How to Fix a Friendship

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By: , – Ginny Graves, Family Circle
5/22/2012 6:00 PM   :  11 comments   :  9,672 Views

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When friendships start to unravel it can really throw us for a loop. Learn how to set things right and make a fresh start.

Not long ago, I was browsing through a friend's Facebook page when I saw a discussion she was having with some mutual buddies about a party they were planning. It sounded like a lot of fun. The only problem: I wasn't invited. Should I call them? Ignore it? Do something sneaky, like ask if they were free for dinner on the date of their big bash? The incident reminded me that even though I'm no longer in middle school, my friendships are as important—and almost as emotionally charged—as they were back then. "Connections between women are so intimate that any bump in the road can make us feel vulnerable, hurt and betrayed," says Irene Levine, Ph.D., author of Best Friends Forever (Overlook Press). We asked the experts to weigh in on five of the most common friendship flaps—and how to solve them. 
 
You've become good friends with the mom of your daughter's best friend. But the tweens have had a serious falling out and aren't speaking. Both of you feel it was your girl who was wronged, and now you're on the outs too.
 
When moms get involved in their kids' conflicts, bad feelings can escalate quickly because we all tend to be blind to our children's faults. So proceed with caution, says Karol Ward, a social worker and author of Find Your Inner Voice (New Page). "Call your friend on the phone or, even better, meet in a public place so you'll both have an incentive to control your temper," she suggests. "Start by saying, 'I'd really like to understand what's happening between us and our kids. I want to hear your perspective and give you mine.'" Bear in mind that for the conversation to be productive, you've got to hear each other out, talk about your feelings and, above all, stay calm. Discuss her child as little as possible; if you must rehash the girls' interactions, state only the facts or events you personally witnessed. Finally, it'll help to remind yourself that she's going to be as protective of her child as you are of yours. The ideal conclusion? You'll shake your heads, acknowledging that kids will be kids. And you'll agree to stay out of it and let them solve their own troubles.
 
Your BFF recently had major surgery, and while you were very concerned, you were so busy you forgot to call. She lets you have it in an angry, accusatory e-mail, and now you're steamed at her too.
 
E-mail and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but they have the same pitfalls for grown-ups as they do for tweens and teens—in the heat of the moment, it's all too easy to indulge negative emotions and let them get the better of you. "So sit tight and chill for at least 24 hours," advises Ward. "That's the only way to be sure you don't say something you'll regret." A prolonged silence could also worsen things, especially if your friend is used to a quick response from you. So just send a short note saying that you'd rather talk about things on the phone or in person in a day or two. Then, after you've both had a chance to cool off, explain why you didn't contact her and apologize. Lay some new ground rules by saying, "Going forward, let's try to give each other the benefit of the doubt and talk on the phone before blowing up online, okay?"
 
After your friend got laid off last year, you helped out by lending her several hundred dollars. Now she's got a new job, but she hasn't made a move to pay you back. Though you feel had, you're hesitant to bring up the subject.
 
Financial disputes can create rifts in even the closest friendships. "We all love the idea of doing good deeds like loaning money, but if we end up feeling taken for granted or taken advantage of, it's hard to talk about for fear of seeming petty," says Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist and author of The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century (Beacon Press). Indeed, many of us would rather write off a loan—and sometimes a friendship—than confront the issue. Don't let that happen. Remind her of the debt in a way that won't make her feel guilty or put her on the defensive, advises Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of The Book of No(McGraw-Hill). "You could say, 'I know you forgot about this since we're all so busy, but you owe me money and it would be great if you could get it to me as soon as possible,'" she suggests. If she still doesn't come through, ask yourself whether she's self-centered or disrespectful to you in other ways as well and assess how much you value the relationship. You'll have learned a valuable lesson, Newman adds: "In the future, if a friend asks you for money, it's all right to say, 'I'd like to help, but I just can't right now.'"
 
Click here for more tips on how to repair your relationships.
 
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Comments

  • 11
    Very needed article and more of the same would be welcome! I find I can correlate weight problems with my relationships - so working on friendships can also lead to weight control success! - 6/14/2012   4:49:37 PM
  • LIZZY2571
    10
    I have found that the best way to deal with friends and money is to never loan out more than you can afford to lose, and then treat it as a gift. If they pay you back then awesome, but if not you did what you were supposed to do and helped a friend out. - 5/23/2012   1:57:19 PM
  • 9
    Very helpful!! - 5/23/2012   1:08:18 PM
  • 8
    I've found with money / loans that there are two healthy ways to go about it. 1) Treat it like a real loan, with an agreement on how and when it will be repaid in writing. 2) Treat it like a gift, only offering if it is money to spare. Too often "borrow" is used as a replacement for "be given", leaving the one borrowed from expecting more and the borrower expecting less.

    Ultimately, I live by the second - I don't loan, I gift. If I get nothing back, there is no resentment. If it is repaid, it speaks very loudly for the quality of the friend. - 5/23/2012   12:06:46 PM
  • 7
    If you loan a friend $20 and never hear from that "friend" again, it was totally worth the $20. Just sayin'. - 5/23/2012   11:30:16 AM
  • 6
    Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is to let go of a friendship. I did that a year ago after giving someone I thought was a friend a second chance, but her constant negativity really made me feel depressed, and she made me think I was a bad person, so I made the decision to let her go. It wasn't easy, but I'm so glad I did it!

    I am living with stage IV breast cancer, my life is too short to be surrounded by negative people. - 5/23/2012   11:21:55 AM
  • 5
    I, like so many of you, have been dealing with this also. When I decided to do what was best in my life, and move away from my hometown, my friendships suffered. We kept in touch, for a while, but when life got in the way, it seemed my friends didn't want to deal with it. Once I moved to where I am now, I met my soulmate, who came with three children. A new relationship and adjusting to three children when I did not have any was a big challenge, not leaving as much time to talk on the phone for a hour about what happened at work. I'm hoping some type of friendship can rekindle, but I know I will never have that closeness we once shared. - 5/23/2012   8:28:59 AM
  • 4
    Sometimes you get tired of always feeling like you are the one being the bigger person. A falling out with my sis and I dont think we will ever be the same. It really hurts because family is so important to me. Yet even me telling myself that I have let this go doesnt seem to help seeing her any less awkward. Maybe time will heal. - 5/23/2012   5:22:55 AM
  • 3
    I lost a twenty-five year old friendship, about seven years ago. I think it was over stupidity, but I will say, it was both our faults. We will never regain our close friendship, and I am sorry. As time goes on, I really don't give it much thought. I've moved on and have the most fabulous circle of friends, as I'm sure she has. We are civil when we see each other, which is basically very rare. You know the saying "people come into your life, for a reason, a season.... - 5/22/2012   11:34:11 PM
  • 2
    I am probably the last person I should talk to about this- I just recently contactesd an old friend I used to work with and talked to him for 45 minutes only to find he ignores my emails. SO now I don't know if I am justified being pissed off with him (which I AM ) or to just write him off. I also have another friend who moved away and had sent me several insulting emails. - 5/22/2012   10:23:04 PM
  • 1
    This reminds me of a recent incident in my life. A BFF lost her wee Yorkie to a mauling at a doggie daycare. My friend was just crushed that a mutual friend of ours never called with condolences, sent a card, etc., in fact, never mentioned it at all. I empathized with her when the dog was killed and called all of our friends to let them know what had happened. A few months later, my own little old dog succumbed and all of the friends contacted me to offer sympathy except, you guessed it, the one who had been so hurt when a single friend had overlooked her.

    I decided to be a grown-up and let it go. Life is just too short! - 5/22/2012   8:38:21 PM

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