When a friendship shows signs of falling apart, it can be an emotionally charged situation. After being close to someone and then encountering an incident where trust has been lost, or feelings hurt, a sense of betrayal, even anger, is perfectly normal. I was recently interviewed on Yahoo Style on this topic and received a great deal of feedback from hurt friends on both sides of the fence. If you are experiencing difficulties in a friendship and wondering if it’s worth saving, here are a few etiquette pointers to help you process your emotions as you prepare for the next step.
Decide what’s next. If your friendship is more of a tug of war than a see-saw, and drama and hurt feelings are the norm rather than the exception, it may be time to stop investing your time and energy into the relationship. Evaluate the latest source of tension and determine if it was an honest mistake or intentional jab. Is it worth walking away from a long-term friendship, or could it be addressed in a mannerly way? If it’s not the first (or second, or third) time, it may be a definite yes. It’s your prerogative to decide if you want to continue a relationship when you recognize someone’s default behavior patterns.
Set boundaries. If the friendship is one you’d like to keep, think about how you can more assertively communicate your boundaries. If your friend is more outspoken than you are, start the process of finding your voice in the relationship and begin to create more space in your schedule.
Talk it out, when appropriate. Make time for an open discussion once emotions have simmered down. However, if you have decided the friendship is over, there may be no point in having a heated conversation that will undoubtedly escalate negative feelings. Your efforts may be better served by strengthening your other friendships or creating new ones.
Embrace change. As the old saying goes, the only constant in life is change. Unfortunately, that rule can also apply to friendships, even when you were once close and shared many confidences over the years. Circumstances change and so do people’s loyalties. Just because a friendship was once rewarding does not guarantee it will always continue. Look at time with a friend as a gift, not a given.
Stay away from gossip. There is a fine line between venting to a trusted friend and vilifying your former friend to others. She obviously had some redeeming qualities or else you wouldn’t be reeling. Words can’t be retracted, especially when you put them on social media. When we let hurt feelings guide our actions, it’s easy to do and say harmful things we later regret.
Take the high road. Forgive and let them go.
You deserve to be joyful and content! Concentrate on identifying and building relationships that are fruitful and rewarding.
For more of my tips on how to handle a friendship break up, check out my article: Just Do the Next Right Thing: Friendship Etiquette Beyond ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ on The Huffington Post.