I was recently hanging out with a friend who had experienced a pretty brutal break-up with a mutual friend. There’s a Friendship Cold War going on between the two right now, a lot of hurt feelings and talking behind each other’s backs, zero face to face communication. The friend I was talking to never wanted to be in a Friendship Cold War (or any kind of friendship war), is completely miserable with the current situation, and asked me if I thought it was possible that things could change for the better. I said I think it’s absolutely possible.
I know exactly what it’s like to have one of the worst breakups of your life not be with a love interest but rather a best friend. It’s possible to un-break up with a friend. I promise, I’ve done it, I was your guinea pig on this one. Yes, depending on what you and your friend broke up over and how bad the break-up was, it’s possible you might never be the BFFs you once were, you might get through this reparation process and decide it’s not even a very good idea to be kind-of-sort-of friends. Still, it’s possible to make amends, gain closure, and make things better. It’s just a terrible feeling to know there’s someone out there you have bad blood with and it’s such a better feeling to know you’ve snipped wires and deactivated that Terrible Feeling Nuclear Warhead by being your awesomest, most open-hearted, best self.
Below, some advice to get you through this weird-times process:
Send a Letter
Here’s what I like about letters (versus phone calls or showing up at someone’s door unannounced): you get to really take your time composing your words, you can check a million times to make sure you got every sentence right, and you’re giving the person you’re sending your letter to all the time in the world to think over their thoughts and reply (or maybe not reply) to you. Even if you hop on the phone or get together for coffee later on, in the beginning, the best thing to do is to send a missive you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that gives the other person lots of time to think as well.
Say You’re Sorry Even If You’re Not Really Sorry
This is the most important piece of advice I can give on un-breaking up with friends (and just being in conflict with other people in general). Sometimes the break-up was the other person’s fault. Or it was both of your faults but it was REALLY their fault and really THEY should be apologizing. But maybe they’re not going to apologize (first or ever). Maybe they’re incapable of apologizing. So you have to. You might have to apologize for things you’re not sorry for or don’t think you should have to apologize for. The words “I’m sorry” are magical, they’re the “Accio Firebolt” of the Muggle World, they open up doors that might otherwise remain shut. If the fault truly lies with the other person, you can say you’re sorry the friendship ended and apologize with how the breakup went down. You can say sorry about SOMETHING. So do it. It works much better than being sorry about nothing.
Like The Emotional Equivalent of a Boy Scout, Be Prepared For Any and All Responses
Obviously, in the best possible world you get your apologies back, you start hanging out again and it’s not awkward and uncomfortable times infinity plus one, and you guys go back to being each other’s best hangs. But you might get a really angry letter back. Or silence. Or you guys do try to make amends but your ex-friend keeps punishing you for your past crimes. Or your former friend is completely cool about making up but things just aren’t the same as they used to be when you try to be friends again.You can’t try to make amends with the full expectation of having everything go exactly how you want it to go. The point of trying to make things better is the effort. It’s great if that effort is rewarded, but it might not be. You might be ignored or even punished for trying to do the right thing. Trying to do the right thing is still the right thing to do. Your good intentions might be your consolation prize if you don’t get your friend back and that’s something you’re going to have to accept and try to be okay with.
Have any of you guys attempted to un-break up with a friend before? How did you handle all the many, many, many difficulties of this task?