The Friendship Doctor

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5 Tips for Mending a Tattered Friendship

Friendships have beginning and endings...


Things just aren't the way they used to be between you and your BFF. Either you're bickering, bored or uptight when you're together. While you used to be attached at the hip, there's suddenly a wedge between you. What's a girl to do?

1) Assess what's going on between you

Try to think objectively and make sure that you really want to mend the friendship. Your latest tiff may just be a sign that the relationship has been doomed for a while. Have you simply outgrown each other? That's no one's fault. People change over time and not always in the same direction. Have the same problems recurred time after time? Maybe the bad chemistry or sense of imbalance between you has become so overwhelming that it is impossible to transcend. Or--- is it something that you think you might really be able to fix? If so, proceed to Tip 2.

2) Pinpoint what happened

If it is something you said or did, or something you didn't say or do---or if the problem was with her, talk about it. No friendship is perfect and each one has tiny kinks that need to be worked out. Communicating avoids little problems from escalating into big ones that can undermine a relationship.

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3) Be the first to offer the olive branch

If you know you were in the wrong, take responsibility for your mistake. Tell your friend how important the relationship is to you and show her in some small but concrete way. Invite her to dinner or send her a card that says, "I'm sorry."

If she was in the wrong, practice forgiveness. Harboring resentment towards someone has a way of bouncing back like a boomerang to hurt you (including raising your blood pressure). Let go of the disappointment. Having a shared history should provide a strong foundation that allows a friendship to weather small hurts.

4) Step back after you've tried

Be sensitive to her response. Okay, you've been thinking about how you were going to handle this fiasco, for hours or maybe even weeks and months. But you just sprung your thinking on her and she may need time to mull it over. If her answer is "No way," accept it for the moment, give it some time, and try again. If she repeatedly blows you off, you may have to accept her decision and move on.

5) Don't necessarily view endings as a failure.

Friendships have beginning and endings. Ones that last forever are more likely to be the topic of novels and television scripts (think Sex & The City). The women I surveyed for my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, talked about even very close friendships having "expiration dates" and "shelf lives." And sometimes women breathe a sigh of relief after an ambivalent or toxic friendship is over.

Friendships are wonderful and life affirming. If we're lucky, each one provides us with new wisdom so they get better and better!

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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