Question

I have a friend who hurt me a year ago and we’ve been superficial with each other since then. I don’t know how to make things the way they used to be. We still talk at times and I can tell that she feels bad for what she did (she works hard to be a better friend now). She lied about me to some friends and it really hurt. I’m just not sure if I’m being too unforgiving, or if things can’t ever be the same again and I need to accept that and let things be the way they are.

Answer

I think you’ve got a really hopeful situation with your friendship concerns. Even though there was an injury to the trust in the relationship, you’ve got a friend who appears to want to stay friends and make things right. It doesn’t sound like either of you know what to do, so let me make some suggestions.

Martin Buber famously wrote, “We are the promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creatures.” As painful as this reality is, this is the nature of people and promises. This doesn’t excuse any of us to deliberately break promises, but it does describe the struggle we have in caring for our relationships.

I have observed that when someone is sincerely making efforts to repair their relationship injuries, it will soften the injured person and open up a chance to rebuild the connection. I believe this is what’s happening with your friend’s efforts.

I encourage you to approach her and acknowledge the efforts she’s making to go out of her way to be a better friend to you. Don’t minimize the hurt of the offense and act like it’s no big deal. Let her know that even though you have been hurt, you want to have a good relationship with her.

Sometimes it can be helpful to identify where you can’t go forward in the relationship. For example, you might let her know that you don’t feel comfortable confiding things in her until you can know that she will protect your privacy.

You can let her know that you want to continue spending time with her in other interactions, but you are going to be guarded for a while. You will be able to tell if she can respect your mistrust and caution. A good friend will make room for you to heal and will show a good faith effort to reassure you that she values you and your friendship.

Repairing relationships is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. We inch our way forward in the areas that feel safe until we have more sure footing to take bigger risks. True friends will respect that lengthy process and receive any efforts we make to reconnect.

You’ve got a good friend who made a mistake and is working to grow from it. Your honest feedback will give her specific ways to grow and protect your fragile friendship. I’m certain your friendship will change for the better by going through this experience.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT