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How To Help Your Friend Move On from That Ex They Won’t Stop Talking About

It’s another Friday night, and your BFF just won’t stop talking about her latest ex. How they still text her day and night, how they seemed like the perfect match, how they still make references to what she did wrong in the relationship. As willing as you are to listen to her problems, you may feel anxious or tired of listening to her go on about her ex. But because you love and adore her more than anything, you obv want to help her out with feeling secure, confident and happy again.

So, what can you do to help heal her fixation and improve conversations? Below are some ways to make sure that you and your friend can get along without feeling too burdened or overwhelmed.

1. Keep her distracted

Instead of directly prompting her to stop talking about her ex, try changing the subject. If you know she loves watching comedies, ask her about the latest Netflix show that has her in giggles. Or when she can’t stop talking about her first date with her ex, ask to plan a friend date together to take her mind off the relationship. From taking some time off for some retail therapy to going on a nice leisurely stroll along the beach, there are plenty of ideas and topics you can try incorporating into your conversations so that you can have a break too!

Barton Goldsmith, an emotional fitness psychologist, told USA Today that breakups can be extremely strenuous on the mind, and that it can be “incredibly important to take your mind off of the breakup by staying busy and keeping her distracted.” Some simple ideas to gently coax your friend out of a rut could be to steer her away from memories of her ex through some ideas for a relaxing break. Try asking her to try that new cafe you saw with the most delectable pastries, or ask her if she’d like to try rock climbing with you.

Sarah, a student in Maryland, says, “After my friend’s breakup, I asked her if she’d like to go to an amusement park with me. Although she definitely still felt a bit down at first, going out really did put her in a better mood!”

2. Be understanding

Although you may want her to immediately cut off all ties with her ex, if you d tell her to stop, make sure to do so in a reassuring, gentle way – especially if she’s still feeling a bit down. Relationship psychologist Melanie Greenberg told Psychology Today that after a break-up, a “person cycles through periods of avoiding the emotional pain and being able to distract herself, and periods of being flooded by intense feelings and obsessive thoughts.” As a result, it can be completely normal for your friend to go through mood swings and changes in the way she deals with the break-up.

In such moments, it may be even better for you to simply listen to how she feels and to take some time to let her express her moods. Don’t hesitate to voice your concern for her so she feels at ease, from simply being by her side to validating her feelings and opinions even if you may not always agree with them. Katie, a student in New York, says, “One of the best things I found I could do for my best friend while she was going through her breakup was simply being there for them and offering boxes of tissues plus snacks when she needed it. I think it really helped for her to know that someone was there for her, even if I couldn’t provide the best advice for her.”

3. Be firm and honest

If you really don’t feel comfortable with the constant conversations about her ex, don’t be afraid to tell her – and know that you’re definitely not alone, either. With close friends, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between being a good friend without feeling taken advantage of. “If you find that every time you hang out or have meaningful BFF time that she brings up her ex instead”, find some ways to gently let her know how it might be affecting your friendship, without trying to hurt her feelings.

For example, you can try setting aside a time in your schedule for a break from relationship troubles. Try saying, “Hey, I know you’re still recovering from your latest breakup, but I would really appreciate it if we could spend this Friday night doing face masks and re-watching Friends, because I care about you and want to help you move on from any negative feelings,” or something similar along those lines.

Some other ways you can approach the topic:

  • “I know that you’re still hurting from your last relationship, but I’ve also been feeling like our friendship is being overshadowed by constant conversations about your ex. Would it be possible if we could discuss something else today?”

  • “Even though I’m sure your ex was wonderful and really cared about you, I think that you’re making it difficult for yourself to move on when you’re only thinking about your relationship.”

Related: Five Ways to Get Over Ex You Still See Everyday

4. Listen and do your best to hear her out

Although it may seem like it’s all you’ve been doing, actively listening to what your friend is saying will help you give her the right advice, eventually helping her move on. For example, if you feel like your friend just can’t stop talking about his positive traits, like how he was incredibly kind or understanding, taking the time to affirm these opinions and also acknowledging reasons behind the breakup can help ensure that your friend feels at solace with the end of this relationship. 

Let your friend know that while it’s great that she was so dependent on her ex, now she’ll have the freedom to understand herself and what went wrong. Ask her what she’s learned for future relationships. Remind her that an upside of breaking off a relationship is being able to see things in a new light – and also, in the meantime, don’t be afraid to coax her out of her sadness with a positive attitude and some cartons of ice cream!

5. Be patient

Ending relationships can be difficult, and your friend will likely take days, weeks or even months to get over her ex. So, while you should be honest in letting her know when her conversations are becoming too overwhelming for you, be prepared to take baby steps when it comes to slowly letting her gain more understanding of the relationship. Donna Barnes, author of Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices told Greatist that breakups can be a catch-22. It sucks to have your heart broken, but at the same time it could be the best thing to ever happen to you. According to Barnes, it’s important for people to take time and slowly heal, “letting themselves grow from the experience to become a better person with increased compassion and more strength.” 

Try helping your friend out in small ways by encouraging her when she takes her first steps moving on, from deleting her ex’s phone number or throwing away a hoodie she’s still hiding in the back of her closet. If she still needs to talk about her ex, listen. As this goes on, be sure to maintain your patience and be positive with your attitude towards her, and know that she’ll be able to move on eventually.

All in all, know that your friend is going through an incredibly difficult time and that it may take a lot of patience for the conversations about her ex to finally stop. During this process, don’t be afraid to set up boundaries between you and your friend so you don’t share too much of the emotional burden, but to also maintain a positive attitude. Actively listen and do your best to give advice if she asks, as that will let her know the positive aspects of moving on and learning from the experience. Give her time to breathe and encourage her to find ways to enjoy life without her ex. It may be a difficult transition, so don’t be afraid to be with your friend every step of the way to ensure that you both can become stronger in both your friendship and ability to stay strong.

Karen Chang

UC Berkeley '22

A current first-year at UC Berkeley, Karen Chang is deeply passionate about writing short stories in cafes, dabbling in exploring the intersection between art and culture, and indulging in occasional Netflix binges. In her free time, she can be found trying eclectic dishes from around the world and going on an occasional hiking trip!