But sometimes as time marches on, you treasured friendships fizzle for one reason or another. Maybe there was a disagreement, or time and distance simply got in the way. We asked Linda Chapman, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, for advice on how to get a fractured friendship back on track.
"It is possible to rekindle an old friendship – a shared history, after all, is a powerful thing. It's just a matter of reconnecting in the right way," she says.
1. What caused the falling out?
The first step to rekindling an old friendship, says Chapman, is acknowledging the reason for the rift. Were hurtful words exchanged? Was it simply that you moved to a different time zone and it was difficult to stay in touch? "One needs to consider why the friendship has gone stale," says Chapman. Once you have identified the problem, you'll be able to work on removing the roadblock. The sooner you get to this understanding, the better.
2. Reaching out
If it has been a while since you last talked to your friend, take baby steps to rekindle the friendship. Ask your friend for a coffee date. (If she lives far away, email her and ask to meet up via Skype). A coffee date is casual, relaxed and not threatening. If the divide between you is serious and you have to clear the air eventually, a coffee date can start the dialogue in a non-hostile way. "At this stage, you're just testing the waters," says Chapman.
3. Pushing through the conflict
If after initial contact you decide you want to move forward, devise a game plan to resolve conflict with your friend. "If there has been conflict, the best thing you can do in this situation is discuss it," says Chapman. "Try to do so without pointing fingers; be rational and acknowledge your role in the rift."
And don't ignore the issue at hand just to avoid uncomfortable conversation. By talking about it, you guarantee the issue gets put to bed. "All relationships have smooth and rough patches," Chapman says.
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Addressing the conflict shows that you want to move forward. "Focus on changing your own behaviour in a way that shows you've understood the problem, care about resolving it and are trying to be responsive to your friend. This can really help revitalize a friendship."
4. Committing to it
Now that you've taken the important steps to reconnect, you have to maintain the friendship momentum. Despite the fact that life events get in the way – marriages, kids, jobs – it's important to make time for each other. "Some friendships are dependent on contextual connecting, for example, meeting and continuing the friendship due to a particular shared interest or passion," Chapman says. So set aside time to get together and make concrete plans. And most importantly, stick to it. Friendships are best fostered during shared experiences.
People can change and, as a result, your relationship will ebb and flow, says Chapman. To maintain a friendship, it requires an understanding of how much one person has to give at any specific time. At certain points, it may mean "stepping up to meet the energy levels of your friend and at other times, learning to tone down the energy," says Chapman. Either way, accepting where your friend is at and what she is able to give, is important in re-establishing a solid bond.
Compromise and effort over a consistent period of time are the keys to rekindling a meaningful friendship, says Chapman. "If you can get back a friend's love, trust and support, it's well worth the effort."
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