When we develop friendships, we intend for them to last. But since two hurt human beings are involved, occasional hurt feelings and unmet expectations are likely. If one or both people simply ignore the affront, the relationship can be damaged. Repairing a troubled friendship requires humility to admit our faults, effort to fix the problem, and time. But the reward is a renewed connection with a valued companion.
The process of saving a friendship begins when you acknowledge that damage exists. This takes place the moment you say, “I feel something isn’t right in our relationship. I’d like for us to find and fix the problem.” It is helpful to work together to assess how the trouble began—perhaps it resulted from a misunderstanding, an unresolved conflict, one person’s busyness, or the like.
After recognizing the problem, apologize for your part in it. Taking responsibility and saying “I’m sorry” shows your love and commitment to the friendship. Remember that an essential aspect of apologizing is refusing to justify wrong actions or blame someone else.
An apology must be followed up with amends. Ask your friend what specific action you both can take to rebuild the relationship. Then commit to follow his or her suggestion while occasionally asking, “How am I doing?”
Rather than waiting until their relationship is in trouble, wise friends will go through these steps as soon as they are aware of having hurt a loved one. As with physical injury, preventative care can soothe minor scrapes before they become serious wounds. (DJS)