hours?
posted by jalebi to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Send her on an errand. A long one, that involves many trains or complicated driving instructions. Get her out of your neighborhood and out into the daylight. Make her a cheery mix to play while she's out and about.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about, "I love you, I support you, I'm sorry you're in pain, but I also need to get work done and be productive since I work at home."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Take her out to have some fun instead of letting her sit around moping at home.
posted by ishotjr at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2009


They were together for only three months, and she's still grieving 10 days after the breakup? She needs to put on her big-girl panties and get over.

Stop listening to her rehas the past. Take her out to places where she might meet people, help with her grad school applications, but stop indulging her drama.
posted by browse at 8:57 AM on October 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


Which culminated in him telling her he's got some issues to work on, and thinks it's over, but there hasn't been an official "it's over over. She is hurt, rightfully upset and angry.

Not sure what she's angry about (that sounds pretty amicable), but that's probably not related you your question...

You are doing the right things by listening and listening some more. You could distract her by doing things together too, whether that means going out to a movie or helping her reorganize her house (or your home office). You could also ask her for help with something, even if you have to contrive it a bit, just to engage her and get her brain and hands doing something different, not to mention thinking about being-useful instead of being-a-failure.

Bonus: it cancels out the "waste" of your work time.
posted by rokusan at 8:58 AM on October 9, 2009


She wakes you up for this? Ten days out? You are well within your rights to say, kindly but firmly, that once your door is closed for the night you're not available to talk. That's just out of hand.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:10 AM on October 9, 2009


I've been in her situation - with some differences of course (two year relationship, blah, blah blah) - and for me it took a friend writing an explicit email telling me that my constant misery and replaying of the events of a relationship and a break up was making it difficult for he and other friends to stay friends with me.

The letter hurt me greatly but forced me to acknowledge his point.

Do I think that this is the right way to go about it? I'm not sure. I don't know you or your roomie and the strength of your friendship.

Other suggestions: does she have other friends you can call and let know that she's in a bad way? Maybe distributing the load will make it easier for you and for her. And it might get her out of the house so you can get some work done.

Also, let her know that you have specific work goals and that you're not meeting them. Even in a fragile emotional state, she should be able to understand deadlines. You can also talk about the idea that throwing oneself into work can be therapeutic - doesn't she have grad school applications to work on, hint, hint. Or a craft/cooking project or ...

Good luck.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2009


There's more than one way to be supportive. You've got the hand-holding and listening to her cry part down, but maybe it's time to shift gears to being the kick in the pants she needs to start feeling better. Sit down and tell her that you think that all this moping around the house is not the best thing for her (don't be all "Jeez, roommate, you are kind of selfish and annoying and dramatic") and brainstorm a list of things that she could and should be doing on the daily to get her mind off of Dude. "Go for a 3 mile walk", "Read a book in a bookstore", etc etc. If all she's doing is hanging out at home, and all you're doing is holding her hand while she does this, then this behavior could go on forever. Help her think up things she could be doing instead.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:18 AM on October 9, 2009


Give her stuff to do, yeah. Maybe rent some comedies for her to watch (NOT romantic comedies, though), make her a mix CD of "good riddance" breakup songs, run errands, go out for a beer, etc. Anything that doesn't involve her wallowing alone in her room; the goal is to keep her busy and her social calendar full. Long walks with you probably won't help much, those are good for pondering, but not for distraction. I personally do a lot of cleaning when I'm troubled.

Are there things she likes, that he didn't? Tell her to revel in it. Did she always agree to get mushroom pizza even though she really liked pineapple better? Order an entire pineapple pizza. Listen to the band she likes but he thought was stupid. Watch the movies by that director he hates. You get the idea.

Also if she starts in on the "oh god how could he do this bwaaah, " gently redirect her and say "You know, let's not talk about him right now, okay? You need to get your mind off of him. Let's focus on having a good time and helping you feel better." Repeat as necessary.
posted by castlebravo at 9:43 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


browse: "They were together for only three months, and she's still grieving 10 days after the breakup? She needs to put on her big-girl panties and get over."

restless_nomad: "She wakes you up for this? Ten days out?"

Wow, you guys are harsh. Who are you to say how long someone grieves for? Maybe 3 months is nothing to you but a lot can happen in that short a time.

Jalebi, my sympathies. Make sure you get some time for yourself. Make plans to do things away from home if you can so that you're not the default available person for her to cry to.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your problem is not that she's grieving too long. Your problem is that there's no boundary between you and her that keeps her grief from affecting your life more than you want it to.

I'm dismayed to see the "be the kick in the pants" answer flagged as best, because that's just another version of "her problem is your problem" -- it's "solve your problem by getting her to solve hers."

Instead, you need to find ways to let her problems be her problems without them becoming yours. She can grieve for as long as she wants, and ten days really is nothing (speaking as someone who grieved a 3 month relationship for a lot longer than that). If you create enough space to keep yourself comfortable, it's better for both of you (eg., because then you won't need to write her a note saying that you might have to stop being her friend). Let her have her own feelings. Create some separation and then communicate what does and doesn't make you comfortable. It's okay to tell her that you need a little space and aren't available for her at any given moment, and it will go over well if you do that while also making clear to her the ways that you can be supportive.

- How about, "I love you, I support you, I'm sorry you're in pain, but I also need to get work done and be productive since I work at home."

- You are well within your rights to say, kindly but firmly, that once your door is closed for the night you're not available to talk.

- "I am happy to sacrifice time to listen and support [you], but upwards of 4-5 hours a day is hard. How about we say that 9-5 is work time, and then after 5 we can go to the park together?"
posted by salvia at 8:54 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


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