Several years ago, one of my closest friends violated a boundary.
A very firm boundary that she was very much aware of. When I confronted her about it, rather than taking full ownership for what she did, she deflected—and by that, I mean manipulated—by taking a victim approach. When I called her out on that as well, she claimed that she needed some time apart to figure out where things stood between us. Fast forward to a year later and, out of the blue, I received a (count 'em) whopping 10-page letter about all of the things she thought I did wrong and what I needed to do in order to restore our relationship.
Look, before even getting deep into this topic, be leery about someone who doesn't take personal ownership and responsibility in your relationship with them. It's very difficult to establish or maintain anything healthy or lasting with that type of individual.
Anyway, after giving her oh-so-arrogant "offer" some thought, I wrote her back and told her that I would pass. After all, the main thing that caused our breakdown in the first place was her refusing to address the error of her ways and just how much she disrespected me. Since she came at me with basically the same approach 12 months later, it didn't take a best-selling self-help book to know that it was going to be a matter of time before we hit the same wall…yet again.
I didn't share that lil' tale of mine as a way to say that you should never take a friend you once fell out with back. We all make mistakes and sometimes time really does heal all wounds (more on that in just a bit). What I am saying is, just like with an ex-boyfriend, if someone is an ex-friend of yours, they are that for a reason. So, before you decide to let them back into your head and heart space, do yourself a favor and ask yourself the following five questions. It could spare you more wasted weeks, months or even years with someone you should've left alone…the first time.
Why Did Things Fall Apart in the First Place?
One of my close friends is a relationships coach (shout out to Jay Hurt). Because we both work in the relationship realm, we're constantly having debates about how to handle different situations. A common discussion is what constitutes a mistake vs. what is an intentional bad choice.
I'll give you an example. One time, we were discussing how often should a spouse take someone back after they've had multiple emotional affairs. Whenever Jay comes at me with "I mean, people make mistakes", I'm usually looking at my phone like, "Are you serious right now?!"
Mistakes are birthed about of a lack of knowledge, carelessness or misunderstanding. If someone is harming another person over and over again, that is NOT a mistake; that is a conscious choice. OK so, when you're trying to decide whether or not to reconcile with an ex-friend, it's important to reflect on why/how the two of you fell out in the first place.
Was it because of a really big mistake? Or was it due to a series of poor choices? If it's Column B, be cautious about getting back involved with individuals who intentionally bring you drama, turmoil and harm. It takes a lot of self-work to break outta that kind of pattern. Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of people who choose to grow in that way.
Have They Owned Up to Their Ish? Have You?
Recently, I ran into an ex-friend who wanted us to reconnect. As I was listening to them go into their song-and-dance about me knowing how they are, about 15 minutes in, what I realized they weren't doing was apologizing for their actions.
I have learned the oh-so-very hard way that if someone doesn't clearly address what they've done wrong (or how they hurt or offended you because wrongdoing and hurt feelings are not automatically or necessarily one in the same) and then apologize for it, not only does it reveal a lack of humility and personal accountability, it also sets you up for being hurt by them all over again. Same goes for if you're the one who hurt them.
If someone is truly interested in reconciling, one of the first things they are going to do is take responsibility for their actions. So yeah, look for that while contemplating what you should do about restoring things with an ex-friend. If they are too prideful or "worse", too clueless to address core issues, you're setting yourself up for a series of reruns, which includes getting run over…again. And again.
Can You Keep the Past Out of the Present?
People who claim to be highly-spiritual but don't know how to forgive baffle me. Even Scripture tells us that there is no way we can be forgiven by God if we don't forgive other people (Matthew 6:14-15). A person has to be mighty full of themselves to think that God should overlook their missteps when they aren't willing to do the same for folks who are just as human as they are.
However, forgiving someone (which for me, sometimes comes in the form of releasing them) doesn't always mean that you should go back to the way things were. The former friend that I mentioned that the beginning of this piece? I've seen them since. I hug them whenever I do. But they were so disrespectful, on so many levels, that I already know it would be extremely close to impossible to totally leave the past out of our present.
Forgiving someone doesn't mean that you don't learn from the experience. Sometimes the lesson is to make peace and then…move on.
Were They Ever Really Your Friend to Begin With?
Something that creeps me out are people who make it their mission to be my friend. Meaning, things don't evolve organically. It's more like a goal of theirs to get my number and be all up in my business. Something is extremely disingenuous about those types of connections.
When I look back on how stable my friendships are now in comparison to how cray-crazy some of mine used to be in the past, I realize that a lot of my past situations weren't very authentic. There was a lot of codependency, opportunism and one-sidedness going on. And really, what kind of solid or lasting friendship can come outta that?
Not too long ago, I penned "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect from Your Friendships". A little while before that, I wrote "Why Friendships Should Come with Deal Breakers, Too". Believe you me when I say that you can spare a lifetime worth of time, effort and energy if, before you take an ex-friend back, you reflect on if the root of the fallout was accepting that neither of you were really friends to begin with. Ouch and amen.
What’s Different About Them—NOW?
We've all seen someone on Twitter share their perspective on something, only to have someone pull up receipts from five years before that reflect a totally different stance. Sigh. That's one of the most challenging things about social media—it doesn't really leave much room for maturity or evolution.
That's why I'm not comfortable making a blanket statement that anyone who has had a falling out with a friend, they should never consider reconciliation. If the "person in question" is showing signs of growth (especially in the areas where the two of you fell out in the first place), they offer up a heartfelt apology and you can honestly leave the past in the past—oh, and you have some solid reasons why becoming friends with them again would be a beneficial thing at this point in your life—at least be open to considering it.
Sometimes, what time does is not only heal wounds but transition us into better people. The kind of people who could turn out to be better friends than before.
If that is what appears to be happening with your ex-friend, take things slow but don't keep the door totally shut. Being willing to see where they are now could up being a blessing in disguise—for you both.
Featured image by Getty Images
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