When Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow met in Washington, D.C., a decade ago, they connected instantly. They bonded over shows, including Gossip Girl, NYC Prep, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, snacking and chatting on their couches for hours at a time. They attended weddings together. They also created Call Your Girlfriend, a popular podcast that explores the topic of friendship in greater detail.
Then, after about six years, the two found themselves unable to communicate as they once had. Each of them questioned whether their friendship could be saved.
This makes sense, they explain in their book Big Friendship: “If intimacy is what makes family and romantic relationships both so rewarding and so complicated, why would it be any different for a Big Friendship? When two people entangle their emotional lives, it’s bound to be difficult sometimes,” they write. “Any Big Friendship will face existential threats.”
One of their podcast guests, psychologist Miriam Kirmayer, PhD, agrees. “There is this overarching idea that our friendships, particularly our friendships as adults, should be easy,” she notes. “And what I mean by ‘easy’ is the expectation that first we should’ve learned how to make and keep friends as children or teens, and that the same rules that we lived by during those years apply in adulthood — and that we should just have it figured out.”
The other piece of that, Kirmayer adds, is that we believe “friendships should not involve any kind of conflict or heartache, and that the minute that shows up, it says something about our relationship with our friend.”
But conflict is a normal part of any relationship, especially close ones, she explains. “It’s not the absence of conflict that makes a friendship close — it’s how we use that conflict to bring ourselves closer together.”
Sow and Friedman eventually entered therapy together to understand and heal their schism. “It still seems weird to say, ‘We went to therapy to save our friendship,’” they write. “But it doesn’t sound so ridiculous when the flip side could easily be, ‘We didn’t do everything we could to save our friendship.’”
Not all close friends have the resources (or the inclination) for therapy, but other strategies can help repair a fractured friendship. If you’re talkers, be open about your feelings and discuss them. If yours is a friendship that’s more action than talk, then don’t be afraid to be the first person to suggest an outing together after a rift. Trust is often rebuilt in small increments.
This was excerpted from “Friendship Matters” which was published in Experience Life magazine.