Q&A with Geoff: How do I fix a broken friendship?Mar 09, 2022
I have a friend who hurt me a year ago and we’ve been superficial with each other since then. I don’t know how to make things the way they used to be.
We still talk at times and I can tell that she feels bad for what she did (she works hard to be a better friend now). She lied about me to some friends and it really hurt.
I’m just not sure if I’m being too unforgiving, or if things can’t ever be the same again and I need to accept that and let things be the way they are.
I think you’ve got a really hopeful situation with your friendship concerns. Even though there was an injury to the trust in the relationship, you’ve got a friend who appears to want to stay friends and make things right. It doesn’t sound like either of you know what to do, so let me make some suggestions.
Martin Buber famously wrote, “We are the promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creatures.” As painful as this reality is, this is the nature of people and promises. This doesn’t excuse any of us to deliberately break promises, but it does describe the struggle we have in caring for our relationships.
I have observed that when someone is sincerely making efforts to repair their relationship injuries, it will soften the injured person and open up a chance to rebuild the connection. I believe this is what’s happening with your friend’s efforts.
I encourage you to approach her and acknowledge the efforts she’s making to go out of her way to be a better friend to you. Don’t minimize the hurt of the offense and act like it’s no big deal. Let her know that even though you have been hurt, you want to have a good relationship with her.
Sometimes it can be helpful to identify where you can’t go forward in the relationship. For example, you might let her know that you don’t feel comfortable confiding things in her until you can know that she will protect your privacy.
You can let her know that you want to continue spending time with her in other interactions, but you might be guarded for a while. You will be able to tell if she can respect your mistrust and caution. A good friend will make room for you to heal and will show a good faith effort to reassure you that she values you and your friendship.
Repairing relationships is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. We inch our way forward in the areas that feel safe until we have sure footing to take bigger risks. Good friends will respect that process and receive our efforts to reconnect.
You’ve got a good friend who made a mistake but is working to learn and grow from it. Your honest feedback will give her specific ways to grow and protect your fragile friendship. I’m certain you will both benefit from going through this experience.
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