I have wanted to write a post on how to mend a broken friendship for roughly a year. As you probably know, friendships change over the course of your life. You fall out of touch, your lives go in different directions, and, unfortunately, sometimes there are fights or even betrayals.
Even after all of that, you may find yourself missing your friend and the friendship you had.
That’s where this post comes in. To help you figure out how to mend a broken friendship in your own life, I’m going to tell the stories of two of my [now once again] closest friends: our relationships, our breakups, and the eventual mending of our friendships. I am so grateful that I have been able to get these friendships back on track (and possibly even stronger than they were before!). But be aware: it takes time.
Before I dive in…
The stories I’m going to share today have a lot of similarities: they feature two of my best friends from my late teens/early 20s. Friends with whom I was just about attached at the hip for a several-year span: if somebody invited me to a party or event, it was just assumed that we’d both show up. We went on trips together. We know each others’ families (including extended families). Both are ladies with whom I went to school, and then life took us in different directions. And both friendships took several years of time apart and then solid work on our relationships to repair.
However, they’re not the same story. I’m sharing both because there are some important differences which shaped how we later mended the relationships. In one, we grew apart, had a conversation in which we both walked away extremely hurt (but in different ways), and stopped putting in the effort as a result. In the other, we had a fight from which we couldn’t recover until a lot of time had passed.
While there are things I regret (such as things said and missing weddings and other important milestones that I am so so sad I didn’t get to celebrate with these friends), I don’t regret the paths these friendships took. Both relationships are now stronger and healthier than they ever were before and I’m really thankful to have them back in my life.
How to Mend a Broken Friendship When You Have Grown Apart
The first story I’m going to tell today is the one in which we grew apart. She and I had a conversation in which both of us walked away extremely hurt, and then we essentially stopped speaking. Note that I said conversation and not argument. There were no raised voices. There were no insults hurled. This wasn’t a knock-down, drag-out fight. We had a conversation from which we both walked away, feeling hurt. And we ceased all communications thereafter (aside from the obligatory “happy birthday!” texts, etc).
A few years went by, and I received an email from this friend. Completely out of the blue. In this email, she explained her actions and thought processes. She told me that she too had been hurt and why she was hurt. And she made it clear that she missed my friendship.
To be 100% honest (and she knows this), I was really apprehensive after receiving her email. I was still really hurt, and the email just brought all of those emotions back to the surface. I didn’t know if I could open myself up to that again, nor if I even wanted to do so. However, in honor of the close friendship we’d had for many years, I responded.
What made her send the email?
I reached out to her before writing this post (aka yesterday) to (a) double check that I had her permission to share our story and (b) ask her if she had any nuggets of wisdom about mending our own broken friendship she wanted to share. This is what she said in response:
“I think something I felt is that, in my gut, I just felt like I was missing sharing and hearing something from you. That we needed to hear each other out and the fear of rejection by reaching out to you was not as important as the potential to come to a place with our friendship where I felt at peace. If you feel even remotely like it is something worth saving – what do you have to lose by trying?”
So what happened next?
We traded a few emails. I explained why I was hurt and where I stood. She offered to visit so we could work on getting our friendship back on track. I told her I’d think about it.
A few months later, my father was diagnosed with melanoma (hence why I’m so neurotic about applying sunscreen!). Since I thought that I’d want to know if she were in a similar situation with her dad, I reached out and told her. And she really stepped up. She sent my dad get-well-soon gifts. Whenever she was in town, she made a point to check in and see my parents. She texted after his appointments to make sure everything was going smoothly.
I’m somebody who truly believes that actions speak louder than words. And I was blown away with how she just stepped up during this time – not just with me, but with my whole family. I still remember my mom calling me after her visit and being like “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? THIS IS THE FRIEND YOU KNOW AND LOVE AND I KNOW SHE REGRETS WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FRIENDSHIP JUST AS MUCH AS YOU DO! CALL HER!” (yeah, my mom speaks in all caps)
So I called her. And she immediately booked a trip to come visit me in Dallas.
Since then, I’ve seen her about 5 times in either my state or hers. We both make a conscious effort to work on our friendship. We check in, share our successes and failures (and my dating stories), send memes, talk about interiors because she knows I love that, etc. And I think she would agree that our friendship – after all these years – is finally back on track.
