Faulty Friendships: Can They Be Fixed?
When friendships derail as an adult, it can be really tricky to get them back on track again.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that as we get older, several irritating things happen. Crows feet, middle aged muffin tops, pangs of panic about fertility windows, and oh yeah, seemingly firm friendships going down the swanny. Past me never had any problems making friends. Seven-year-old Adele had the confidence of a drag queen, bouncing my little head into school, striking up conversation with strangers, and scooting over to the house of people I’d just met to connect Tamagotchis. Ant kind of drama I had with friends was history within a few hours, we argued, cried, and became BFFs again in the space of one Drake and Josh episode. But things aren’t as simple as that as we get older, Fast forward 15 odd years, and a friendship fallout lasts longer than an hour, and patching up and getting things back on track can be an impossible task.
If you’ve ever had the thought ‘well, there goes another friend’ run through your mind, you’ll know what I mean. Sometimes, it just seems easier, and safer, to let it go.
But is that true? Friendship expert and author of Friendtimacy, Shasta Nelson, tells us that high expectations around adult friendships can result in their breakdown. “One of the reasons it’s most difficult to fix our friendships is because of the expectations we have developed for our friendships; they should be fun and easy, they shouldn’t have drama, and our friends shouldn’t disappoint us or annoy us.” she says. “We take grievances so personally and so desperately want these idealistic friendships that only feel good and fun.” Pride mixed with high expectations and stubbornness makes for a friendship fallout disaster, as adults we learn that swallowing our pride can be misunderstood for weakness. So unlike our seven-year-old selves, we hold onto grudges for decades and do anything to keep face, even if it means losing someone who was an integral part of our lives.
This is a feeling 32-year-old Claudia is all too familiar with. Falling out with her best friend of 11 years over something small, she feared she had lost her companion for good. “I was beyond close to my best friend from adolescence. We did everything and went everywhere together. We could tell each other anything and were there right beside one another through so many good and bad times,” she says. However, their unbreakable friendship was soon broke, with a small spat turning into years of radio silence. “We had a falling out during a girls’ holiday when we were in our early twenties. In hindsight, it seems like something so trivial now that caused us to fall out, but emotions were high and things quickly snowballed, with us both vowing to never speak again once we got back home. A promise we sadly both kept for far too long.”
Losing contact for almost three years, Claudia and her best friend’s paths crossed once again. “We were both invited to a mutual friend’s wedding. I was dreading seeing her on the day after managing to avoid one another for nearly three years, but somehow we hit things off again. After some chin-wagging during the reception (and a couple of gins) we were giggling like schoolgirls, and resealed our friendship on the dance floor, just like old times.”
The ending of a romantic relationship is hard – soul-destroying even. We all know this, there are millions of how-to articles on fixing a broken heart and mending rocky relationships. But hardly anyone speaks about the breakdown of friendships, and the emotional toll they can take. One woman who felt the wrath of a friendship fade away is 27-year-old Amanda, who was ghosted by one of her closest friends before eventually swallowing her pride and reconnecting (or resurrecting, if you like) their lost friendship some time later. “I know you usually associate ghosting with failed Tinder dates, but one of my closest friends actually ghosted me and the rest of our friend group, and it really, really hurt,” she said. “She got in with a different crowd, and slowly over time as she integrated herself more with her new friends, she forgot all about her old ones,” Amanda explains.
“She stopped replying to any of our texts, she never showed up to anything. One of my closest friends was gone and I was in mourning of what we once had, I’ve found relationships easier to get over than this.”
Explaining that sometimes swallowing your pride and being the bigger person is the secret to sorting things out, Amanda confronted her ex-friend and let her know how she made her feel. “After close to a year of nothing from her I decided enough was enough, the rest of my friends advised me against confronting her but I couldn’t push my feeling about the situation down. I text her with a simple ‘long time, no talk’ and to my surprise, she responded. I told her I missed her and how it was a shame we rarely saw one another anyone, and as it turns out, honestly really is the best policy. She completely saw where I was coming from and apologised for the lack of communication. We’ve been fine ever since and I’m so glad I sent that text.”
So, what’s the best way to get back on track? Shasta says to follow the 5 As:
Take a lead out of Amanda’s book and drop your forgotten friend a text. If they ignore it, persist a little. Like we said, stubbornness has long gotten in the way of fixing a broken relationship, so swallow your pride and make the first move. If you’re met with a response, arrange to meet up. That all-important ‘talk’ needs to happen, and it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.
Whether you think you’re in the right or not, the breakdown of any relationship is often a two-way street, we’re afraid. It’s important to accept the part you’ve played in the fallout, and let the other person know that you’re sorry for that. Lay out your feelings to your friend and also let them know what you believe they did wrong in a calm and non-aggressive manner. Relationships are built on vulnerability, so hoping that your friend also takes accountability for their actions too, things should be back on track in no time.
“What could I have done differently?” “How did the argument make you feel?” It’s important to ask your friend questions in a curious – not defensive manner. By asking questions you show a willingness to both change and move forward at the same time.
It’s important to start adding positivity back into the relationship as soon as the dirty laundry has been aired. Reminisce on the old times, tell your friend exactly what you missed about them, and let them know what their friendship means to you. Life is far too short to hold grudges, and if time teaches you anything, it’s the importance of telling the people around you what they mean to you while you have the chance.
Affirm The Relationship
You’ve hashed things out, now it’s time to look to the future. What do you want the relationship to look like? How would you like to move forward? Come up with a common goal together and stick to it. Promise one another that you’ll meet up every couple of weeks, and agree to communicate with regular texting. You’ve made nice, now it’s time to plough on. Slow and steady wins the race, and as long as you’re both singing off the same hymn sheet you’re halfway there to the finish line.
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