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What It Takes To Heal A Broken Friendship

Sometimes things fall apart...to come back together again. Better.

What About Your Friends?

Something that I've noticed that y'all love to read (and respond to) on our site is articles about friendship. I really dig that too. To me, it's a sign that, as grown Black women, we all know that there is real value in having that kind of connection, whether it's with other women or platonic friendship with men. But because we're all human, AND WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES (that's in all caps for extra emphasis), sometimes we can find ourselves in relationships that can become so broken that they end up ending. It's due to the fact that the issues, pain or offenses are so layered or deep that we don't see any other recourse.

I've read enough comments on our posts about challenges in friendships to know that some of you feel like once a friendship "breaks", it's irreparable. But I don't. Mostly, it's because, I've had instances where a friend of mine and I have called it quits, grown during the time apart, and then come back together—better than ever. Rebuilding a broken friendship is indeed possible. It's all about knowing if it's worth it, keeping an open mind and then applying the tips that I have shared below.

Take Time to Grieve

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When I think about the friendships that took me a long time to emotionally move on from versus the ones that I was able to process, heal and get over in a fairly short amount of time, the main difference was that, in the former, I didn't fully go through the grieving process.

Hear me when I say that if you actually got to a point and place with someone where you let them into your life enough to call them your "friend", then, I don't care what caused the two of you to end your relationship, it's a loss. And when we lose things, we need time to be able to grieve them.

If you're not sure what the grieving process consists of, the stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It's only once you've thoroughly processed through all of these steps that you can be really sure that you're at a point and place where you're emotionally ready to even consider reconciliation with someone; especially if it's someone who hurt (or even just disappointed) you on a deep and profound level.

Get Clear on What Went Wrong

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Once you know that you've gone through all of the stages of grief, to the point where you can fully accept the reality of where and how things are now, it's time to ponder what actually caused things to go left between you and your (former) friend. See, when you're in denial or angry (the first two grieving phases), it's easy to have a tainted and/or one-sided perspective. You might be tempted to blame everything on them or not want to look at where you also possibly made some mistakes along the way too (think of the Issa and Molly, from Insecure, dynamic; they both had some things they could do better).

For instance, I remember when one of my friends ghosted me out of nowhere. Because I used to be a codependent type of person, I initially took on all of the blame. But then I thought about how, especially over the last 2-3 years of our friendship, how many times I reached out to her, I initiated us hanging out, how often she told me that she pretty much thought she sucked at all relationships, and that she was still learning what love meant. Because we had been in each other's lives for so long, I never really thought about what I wasn't getting from her. But when I really stepped back and looked at the relationship from a broader scope, in all actuality, it probably ran its course, well before she ghosted. I simply had ignored the warning signs. Yet once I accepted that reality for what it was, it was easier to come to the conclusion that releasing her was best. All the way around. That there were too many broken pieces to actually rebuild; especially since her past patterns made it pretty evident that I would be doing most of the work, per usual, if we tried to move forward.

Ask Yourself If You’ve Grown in Your Own Weaknesses

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Meanwhile, there's another friend of mine where, we took a break for a season. About a year, actually. She has always been my call-me-out-on-my-ish and I-want-to-see-it-from-another-angle friend, so it was pretty much par for the course when, while going through a heartbreak, she wanted to talk about all of the things that I could've done differently while trying to see why "he" was being a complete and total ass. At the time, I didn't need critical thinking. I was devastated. What I needed was comfort. Anyway, my friends know that I will communicate my needs, almost ad nauseum, so it wasn't that she was unaware of all of this. I told her. Several times. Still, she kept pushing…and pushing…to where I finally snapped and told her that I needed some space. And yes, that space equated to being approximately 12 months. Not really on purpose. But in hindsight, it was very necessary.

During that time, I thought about why it got to that boiling point for me. I realized that, because I grew up as a victim of a few forms of abuse, among church folks who either downplayed or tried to tell me that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was in a "popular" family (chile, that's an article within itself), I never really knew what it meant to feel validated. So, when I would experience pain as an adult and someone didn't console me and/or would challenge me before consoling me, it would take me back to my childhood. All things work together though, because, you know what? If I had remained in the relationship with my friend, without the break, I probably wouldn't have figured all of that out. Plus, during that season of us being apart, she told me that she learned that her timing and approach needed to improve. Not just with me but across the board.

Sometimes, things break in order to come back together. But what's the point in rebuilding a friendship if things aren't going to be better than they were before? That's why assessing your own weaknesses is beneficial before reconciling with a friend.

This brings me to my next point.

Make Sure There Is Actually Something to Go Back To

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The first friendship that I referenced, I was doing more giving than what I was getting. Because of how much history she and I have, and the amount of time that we spent together (years and years), I will always care about her, but the relationship is done. The second relationship? Even though we're back to communicating on a consistent basis, I recently got an email, out of the blue, from her about how proud she is of my growth and how much she appreciates me being in her life. She knows that words of affirmation is my primary love language, so she is intentional about speaking it often. Even though there have definitely been bumps along the way, I can truly say that my second friend didn't only benefit me in my past, but she is still blessing me in the present.

If you are considering rebuilding a friendship with someone, it is imperative that you're not just going back because you miss them or what the two of you once shared. Get clear on if they serve you in the here and now and, if you are prepared to do the same for them. Especially since, there's a pretty good chance that the ending of the friendship has changed the both of you—which means that you'll both need to be open to making some adjustments so that your "new normal" can be better than your old friendship once was.

Have a REAL and HUMBLE Discussion (Preferably Face to Face)

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Once you've done some real personal self-assessing, if you do think that the friendship is worth reviving, it's time to reach out to have a conversation with your (former) friend. If they are open—and it's been my personal experience that, more times than not, they are—share with them your thoughts about why the friendship ended, what the time apart has personally revealed to you and also why you'd like to try again. Speak in the manner you'd want to be spoken to but try and avoid walking on eggshells. It makes absolutely no sense to restart a friendship if it's not going to be from a pure and genuine place.

Then give your friend the space to share what is on their heart as well. The key is to have an open mind while also internally asking yourself if you feel like the two of you would be good for each other, based on where both of you are, in the moment. It's not about putting up walls, ego trippin' or trying to one-up each other (if either of you feel the need to do all of that, you probably should just leave well enough alone). It's about both of you getting really real, being humble enough to hear each other out and then coming to a conclusion about if you both are willing to put the work in to rebuild the connection again.

Rebuild One Day at a Time

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If you both do want to give your friendship another shot, as the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Regardless of what caused the break-up in the first place, time is going to need to heal a few things. You're both going to have to learn how to fully trust each other again. You're both going to have to accept each other, based on where the two of you are now (not where you were at the time of the break-up). You're both going to have to make sure that you truly have forgiven one another (which means, not reliving the break-up over and over…and over and over again). And, you're both going to have to move at a different pace as you "relearn" each other on some levels.

As a marriage life coach, I deal with a lot of people who struggle with mending brokenness in relationships. Sometimes, the pain makes us want to build up fortresses rather than extend an olive branch while remaining open to trying again. But when someone is valuable to you, when you are valuable to them, and you're both committed to moving past, whatever "it" was, oftentimes the "reboot" of the relationship can be even better than what the two of you had before. Because you've both learned and you know better—now.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to rebuild a broken friendship. So long as you and your friend are willing to work at it—together. Just remember that it will take work. And yes, you will need to do it…together.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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