Every time you pass by that one restaurant, you’re reminded of the time you cried for hours and she listened. Whenever you’re hanging with mutual friends, her name inevitably comes up and you feel a pang of nostalgia. And while you might wish to turn to your former bestie for advice, you’re not sure you trust her any longer. You made the tough decision to cut that toxic friend out of your life—but now you miss the friendship you used to have. We’ve all been there.
Maybe enough time has passed that you feel you’ve cooled off from that last big blowout; maybe she says she’s changed her ways—but can everything really go back to normal? I spoke to therapists to find out how to move forward and work together to renew a friendship. And this time, to make sure it’s healthy for both of you.
Keep reading for expert tips on how to (maybe) salvage a friendship.
Reflect on why the friendship ended
Before texting your friend to see if she’s free for happy hour, you need to spend some serious time thinking about what went wrong and whether you can trust her enough to repair the relationship. “In order to enter this friendship again, it’s important that those old, negative feelings have been processed, understood, and really forgiven on your side, first, before you engage the relationship again,” says Brooke Williams, LPC, a South Carolina-based licensed professional counselor and founder of Better Way Counseling and Coaching. “Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to mistrust, rejection, and additional hurt in re-engaging that friendship.”
When you miss someone, it can be easy to remember only the great parts of the relationship and not the emotionally draining parts that led to the split in the first place. It may be tough to process those things again, but doing so could also save you from returning to a detrimental situation.
Have an honest conversation about what happened
You may want to gloss over the things that went wrong because, let’s face it, digging up a hurtful past isn’t fun. But you have to talk about it to make your potential future relationship stronger. “Friendships thrive when both sides feel that they can be vulnerable, open, and heard. It’s definitely important to talk through what happened and make sure that you can have real and meaningful conversations with that person again,” says Williams.
“Friendships thrive when both sides feel that they can be vulnerable, open, and heard. It’s definitely important to talk through what happened.” —Brooke Williams, licensed professional counselor
When you’re talking about the past flare up(s), focus on having a conversation—not an interrogation. Brooklyn-based psychotherapist Aimee Barr, LCSW, suggests using “I” statements to avoid being accusatory. “Instead of saying, ‘You frequently violated my privacy and made comments publicly that were embarrassing,’ say, ‘I often felt frustrated when personal topics about my financial situation was shared without my permission,’” says Barr. Listen to their feedback and acknowledge it—without getting defensive or accusatory. Remember, the goal here is reconciliation, not to rehash old fights.
Define the (new) relationship—and take it slow
It’s important to discuss how you see your friendship—and whether it’s the same for both of you. “Being honest about what each of you is looking for in a friend, and whether or not that is possible…can be uncomfortable,” says Williams. “But it’s also the sign of a healthy friendship that can go the distance.”
And while you might want to jump right back into seeing each other all the time and texting daily, Barr recommends proceeding slowly at first. “We can feel very close to someone after we repair a disagreement and share our needs,” she says. “It’s really easy in these moments to remember all the reasons we want this relationship in first place. However, it’s important to set up parameters when igniting a friendship again. Trust when broken needs to be rebuilt again.” And sometimes, that means starting from scratch.
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