Our friendships help shape our identities. Sometimes a friend shares the same likes and dislikes that we have, or we become a friend to someone we admire and wish we could be more like. Circumstances can create friendships too, like being paired with your complete opposite in a group at work. According to a 2014 study on friendship and natural selection, our genetics might even play a role with whom we choose to develop deep friendships.
Because of this connection, it can be devastating when a good friend betrays our trust. We let ourselves be vulnerable with our friends and tell them our secrets; we share our fears and our dreams. Our closest friends know our greatest weaknesses. When we develop close friendships, we willingly give another person the power to hurt us, but trust that they have our best interests at heart, just as we do theirs.
In relational dialectics theory, this tension created by friendship between two individuals results from the individual need to remain private and therefore protected, in combination with the desire to be connected to someone else, which requires openness and vulnerability. Healthy friendships balance individual self-identity with the identity created by the friendship. An argument or a betrayal can tip that delicate balance and break the friendship. Lack of communication or simply growing apart can weaken the strong bonds of a friendship too.
When a friendship is broken, how can you tell if it will be salvageable in the future? It depends on what caused the rift and whether you could ever trust that friend again. According to Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. for Psychology Today, you need to determine what went wrong between you and your friend, talk openly with each other about what happened and how you felt about it, offer forgiveness or conditions on which to rebuild the friendship, listen to each other and be sensitive about how long it might take to heal before renewing the friendship and finally, accept that the friendship might truly be over.
Maybe you’re the one who breached the friendship? If that’s the case, listen to what your friend felt about what happened. See it from her point of view. Ask for forgiveness if you wronged her and be willing to allow her time to heal before pushing for best-friend status again. To rebuild trust, your friend might need you to prove that you’ve changed, depending on the problem.
Did you often forget or neglect to keep your promises to your friend? Moving forward, don’t make promises you can’t keep, and make every effort to keep the ones you do make. Did you keep a secret from her that was something she should’ve been told? Be honest and upfront with her from now on. Regaining trust takes work, but it can be done.
When we interact with people outside ourselves, there is bound to be misunderstanding. Communication can often clear up most problems, so talking through issues will go a long way in repairing the broken friendship.
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