How to Mend a Broken Friendship
We All Need Friends
Most of us need friends. Sometimes we are closer to our friends than we are to family. In many cases friends are substitutes for family. So what do you do if an important friendship suddenly goes wrong? It can feel as bad as a marriage break-up, especially if you have been friends for a long time. You will be experiencing a whole range of emotions, sadness, frustration and, very probably, anger. You might not even feel that you want to heal the rift at this stage. At some point, you will have to decide whether to pursue the friendship or let it go.
How you go about fixing your friendship depends how honest you can be with yourself. Most of the work is done before you even make contact. You need to discover whether this particular friend is good for you and why the break-up occurred.
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Assess Your Feelings About the Friendship
Right now, you probably feel as though you have taken a kick in the stomach. It is very important for you to give yourself a few days to calm down. Once you feel more in control, it is time to sit down and answer some pertinent questions about your relationship with your friend. A good idea is to use the following questions as journal prompts and write your responses down. There is no need to answer them all in one go. Take your time, allow your feelings to bubble up, and, above all else, be completely honest. No-one else will see these answers; you can destroy them once you've worked through them. Going through this process will help you gain clarity and will help you make a decision on the next step.
Do you feel the friendship is a positive one for both of you?
Are you usually glad to see your friend?
Do you and your friend laugh a lot?
Do you sometimes feel manipulated? Do you ever try to manipulate her?
It is natural for friends to share problems but is that all you get from her? Is it the other way round? Do you use her as a dumpster for all your negativity?
Would you do anything (within reason) that she asked you to do?
Do you spend time with this friend exclusively, or do you have several other good friends? If she is your only friend, think about it. Does this make you dependant upon the friendship?
Do you treat each other well? If you are asked out on a date (or other diversion) but have already made arrangements to see your friend that night, do you postpone or do you accept the date, thinking that you can catch up with your friend any time? How does she feel about getting sidelined?
A true friendship consists of honesty, loyalty and acceptance. Can you attest that these qualities are present in the relationship you have with your friend?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Feel free to expand on them and write down everything that comes to mind regarding your friendship. When you finish, how you feel will indicate to you whether you are really missing this person. Perhaps you are beginning to feel a little relieved that the friendship has broken up. Or maybe, you know without question that you have to make up, that life wouldn't be the same without her.
Reasons for the Break Up
The cause of your falling-out could be almost anything and, in the majority of cases, it's not so serious as it first appears. The most common cause for a disagreement between friends is simple misunderstanding. Each takes a defensive stance that repels and discourages honest communication.
Thinking about the cause of the rift, write about your side of the disagreement. Then put yourself in your friend's place and write it from her point of view. Really let yourself go on this one, pretend you are her and the break-up is happening right now. What is she thinking? Feeling? Once you have done that, take a breather – it can be very emotional working through this stuff. Now, pretend you are a writer describing the event objectively. Keep emotions out of it, just the facts, ma'am.
Now you have three sides to the story, which one seems more real to you? Read the objective, 3rd-party description again. Does it seem like a thing worth breaking up a friendship for?
The most important aspect to consider is whether this is a blip or if it is really serious. Did one of you betray the other? Or tell a lie that won't easily be forgotten? Think about the reason and ask yourself if the friendship can survive this event or will it be affected for a long time? If you think you won't ever feel the same about this person again, then it could be time to walk away.
Before Making Up With Your Friend - Do the 12 Steps
So you've decided to do your best to revive the friendship but where do you start? The following is a technique that can work to improve many situations in your life. I can't explain how it works but it almost always does.
Take a sheet of paper and a pen. You are going to make a list of hows and whys, starting from where you are right now, i.e. wanting to make up, going right through to where you want to be – best friends again. You can copy my list, or you can adapt it in any way or you can make up your own. The thing to remember is that you are progressing through steps from where you are to where you want to be.
My friendship with xxxx is broken and I am upset.
I expect xxxx is upset too.
We've been friends forever (or for x number of months/years).
I really miss her.
We have such fun together.
I can tell her anything.
This might be a storm in a teacup.
It's possible we can get past this.
Maybe it's not such a big deal after all.
I think we could be friends again.
I am sure we could put this behind us.
I am 100% certain that my friendship with xxxx is going to last a very long time.
You could make this more than 12 steps if you want to. It makes no difference but the more feeling you can get into it the better and faster it will work.
To finish off, there is one more thing to write. Make a list of all the things you love about your friend. They can be aspects of her character, the way she looks, her quirky mannerisms, her kindness and anything else you can think of. Write down as many things you can think of that you appreciate about her. Again, the more feeling you can put into it, the better it is.
Put both lists away for a day or two. Don't take any action but notice how much more positive you feel about the situation. You are ready to resume your friendship.
Approaching Your Friend
At this point, you may not even need to contact your friend as she may have already been in touch. The wonderful thing about doing the 12-step approach is that often you need take no action at all for the situation to resolve itself. If she does come to you first then the work you have done will make you amenable and ready to communicate. If she hasn't got in touch then you will have to start the ball rolling. What is the best way to contact her? Do you prefer face-to-face? By telephone? Perhaps you'd rather do it in writing? A nice friendship card might work – you can add a note telling her you miss her. No one way is better – choose whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Things to Consider When Making Contact
Does the situation demand an apology? If so, determine beforehand what you are going to apologize for. You really don't want to rake up the original reason for the break-up unless it is essential. If the split was because of a 'I'm right and you're wrong' argument, then keep asking yourself, “Is it better to be right or happy?” There is nothing to prove, so let it go. It can't be more important than your friendship or you wouldn't be here trying to make up.
Should you take a peace offering? Sometimes a small, silly gift can break the ice, particularly if it has meaning for the two of you. What would bring a big, wide grin to your friend's face?
Do not play the victim role. However hurt you are feeling, never act like a victim. One reason being is that you give your own power to the other person. People don't really like it although they may well take advantage of it. You can apologize for your part but don't grovel.
It's possible your friend will turn on you again because she hasn't processed all the emotions attached to the situation. Remember to say calm, do not react. Let her have her say but don't get dragged back in to the argument. Apologize again and ask if she wants to continue the friendship.
If the situation really needs discussing in detail, then give your side calmly. Don't allow yourself to become hyped up. If she interrupts, then let her. Hear what she says and then carry on with your point of view. Then return the favor and listen to her. Ask if there's a way through this. Ask her what she wants. Ask if this problem could be allowed to rest in the past. Feel your way through the discussion. As long as you remain calm and open, you should be able to deal with it.
Once the heavy stuff is out of the way, then perhaps you could lighten things up. Don't make a joke out of the cause of the situation, but you could poke a little fun at yourself. Tell her about something silly you did after your argument, maybe you weren't thinking straight and went to put the cat in the fridge instead of the milk... that sort of thing.
If Things Don't Go to Plan
It's possible that the friendship can't pick up right where it left off. Some rifts hurt too much. However, there's always hope. Perhaps you can agree to start again slowly and see how it goes. Perhaps you will meet by chance in a few weeks or months.
Whatever happens, you will have made the effort and you can't really do more than that. Respect your friend's choice, learn from the experience and get on with your life.