How to Get Over Disappointment With a Friendship

When a friend disappoints you, it's normal to need time and space.
... Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When a close friend disappoints you -- whether it was a major no-no, such as kissing your crush, or a lesser offense like failing to return your phone call -- it can be difficult to cope. Your whole world may feel like it’s turned upside down when things are not going smoothly between you and your best bud. Everyone experiences disappointment at some point, but the key factor is being able to overcome this feeling in a way that is practical and healthy.

1 Acknowledge Your Feelings, Then Release Them

Disappointment triggers other strong feelings such as sadness, anger, or betrayal. It is important to allow yourself to fully feel whatever emotion comes along with the letdown. If what your friend did to you makes you angry, handle this emotion by blowing off the steam with a physical activity, such as running or walking your dog, and avoid lingering on strong emotions for too long. Mental health writer and associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky’s article “Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop” explains that ruminating keeps you focused on the negative aspects of a problem and takes away your energy to find a useful solution. Focus on feeling what you feel, and then letting the painful emotion go.

2 Confront Your Friend

In the study, “On Bad Decisions and Disconfirmed Expectations,” by Marcel Zeelenberg,, researchers say that disappointment is frequently associated with a sense of powerlessness. However, you are not powerless in this situation. Even though your friend is the one who let you down, you can do something about it. Confront your friend and calmly describe how the disappointment affected you. Ask questions to understand why the disappointment occurred in the first place. Finally, the two of you need to decide how you will move forward with your friendship.

3 Lower Your Expectations

Think back over the circumstances that led to your disappointment with your friend. You probably became upset or hurt that your phone call was not returned because you expected that it would be. Disappointment is often a direct result of not having your expectations met. Clinical psychologist Mary C. Lamia says in “Expectation, Disappointment, and Sadness” that this happens because people tend to hold themselves and others up to an ideal. Lowering your expectations can help reduce the possibility of disappointment and help you to develop a realistic approach to friendship. For example, it is more realistic to assume that, even though your friend may have promised to return your phone call, other things might interfere to keep him from doing so.

4 Evaluate Your Friendship

While disappointment can be a difficult emotion to experience, it allows you to take a step back and evaluate your friendship. If you can recall several instances of being let down by the same friend, that may be a red flag. This is especially so if each disappointment has been the result of major betrayals that constantly cause you emotional pain. You may need to decide if this friendship is worth continuing.

Randy Charles is a mental health professional and psychological fiction writer. She earned a master's degree in clinical psychology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 2012. When she is not working, reading or writing about mental health, she is either listening to music, baking or tackling her next greatest DIY project.