Most of us will, at some point, experience the end of a relationship.
From the pangs of a fling gone sour and the fizzled-out Tinder match to the full-on emotional torture that comes with the end of real love, break-ups are painful. But what if there was a way to make that pain easier? A way to project-manage your break-up, with tried-and-tested methods and real, practical advice?
Enter the break-up app: 2019’s answer to getting through heartbreak without a drunken phone call to your ex in sight. From meditation exercises to constructive distraction techniques designed around moods you log daily, this new wave of apps is aiming to change the way we end relationships. The average millennial now spends 10 hours a week on dating apps, while the very lexicon of dating, from swiping right to sliding into each other’s DMs, has had a digital makeover. When we choose to ghost our dates instead of breaking up face to face, it’s unsurprising the internet has devised the logical next step: an app to comfort us in the aftermath.
‘Break-ups are democratic and they’re a universal experience,’ says Elle Huerta, founder of Mend, which describes itself as ‘the #1 break-up app’ and is free to download. ‘Without the right support, a break-up can be debilitating for long periods of time.’ Mend’s version of that support includes daily audio training and guided journaling, plus 24 /7 access to a library of advice, stories and interviews. For the truly grief-stricken, there’s the option to pay up for more content; £45 will buy you a year’s worth of heart-to-hearts. Tellingly, you can give these subscriptions to friends directly via email — a not-so-subtle hint to someone who’s been moaning about their ex for a little too long.
‘We never get sick of hearing about your break-up,’ says Mend in its rubric, the implication being that a break-up app isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your heartily out-of-Kleenex friends. The best of mates dispenses Ben & Jerry’s and good advice until we’re ready to get out of elasticated waistbands and back into the real world. But is there a limit to the extent to which we can rely on their support?
The short answer is yes, says Zoë Foster Blake, who used her expertise as an ex-Cosmopolitan magazine relationship columnist to start Break-Up Boss. ‘Friends and family quickly get tired of hearing about it. I created the app because we live on our phones when we are broken-hearted: we draft texts, we reminisce over photos, we drunk dial… it all happens in there. So to me the idea of having a loving-but-tough break-up coach in there felt useful.’
The millennial pink-hued Break-Up Boss is certainly female-focused, taking inspiration from Foster Blake’s Cosmo days — there is much chirpy advice, a ‘feel wheel’ to track your moods and a fake ‘text your ex’ facility: the modern equivalent of writing a snarky letter, then ripping it up. At times, it misses the humour mark (I can’t imagine enjoying the daily ‘pep-pep’ affirmations), but it’s a cleverly designed counterpart to Mend’s holistic approach. If Mend is the break-up therapist, Break-Up Boss tries to be the friend you see afterwards for a bottle of wine — and a good cry. For something in between, like your supportive mum, there’s Rx Breakup, the brainchild of Stila make-up founder, Jeanine Lobell. A 30-day self-help guide, it covers everything from self-sabotaging patterns to why your ‘type’ isn’t working.
But are these apps genuinely helpful, or digital outsourcing gone too far?
‘In theory a break-up app could be a useful self-help tool, but it’s important to be confident that the source of information is reliable,’ says Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support. ‘An app can only take you so far. What it can’t do is replace the many benefits of an emotional interaction with a person you trust.’
So, break-up apps can be helpful, especially if you don’t have the luxury of real-world support. It may be a better way to use your phone than Insta-stalking your ex, but it’s worth noting that it’s impossible to sanitise heartbreak with cute graphics and calendar checkboxes — sometimes you need an IRL hug.
As with many of life’s troubles, the only way through a break-up is, in fact, through it, with or without a phone in your hand.