How to Mend a Broken Friendship After a Fight
So now for the other story. And if that header doesn’t give it away, it involves a really big, nasty fight. A truly horrible fight. A fight from which we couldn’t recover without giving each other time and space.
For context, this person was my person. My best friend. My first call when anything good or bad happened in my life. If I was in a pickle, she was who I called. When I had a date, I told her where I was headed and called her the moment the date was over. She was my person.
This friend and I were just about inseparable (which definitely contributed to the fight). We were growing apart because life started to take us in different directions… and we fought against that, which probably exacerbated the issue. We had mini-squabbles that essentially amounted to a death by 1000 cuts. Finally, one day, we had the fight. Horrible things were said which we both regret to this day. And suddenly, our friendship was over.
Our friendship had been deteriorating for a while (remember how I said death by 1000 cuts?). After the fight, I was immeasurably hurt, but also relieved. For weeks, I’d known a big fight was brewing, and I was relieved it was finally over. I was relieved that everything was out in the open: every hurt, every grievance, we’d aired them all. It was incredibly painful, but I had an odd sense of relief from that pain now being behind me. And, since I’m somebody who generally gets past things quickly, I just assumed we’d both get over it and be back on track within a month or two.
But I didn’t get past it. Neither of us did.
And then 6 months went by and we still hadn’t spoken.
I thought you said that this was about how to mend a broken friendship…?
Stay with me.
The turning point finally came when we got coffee about a year later to discuss an opportunity. As she had gone down a path similar to the one I was considering, I wanted to get her opinion and hear about her experience thus far.
I remember being super nervous at our coffee date. I thought I’d say the wrong thing and we’d fight again. Or 10,000 other badthings would happen. But it was ended up being an entirely normal interaction. None of the 10,000 bad things happened. Instead, we talked, we joked, we caught up a bit, we hugged, and we left. Yes, it was awkward since there was so much being left unsaid, but it felt like a glimmer of our former friendship.
After that, she and I started running into each other pretty regularly. At first it was monthly, and then it was weekly. Don’t get me wrong: it was really uncomfortable and awkward at first. But it got less and less uncomfortable and more and more friendly (and normal!) each time. Awkward waves gave way to jokes and micro-catch ups. We started texting whenever something reminded one of us of the other (or something truly ridiculous involving a mutual friend occurred). We were on speaking terms and were friendly, but we weren’t back to being friends just yet.
How long did it take to go from being friendly to being friends?
Quite some time after that (read: several years), she and I went for drinks one evening. I don’t remember who asked who to drinks, but we were both equally excited and happy to be there (wow this sounds like a date). During the drinks, each of us made it clear that we had missed the other and our friendship. We sat and talked for hours. Literally hours. Like we got there at 3PM and then went for dinner at 6PM and then finally parted ways around 8PM.
Since then, we’ve been in regular communication… including the occasional hour-long FaceTime date and frequent “OMG this weird thing just happened to me” text. She’s back to being one of my most avid supporters, and I’m so thankful that she’s back in my life.
From the time of our fight to our drinks date, roughly 4 years had passed. However, unlike my other friendship in which we went through every pain point and individual hurt and decided how to move forward from each one together, this friend and I jointly decided to let the past be the past.
We were both so mortified by our behavior all those years prior and we were eager to put it behind us. It was a painful experience for both of us, filled with lots of regret, so we decided the best path forward was to just move forward. To acknowledge the hurt we’ve caused one another, but also acknowledge how important our friendship is to both of us and agree to just move on and not dig up old wounds. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to figure out how to mend our broken friendship over the years, rebuilding it piece by piece.
A few parting thoughts about how to mend a broken friendship in your own life:
Rebuilding friendships takes time and work. It can be incredibly painful, and only you (and your friend) know if it will be worth it. If your friend isn’t open to rebuilding your friendship, give it time. Make it clear where you stand: that you don’t expect anything, but you are there whenever they wish to talk and you miss their friendship. Have patience and be open-minded.
Despite the fact that I missed what these friendships had been, it took time for me to realize how badly I wanted to have these friends back in my life. It took time for me to feel comfortable opening up to them and trusting them again. And I’m fairly confident they’d say the same. But, had we not repaired these friendships, I would be missing out on having two amazing friends in my life.
And I can’t tell you how glad I am that they’re back.