Can Friends Repair a Friendship When One Feels Betrayed?

It can be difficult to restore trust after a betrayal.
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It’s unfortunate that friends you trust the most can betray you and leave your friendship broken. It can be hard to let go of the friendship long enough to grieve the loss and heal so you can forgive. Betrayal from friends comes in various forms, such as a betrayal of confidence, broken promises, abandonment, stealing or lying. No matter how it happens, it hurts and takes time to heal.

1 Apology and Restitution

Reconciling a friendship after betrayal takes more than hearing, “I’m sorry,” according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, in a Psychology Today article, “Overcoming Betrayal: It’s a 2-Way Street.” If you are the one betrayed, you want to know that your friend is truly sorry for what he did and takes full responsibility for his actions. You might want to know why your friend betrayed you. If your friend can demonstrate that he knows how damaging the betrayal was to you, it can make it easier for you to begin the process of forgiveness. You could require that your friend find a way to make the betrayal up to you, such as returning stolen money or admitting to a lie that damaged your reputation. If your friend is able to take these steps, repairing the friendship could be possible, but it isn’t a sure thing.

2 Commitment to Change and Forgiveness

If your friend can’t assure you that the betrayal won’t happen again, you will probably hesitate to trust her again. Understanding your friend’s side of the betrayal can help you decide why the betrayal happened and how likely it is to happen again, suggests a Redbook article, “How to Make Up With a Friend.” Forgiving your friend can be the act of love that builds the bridge back to a healthy relationship. If, however, your friend seems to feel that the betrayal wasn’t a big deal, you could decide that you will forgive for your own benefit, but you won’t make up with your friend.

3 Making Up

Reconciliation can only occur when specific conditions are present, according to psychologist Daniel L. Shapiro, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal article, “Delicate Art of Fixing a Broken Friendship.” Shapiro says that both the betrayed and the betrayer must feel that their feelings and side of the story have been heard and valued. You must mutually decide to reconcile and move toward one another to rebuild the relationship. Both of you must accept partial responsibility for the schism and take an active part in healing the relationship.

4 When Reconciliation Isn’t Possible

Sometimes reconciliation isn’t possible and you have to walk away from the relationship to remain healthy. Forgive your betrayer for your sake, if not for your friend’s sake. Learn something from the experience so your pain isn’t wasted energy. Release the emotions of anger, fear and shame so you can reach out to find other friends who value your friendship and won’t betray you.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.