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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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