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How To Reconcile, According To A Therapist

Female friendships are among the most beautiful — and sometimes brutal — connections out there. It’s no surprise that when one ends, it can feel even worse than breaking up with a lover.

Having suffered through a few friendship breakups myself, the feelings afterward can alternate between grief and anger and lots and lots of shame. Years later, a couple of these friends reached out to me again, requesting to talk things out and maybe make up for lost time. With one friend, I say yes. With another, I said no.

This got me thinking about Kim Cattrall’s return as Sex and the City’s Samantha in the second season of its spin-off, And Just Like That, and what it means to forgive and reconcile with a female friend.

If you’re up on your pop culture news, you’re probably aware of the alleged rift between Cattrall and And Just Like That’s star Sarah Jessica Parker. If not, it’s a loaded history filled with ups and downs — as most female friendships are — culminating with Cattrall stepping away from the SATC franchise and refusing to star in the new HBO series.

In a perfect world where people can forgive and forget, Cattrall’s cameo might signal a white flag. Perhaps the baby steps of reconciliation. Samantha is back with the gang! But no such luck. Apparently, Cattrall insisted on filming her cameo in the series without the other cast members, specifically SJP.

So, while it doesn’t look like Cattrall and Parker will be BFFs anytime soon, that doesn’t mean forgiving and reconciling with a female friend who broke your heart isn’t possible. If you’re in a similar situation, we talked to therapist Saba Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC, about what to do when, just like that… your former bestie comes back into your life.

Why are friendship breakups so hard?

The end of a friendship can feel as painful as a divorce or death. That’s because, says Lurie, our relationships with our friends are some of the most significant we can have.

“We often look to our friends for emotional connection, support, understanding, and belonging, especially when we don’t gain these things from our romantic and familial relationships,” she says. “Our friends are the people we choose to confide in and let into our lives, day in and day out. Not because they are related to us or because we have agreed to the relationship in a contract or with others present during a ceremony, but because we want to.”

No wonder this makes friendship breakups incredibly painful. For so many, friends become our chosen family.

However, when it comes to breakups, romantic relationships typically involve discussions and formal endings, but friendship breakups can sometimes occur without a clear resolution. Friends may drift apart, become distant, or simply stop communicating. This lack of closure and clarity, says Lurie, can leave us with unanswered questions and a sense of confusion, exacerbating the pain.

What should you consider when reconciling with a friend?

If you’re considering reconciling with a friend, Lurie says it’s important to consider the cause of the friendship breakup. Did the friendship end because of something that transpired between you, and if so, how do you imagine addressing this so you can move forward?

“In some instances, friendships fizzle out over time,” she says. “If there was no rupture, perhaps there’s an opportunity to simply reconnect. But if one or both friends feel wronged or hurt, this will likely require an honest, difficult conversation.”

When reconciling with a friend, Lurie advises approaching the situation with empathy, sincerity, and a willingness to take responsibility for any past conflict or mistakes.

One way to break the ice is to start with an apology.

“If you have played a part in the conflict, apologize sincerely for your actions, words, or any misunderstandings,” she says. “By taking responsibility and accountability for your contribution to the problem and demonstrating a genuine desire to make amends, you risk vulnerability to signify how meaningful this relationship is to you. This will only help in rebuilding trust between the two of you.”

How can you rebuild trust within the friendship?

Rebuilding trust within a friendship can be a delicate and gradual process, says Lurie. After apologizing for the part you played in the breakdown of the relationship, rebuilding trust will require transparency and honesty.

This starts by being as open as possible and by staying in integrity. “Attempt to communicate openly with your friend and be truthful in your words and actions,” Lurie recommends. “You should also avoid hiding or withholding information that could further damage the trust.”

Then comes the work of re-establishing your position as a reliable presence in their life. “Follow through on any commitments or promises you’ve made, and be consistent,” Lurie says. “After a breach of trust, it’s essential to demonstrate behavior that will help your friend once again have faith in your intentions.”

And finally, remember to give it time. “You can’t rebuild trust overnight, so try to understand that your friend may need time to heal and regain trust,” she says. “Avoid rushing the process and allow the friendship to re-develop naturally.”

How does one forgive and maybe not forget but move forward?

Whether you were the one to break up the friendship or on the receiving end, forgiveness is always a huge factor when it comes to reconciliation.

“Forgiveness is a personal and individual process that can be incredibly challenging,” Lurie says. “And when we forgive, it is often through remembering and honoring what happened in the past. Many people think that forgiveness requires you to accept or condone harmful actions against you, but forgiveness is not wholly about the person who wronged you or what they did. Forgiveness is about making a conscious decision to let go of anger, hurt, and resentment so that you can find peace within yourself.”

This is much easier said than done, of course, so Lurie encourages you to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion as you work toward forgiveness. Practice self-care or engage in restorative activities, and remember that healing takes time.

You may also find it helpful to gain perspective and understand the motivations or circumstances that led your friend to hurt you or vice versa. It doesn’t excuse one’s actions, but it can help foster empathy and compassion, aiding in forgiveness.

What are some reasonable expectations to make when rebuilding a friendship?

It’s natural to think (or maybe hope) that your friendship will return to what it was before the breakup, but that’s not always possible or realistic. Instead, Lurie suggests starting slowly and taking your time.

“Expect the initial conversations to be difficult if there’s a need for repair, and expect to be vulnerable,” she says. “Sometimes all that’s required is one challenging conversation, but sometimes you need to be prepared to have ongoing discussions if you can’t resolve things right away or if there are layers that need to be addressed, which is often the case.”

Don’t be discouraged by the process. It’s essential to know friendships can survive a breakup and end up stronger than before. “While honest, vulnerable conversations can be difficult, they can also bring people closer,” Lurie says. “Showing up to have these conversations, taking accountability, and showing care can offer friends a chance to repair their relationship and strengthen the foundation of their friendship.”

What if the friend doesn’t want to reconcile with you?

Unfortunately, some people won’t be open to a reconnection. If a friend doesn’t want to reconcile, Lurie says it’s vital to respect their decision and give them space.

“You will likely feel hurt, disappointed, and angry, and those feelings are valid,” she says. “Give yourself permission to feel them and process them. Be gentle with yourself and offer yourself compassion and care as you grieve the relationship that was and that you had hoped to reconcile.”

On the other hand, if a former friend approaches you and you’re not ready or open to reigniting the friendship, that’s OK, too. It’s best to use your discernment and do what feels right for you.

“If a friend doesn’t feel safe and you don’t trust that you would receive care and respect in a friendship, that might mean that this is not the friendship for you,” Lurie says. “We are all human and are bound to make mistakes, which is true for everyone. However, if a friend has made many mistakes within the friendship and doesn’t understand your feelings or perspective, they may not be on the same page with you about values and what a friendship looks like.”

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