Breakups, fights, arguments—we often assume that life’s major disagreements are always between you and a partner. But the truth is, a friendship fight—or even a friend breakup—can be devastating, sometimes even more so than with a partner. Often our friends have been in our lives not just for years, but decades. It’s not unusual to know them for far longer than we know our partners or even our spouses. And when things go wrong, they can go very, very wrong.
It’s a difficult truth, but it’s not unusual for the stress of wedding planning to put a wedge between friends. Sometimes it’s just the frustration and anxiety of feeling overwhelmed that leads you to not be your best self, sometimes it’s a friend that’s not supportive or even jealous. But, if it’s a long and important friendship, then you shouldn’t let it break down because of wedding planning. If you’ve had a fight with a friend and you don’t feel very good about it, it’s time to see if the friendship can be saved—and if it’s worth saving. It might be a tough journey, but here’s where you get started.
Be Willing To Admit Your Role
The first step is to think about why the friendship broke down—and what role you played in that. Even if your friend was being irrational, selfish, difficult, or all three, it’s never just a one-way street. Maybe you didn’t see the pain that they were in or maybe you were too tied up in your own wedding planning to realize what was going wrong in their life, so you didn’t give them the sensitivity they deserved. You shouldn’t assume all of the responsibility—it takes two to tango, after all—but if you want the friendship to have a chance of moving forward then you’re going to have to own up to your part in the breakdown.
Think About What You Want Going Forward
If you’re ready to put the friendship back together, you need to decide how you want that to look. Do you want things to go back to how they were? Do you want your friend to have more respect for your boundaries or to be more aware of your needs? Do you want to move into the friendship slowly and let things rebuild over time? You’re not going to be able to set all of the ground rules—both of you need to put their relationship back together—but you can think about what you want so you can help open up a dialogue.
Have the Difficult, Honest Conversation
When you’re trying to get over a relationship breakdown—whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship—at some point you need to have one of those tough conversations. You need to lay it all out there, and you need to hear them out. It’s going to be awkward, emotional, and at times pretty unbearable. But it’s the only way things can get better.
And no matter how angry you are with your friend, spouting off a list of attacks and character assassinations isn’t going to help. Focus on “I” statements: how things came across to you, how it felt when your relationship broke down, how you feel now. And, just as much as you want to say your piece, you’re going to have to let them say theirs, too—and be a receptive audience. Try not to get defensive and just listen.
Don’t Force Anything
Depending on how big the fight was and how much the relationship has broken down, you may not be able to go back to normal right away. In fact, you may not be able to go back to normal for a long time. If you were totally enmeshed in your wedding stress and your friend feels neglected, they may not want to let you in again, right away. That’s OK. Be open to taking it slow. You may find that your relationship rebuilds in a stronger, more authentic way if you let it happen a little at a time.
Be Open To Letting It Go
If someone has been in your life for 5, 10, or 20 years, the idea of letting a friendship go can be almost impossible to imagine. But, if you try to restart the friendship and either they’re not willing or it just doesn’t’ seem to fit, you may need to be open to the idea of letting it go. People change and, ideally, friendships evolve with them—but it doesn’t always work that way. Maybe the tension during your wedding was because you’ve become two very different people, or maybe you can’t put the friendship back together because you’re actually just not good for each other anymore. It can be a huge thing to admit—and letting a significant friendship end can be as bad as any breakup. But if it’s right for both of you, you need to let it happen—just make sure you give yourself some time to grieve.
Wedding planning—and weddings themselves—leave tensions high and connections feeling frayed. Unfortunately, it’s often our friendships that take the hit. If your friendship has broken down, then make sure to be honest with yourself and your friend as you try to put it back together. If you are candid, compassionate, and willing to move slowly, you may be able to put the friendship back together and even in a stronger place than it was before. And if you can’t? Well, it may be a sign that you’re just too different now. And that’s OK, too.