If breaking up is hard to do, making up is harder. This is the case even when the decision was mutual and the parting ‘amicable’. The end of a relationship always hurts! Breaking up with someone is all the more painful when you have unresolved issues with them, it is messy and complicated – it is bad.
Sometimes when a relationship ends you know it is a good thing even though it hurts. Other times, something in your heart tells you that you really need to resolve the issues between you, that you are not over. And if you can think of a relationship in your life where this is the case then this post is for you.
These points apply to any kind of relationship, including friendship, because the principles can be applied generally. My aim is to give you the motivation and the words you need to speak to that person that you still love and want back in your life. I believe in the restoration of relationships and, while I do think that there are some circumstances where a relationship should be left for dead, our first choice should be to bring them back to life.
There are one of two strategies you can apply: the indirect approach or the direct approach.
The indirect approach is a slow and steady approach. What this means in practice depends on how badly damaged the relationship is. If you no longer speak to the person but you still have mutual friends, this would mean finding ways of being in their space without necessarily having one-on-one interaction with them. This is good mainly because it will help them get used to the idea of you being around. As silly as it may sound, things such as a ‘Like’ on a Facebook status or a photo helps! You will need a lot of patience to follow this approach and a commitment to persevering when the person rejects or ignores you. The second approach is a more direct approach. It will involve you simply approaching the person and arranging a time when you both can meet without a build up to that moment.
Remember this: choose the approach that you think will work best with the person that you are dealing with and balance it with the approach that you are good at- this is the key to effective communication. It is not just about you and it is not just about them, it is about the both of you. Whichever approach you choose to take, you will eventually have to have a conversation with the person. You will have to say what you need to say, here’s how:
1 Be clear about why you are having this conversation.
Most of us come into conversations like these with big expectations. And those expectations are usually on the other person (not ourselves!). The first question that you have to ask yourself is what your objectives are in having this conversation. You have to ask yourself why it is important to you. What are you expecting? Once you have your expectations clear in your head, shift some of the weight of those expectations away from the other person. Decide that you are going to take responsibility for your part in achieving the outcome that you desire. Secondly, decide that your future happiness will not depend on whether the other person plays their part, as long as you have played yours.
Say something like:
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, I really appreciate it. I have been thinking about our friendship and would really like to talk about some things that I think were left unresolved between us. Can we do that?”
2 Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
This is not your chance to vent about everything that you hated about your relationship and why you are right and they need to see that. Find an objective third party to do that with or do that in your personal journal! This is your chance to have a dialogue with the person. ‘Di’ means two – you and the person. Do not hog the space. The best way to navigate this kind of conversation is by asking questions, giving them the chance to answer and then responding to that answer. Asking questions is your chance to bring up what took place before and it gives that person a chance to give you their take on the issue. This is not an interrogation so be gentle and gracious. Also, avoid asking questions that are accusatory. An example would be: “So when did you decide that you were going to steal my boyfriend from under my nose?”
Listen carefully to what the person has to say and think about your response to each of those. It is unlikely that you will take their view of the situation because you are two different people. That is okay. Your answer needs to be: in response to what they have just said; honest; and balanced. Keep your response focused on this conversation, try not to bring up past conversations you have had or what so-so told you they said. This shows that you are listening. Be honest and resist the urge to hold certain things back because you want to please the other person. Balance your response by expressing the fact that you understand their point of view, and then explain how you viewed the situation at the time and why.
Say something like:
“We used to be so close. What do you think went wrong with our relationship?”
“After we came back from [ ] I felt like there was a wall between us. Did you feel it too? If you did, what do you think caused that?”
3 Be forgiving.
Forgiving the other person means letting go of the idea that they owe you something for the wrong they did against you. In the case of a betrayal for example, you have every reason to want the other person to pay you back for the wrong they did – whether they acknowledge their wrong in the matter or not. They will probably admit some things that prove that they were wrong and that you were justified. When that happens, do not say: “Well, can I just say that I told you so? I knew you were wrong all the time!” Extend grace and choose to overlook your right to rub it in their face. I believe that forgiveness is a choice but it is also a process so do not expect to instantly feel unoffended or unhurt. The starting point is for you to express your decision to forgive.
Say something like:
“I love you and I want to give our relationship a fresh start.”
“I know that you are sorry and I no longer want to hold it against you.”
4 Be repentant.
Forgiveness and repentance go together. In the course of the conversation you will also discover that you did and said some things that you should be sorry for. Do not just dismiss these as minor compared to what the other person did – hold up the mirror and share in the blame. Acknowledge that what you said or did was destructive and/or hurtful and make a deliberate commitment to turn away from it, starting now. There will be times when you fall but get up and stick to your commitment. Also, choose your words carefully and stay away from saying counterproductive things like, “I apologize but I cannot say that I am sorry.” and do not use avoidance strategies like saying, “I did not know that you felt that way about it. Sorry that you do.”
Say something like:
“It was wrong of me to tell Lesley what you told me in confidence. I am sorry for betraying your trust like that.”
“I am sorry for the way the words that I said when I was angry, I know that they hurt you. I am sorry for hurting you.”
5 Be brave.
Your relationships are important. Do not let fear keep you from reaching out and saying what you need to say to heal a broken relationship. Do not give up before you try!
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading.