How to Cope and Move Forward From a Broken Relationship
Updated: May 26, 2019
A broken relationship, whether it be a parent, child, spouse or friend, can stir up painful emotions. You may feel a combination of hurt, anger, shock and confusion. You might even feel regret - maybe it’s the years wasted or something you wish you had (or had not) said. A broken relationship can feel just as bad as losing someone from death. There are many questions that you may have. How can I heal faster? Should I try to mend the relationship? And, if I do want to try to repair the relationship, how do I go about doing so? While the answers to these questions may vary, depending on the situation and individuals involved, there are things that you can do that will help you cope and move forward.
Consider the other person’s perspective.
While you may think that you have a good idea of how the other person feels because of what they’ve said or how they’ve acted, you should take time to reflect the events that may have led to the state that your relationship is at now. This is important to empathize (understand) how the other person is feeling. Sometimes, their feelings may have less to do with you and more to do with an event(s) from their past, which is contributing to how they feel now.
Identify your part.
It’s important to note that no one is perfect - and no two people are exactly alike. Is there something that you could have done differently? Is there something that you can still do differently now? Once you identify your part, ask yourself if you want to repair the relationship – and if you’re willing to do what may be required to repair it.
If you feel that the other person is expecting an apology for something that you did not do, yet you do want to repair the relationship, you may consider reaching out to the other person to let them know how you feel. You can do so in a kind and empathetic way while not putting yourself down and giving in to something that you didn’t do.
Reach out with honesty and empathy.
If, after considering the other person’s perspective and identifying your part in the situation, you decide that you want to repair the relationship, you should attempt to reach out to the other person. It’s best to meet in person or speak over the phone. You should try to avoid resolving by email or text since the tone of the message can be misinterpreted by you or the other person. It’s also hard to guarantee that a digital message is delivered to or received by the other person.
When you do reach out, it’s important to use “I” statements to take ownership of your own part in the situation. You can say, “I” felt hurt when you said this to me. Or, “I” am sorry if what I said hurt you. You can let the other person know that their friendship or relationship is important to you and ask what you can both do to try to repair it together. As uncomfortable as it may feel, it’s always best to be honest –good or bad, the message should be delivered empathetically and honestly.
Here’s an example:
Kayla and her cousin got into an argument after a misunderstanding during the holidays. Kayla’s cousin accused Kayla of doing something that she did not do. After the holidays were over and the two returned to their homes, the argument continued over the phone and by email. Hurtful comments were made by both. After a few weeks of heated arguing, Kayla realized that her cousin, who had a strong-willed personality, would not apologize. Kayla didn’t like the thought of potentially never repairing the relationship, so she decided to call her cousin. Although her cousin started the conversation with an unfriendly tone, Kayla apologized for the hurtful comments that she had made. She went on to say, “I know that we both have different opinions of the situation and neither one of us will probably ever change our minds. But I don’t like the thought of this ruining our relationship, so I’m hoping that we can just move forward and leave it in the past.”
Kayla attempted to repair her relationship with her cousin and did so by having an honest, heartfelt conversation. Fortunately, Kayla and her cousin’s relationship went back to normal after speaking over the phone. But, sometimes, even with the best efforts, things don’t always end up this way. The reality is that sometimes you have to let go.
Knowing when to let go.
Just as it takes at least two people to form a relationship, it takes at least two people to damage it. You may have done your part in considering the other person’s perspective, identifying your part and attempting to reach out with honesty and empathy, but the other person must also be able to take personal accountability, be willing to forgive and move on. There are times when a person may be stuck in their own defensive place and unable to move forward in repairing the relationship. When this happens, the “repair” may be more about repairing your own feelings, and not the relationship.
Healing from a broken relationship.
Sometimes, circumstances or timing does not allow a relationship to be repaired. If the relationship has become toxic, it can be ok not to repair it. Sometimes even with relatives or friendships that you’ve had a long time, you have to let go. This can hard and painful, but sometimes it’s for the best and it’s necessary so that you can take care of yourself. Sometimes, time is what is needed. With time, people can change – and you may reconnect in the future.
About the Author:
Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and TODAY.com, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: “Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?”