Even the most amazing friendships can begin to fray. But just like when your favourite jumper starts to split at the seams, it doesn’t mean you have to toss it.
You can stitch this once-strong bond back together. Needle and friendship-mending thread at the ready …
Why are you fighting again?
One of the main catalysts for crumbling camaraderie – particularly for female twentysomethings – is the time we veer off in different life directions.
This might even kick off as early as when we leave school. “These are often periods of significant personal development in which people expand upon their adult identities,” explains clinical psychologist Lissa Johnson. “It’s natural that our compatibilities might alter in the process.”
Besides, feeling constantly bunkered down with study, and/or a hefty workload, can seriously eat into the time you’d usually spend bingeing on House Of Cards with your bestie. “As a result, gaps can develop in two friends’ knowledge of each other’s lives and inner worlds,” Johnson explains. “Developing different routines might also diminish the degree of shared experience, which can be conducive to bonding and providing mutual support.” Yep, physical distance can change a lot.
Working things out
Although you’ve grown apart, or blown up at each other, you can still patch things up. Once the tension has toned down, try to empathise with your friend. This may be hard to do, but it’s the first step to getting your friendship back on track.
“Even though they might have lashed out at you or done something hurtful or unfair, assume that they’re a good person doing the best they can,” Johnson says. “Ask yourself what vulnerabilities might be at play for them. Do your best to try and understand their side.”
Clinical psychologist Paula Watkins agrees: “All human relationships rest on empathy. Even if we disagree, we’re then able to understand why another person feels the way they feel.” The key to helping your good mate empathise with you is to explain all your feelings in ‘I’ terms. Tell them how you feel and why, and how the situation has made a big impact on you. Or, as Watkins puts it, “explain – don’t blame. And never shame.”
On top of that, you still need to talk about the issue. “Discuss everything with your friend, and seek to better understand one another and the situation at hand,” Watkins continues. “Raise the issue with an open mind and open heart.”
When it’s time to let go
If you’ve tried empathising and reaching out but your friend just won’t have it, it might be time to walk away – at least for a little while. Though, how do you know when it’s time to take a step back?
As Watkins puts it, if you find yourself sacrificing or being expected to sacrifice your personal values for a relationship, it’s time to reassess things. “Also,” she says, “remember, the death of something allows the birth of something else. The energy you’ve been investing in this relationship is now freed for you to invest in yourself or more nourishing relationships.”
Ultimately, the issue is individual. So, if you do choose that it’s time to cut ties with your friend, find solace that, despite this, you’ve both been a part of each other’s lives and probably shared some unforgettably awesome experiences. As Watkins reminds us, “treasure these memories and trust your friend to do the same. You might just end up reminiscing about it together one day further down the track.”